2/05/2016

Seuss Week Dress Up Days ***FREEBIE***

If you're a School Librarian/Public Librarian/School Administrator, PTO President...anyone looking for dress up day ideas for Read Across America, I have a freebie for you.  I've planned our dress up days and created a flyer to post on my school's website and send home with students.  It's free of our school name or any other information that would make it specific to my school - and since Read Across America is the same week for everyone, it works!  If you like the dress up days and your school or place of business dresses up all week, then it's perfect!  I originally planned our dress up days a little differently, but ended up having to change a few things due to School Compliance Monitoring.  Anyhoo, enjoy!  Happy Reading!

You can find a PDF version HERE.

2/01/2016

Groundhog Day LIVE Stream!

 
Tomorrow is February 2nd...the 130th anniversary of Groundhog Day!  It looks like it's going to be an interesting day across the United States.  We're getting ready for some severe storms to head our way, while much of the country is getting ready for what's setting up to be a huge snow event.  Whether you're a teacher, homeschooler or just want to see what's going on with Punxsutawney Phil, you can watch a live stream event beginning at 5am tomorrow at this website.  Bring Pennsylvania to your classroom or living room and let's see what Phil has to say!  Happy Groundhog Day!

1/28/2016

**Free** 2016 Read With Me Calendar

Brookes Publishing is offering a FREE 2016 Read With Me Calendar HERE that looks just amazing!  Just fill in your address and you're good to go!  Here's the blurb from their website:

Boost your child’s language and literacy skills all year long with our 2016 “Read with Me, Talk with Me” calendar!
Expand vocabulary and help get children ready for school with some of our favorite tips and resources. You can jumpstart your child’s early language and literacy skills all while having fun and spending time together.

This would be a great gift for your child's teacher, your grandchildren, yourself!  Can't wait to receive mine!

Frozen Rainbow Loom DIY Bracelet Kit by Disney - ONLY $3.98!!!

Hurry on over to Amazon where they have the Frozen Rainbow Loom Bracelet kit on sale for $3.98!!!  Think Valentine's Day or Easter Basket!  This is an amazing price!  Shipping is always free with Amazon Prime or with a $25 purchase.  If you don't have Prime, it's WELL worth the free 2 day shipping!  I purchase it EVERY year and use it weekly, sometimes daily for household items, birthday gifts, Christmas and more.  Remember...Amazon deal prices slowly rise back to regular price after so many are sold, so the quicker, the better!

Buy the Loom Kit HERE!

Rook Card Game - Only $3.40!

rookRook is such a fun card game! We love playing with family and friends during get-togethers and holidays. Amazon currently has the Rook Card game for only $3.40 HERE! This would be a great addition to an Easter Basket or your Family Game Night shelf! Free shipping as always if you belong to Amazon Prime. If not, you can always sign up for a free trial here. Hurry, hurry...Amazon deals are always for a limited time.

FREE Poetry Month Poster!

The Academy of American Poets is offering a free poster for poetry month!  Great freebie for teachers and libraries.  Just go here to request your FREE poster!  They also have a link to a letter sized poster you can download instantly.  Enjoy!

1/27/2016

Your Story Matters Necklace - $15 Shipped!

If you’re looking for a great Graduation or Mother’s Day gift (it is on May 8th!) ...or just something special for yourself or a friend, check out this Your Story Matters Necklace from Lisa Leonard Designs.  I love finds like this for my gift closet!  I'm in love with this necklace!  Every story matters...what a great memento to share our stories with the world.  This handcrafted necklace features a pewter bench and pendant that states “your story matters” on a sterling silver-filled chain. Note that shipping is $7.95 for one necklace or free on $50 orders before discounts are applied. 
If you're planning to purchase more than one necklace or a few other things from the website, an additional $15 off any $50 purchase is available at checkout with promo code 15BUCKS.  That means you can add THREE of these necklaces to your cart and after the code 15BUCKS, you’ll pay just $45 shipped for all three necklaces – that makes each necklace ONLY $15!  It's great to keep gifts like this in your gift closet for those unexpected Graduation Invites!  Awesome price!

1/26/2016

Dr. Seuss Bingo Cards ***Freebie***!


I have such a fun freebie for you today!  Dr. Seuss Day/Theodor Seuss Geisel's Birthday is one of my FAVORITE celebrations of the year.  We always have so much fun celebrating - at school AND at home!  We celebrate the entire week at school with dress up days, a photo booth, illustrator/author visits and lots of fun activities.  This year, Seuss Week is February 29th - March 4th.  A few years ago, I created these Dr. Seuss Bingo Cards as a fun way to celebrate Dr. Seuss Day in the library.  I'm sharing them today FOR FREE!  Follow the links below for 8 Bingo Cards as well as the complete 7 page Calling Card list with pictures.  I always cut the list apart and put the pieces in a jar to use during the game.  Need more for your classroom, child's teacher, birthday party, etc?  You can find all 40 cards + calling list in my store here.  I've JUST discounted them from $5 to $3!  If you decide to purchase the 40 card set, these will be delivered via email.  I always used red hots/smarties/various candy for bingo chips.  If you only need a few for a party or small gathering, I hope these 8 FREE Bingo Cards will be just what you need!  Enjoy!


Bingo Cards 1 & 2

Bingo Cards 3 & 4

Bingo Cards 5 & 6

Bingo Cards 7 & 8

Calling List Page 1

Calling List Page 2 

Calling List Page 3

Calling List Page 4

Calling List Page 5

Calling List Page 6

Calling List Page 7

***Link to ALL 40 Cards*** - Recently discounted from $5 to $3! (cards will be sent via email)

***Freebies*** References and Resources "Cheat Sheet" Bookmark Printables

Finding reliable information is difficult for kids these days.  In a world where they are immersed in information from every direction, they have to be taught that not all of that information is true and/or current.  There are certain places that are better than others to find reliable information, especially when it comes to research projects, presentations and papers.  Students have to be taught and reminded throughout their school years as technology and current events are constantly changing.  I've compiled a little *cheat sheet* bookmark that defines reliable resources for students AND gives them one of my favorite places to go to find information - Fact Monster.  I love giving this to students at the end of a lesson on Research and Reference Skills.  Laminate, cut and they'll be ready to go.  I hope you'll enjoy this little freebie today as a thank you for reading along at Reading Redeemed.  Just click on the picture to enlarge the bookmarks.

I've also created a bookmark *cheat sheet* on citing sources.  If you would like to see those, you can find it here.

Enjoy!

XOXO

Six Flags Read to Succeed Program - Free Ticket to Six Flags

If you're not a teacher or librarian, don't tune out...you can help bring this program to your child's school!

The Six Flags Read to Succeed Program is an easy program to add into an already established reading program at your local school.  Here's a small blurb from their website:

Read to Succeed is an exciting program that encourages students in grades K through 6 to read for fun. Students who complete six hours of recreational reading earn a free ticket to Six Flags! The program is available to teachers and schools at no cost to participate, and it's a great way to motivate kids to read.

Basically, this is how it works:
Students read and log their minutes on the reading log - they can read for 5 minutes, 1 hour, whatever...they just record it on their reading log.  Once they're read for 6 hours or 360 minutes, they return the log to their teacher or librarian and the school submits their name online for a free Six Flags ticket.  If you want to implement this in your school for the current school year, you'll need to do so quickly...all reading logs/student names must be submitted online by March 1, 2016 and they DO NOT accept late submissions.

Most schools/classrooms are already reading a certain amount per week/night, so this is a great way to take what they're already doing and get rewarded for it!  Tickets usually arrive to the school sometime in early May.

If you're a parent wanting to share this information with a school, you can find more information at their website here.  If you would like to view the reading log or print a copy to show your school without having to register, you can find those here.

Happy Reading!

1/25/2016

Cheese Crisps - One Ingredient - ONE!

So we're trying to eat healthier around the house using the book "Wheat Belly" as a guide.  It just seems that eating this way can do wonders for your overall health...not just weight...so we're giving it a go.  I recently ordered "Wheat Belly:  30 Minute Meals" and there are some GREAT, easy recipes.  I'm loving it!  I've been reading about the program and looking for a few substitutions for things we usually eat and I came across cheese crisps...made with...wait for it...CHEESE.  Sounds easy enough, eh?  These are WONDERFUL if you're doing any kind of low carb diet.  They take the place of crackers and chips and work well with any type of dip or salsa.  You can use them as "dippers" in place of corn chips, crackers, etc.  I love them as is, no dip included...but I can see where they would come in handy for those moments where you need something to dunk into a bowl of SOMETHING.  It's as simple as this:

Take a block of cheese and slice it SUPER thin.  You can also sprinkle shredded cheese in a small pile...just depends on preference.  I think the block cheese tastes better, but the packs of shredded cheese turn out a bit thinner.  It's worth trying it both ways to see which you prefer.  Place your slices a few inches apart on parchment paper.  This will ONLY work well on parchment paper.  Unless you have some type of magical, nonstick pan (please tell me if you do)...they're going to stick...UNLESS you use parchment paper.  Bake these babies at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes.  You want them to be nice and melted, turning slightly brown along the edges.  Take them out of the oven and allow to cool.  I sit the parchment paper directly on my granite counter top because it helps cool them down a bit faster.  Once they've cooled, place them on paper towels to blot off the extra grease.  They are SO yummy!  If they're chewy or not crispy enough, just pop them back in the oven for a few minutes longer. 

I've had several friends tell me you can put these in Ziploc baggies and save for later, but mine did NOT do well in baggies.  It sealed in the moisture and they were "chewy" the next morning, or as my son said..."like rubber".  Yikes.  It seems to me, they're best baked right before they're needed.  We've demolished one or twelve blocks of cheese cooking these crisps.  Just saying...

10 Ways to Use Books Donated to the Library

Some years are better than others for donations, but every year our library has at least one fairly large book donation from a family attending our school or sometimes a member of the community.  I always make known that we use books not ONLY in the library, but wherever we find the best fit for the books we receive.  With that said, donations are ALWAYS welcome because I assure you, we can find a place for them.  If you say NO to someone wanting to donate books to the library, chances are...they will find another location for their NEXT donation.  With that said, if you're in the library business, you also know that you cannot use EVERY donated book on your bookshelves.  If you DON'T work in the library business, you might say...why not??  Well, there are several reasons.  If you haven't noticed, the majority of library books are library bound.  This means they're bound more durably than your typical hardback book...bound to STAY bound through many check outs and through many little hands.  Sometimes donated books just will not last when put to the test of regular usage in the library.  Libraries also have to make sure material isn't dated.  Libraries try to keep the most current information possible.  Adding too many outdated items can bring down the overall collection age of the library.  And finally, some books are simply not appropriate for the library receiving the donation...I'm not saying we should sensor material, but by all means, books containing adult content are not appropriate for an elementary school.  I know there are all KINDS of variations to these rules, these are just a few examples.  Now...on to how we CAN use book donations EVEN IF the books aren't necessarily something we would put on our shelves for daily check out to our patrons.

Use those donated books LIKE THIS:

1.  Put them on the shelves!  By all means, if you receive a book appropriate for your patrons and it's hardback or sturdy enough to withstand loving from multiple readers for a while...add it to your collection!  There's nothing better than new books available for check out.
2.  Create a discarded/free book box.  My students LOVE the discarded book box.  This is the first stop for almost every student as they visit the library...are there new books in the book box?  I created labels for my discarded books AND I mark them clearly with black Sharpie, "DISCARDED", so parents know these are books that do not need to be returned.  Sometimes I have books donated that are in poor condition, but still readable so I'll place them here...any books we can get in the hands of readers is a plus!  You can find my discarded book labels FREE FOR DOWNLOAD here.  These are set up for printing on Avery label #5164 or something equivalent (3 1/3"x4").
3.  Create study sets.  Sometimes I have nonfiction titles, biographies or historical fiction that would be GREAT for student use except they're paperback.  In that case, I start grouping them for sets - Landforms, Famous African Americans, Solar System, etc.  Once I have a group of 5-10 books, I create sets in magazine files or book boxes.  I then create ONE bar card for the entire box and make the box available for teacher check out for use in the classroom.  Teachers LOVE the book boxes for units and special topics of study.  These are my favorite book boxes:  Ikea Flyt Magazine file, Pack of 25, White.  They're inexpensive, sturdy and they ship quickly...especially if you have a Prime account.
4.  Start a paperback collection with donated paperbacks.  No, paperback books don't hold up as well, but if they're not circulating through as many hands as your typical library book, they'll last for a bit.  I've created a paperback collection for my students who have accounts on hold due to lost or damaged books.  Sometimes books NEVER get paid for, found or returned.  While we have to teach our students some level of responsibility, some students are at the mercy of their parents...books get lost in foster care, left in relative's cars, etc.  It breaks my heart when students WANT to read, but they have these books on their account that need to be taken care of ...that probably won't ever be taken care of...so...while that's the case, I allow students to check out books from the paperback section only.  This means they are somewhat restricted until the lost or damaged book is accounted for, but we can still get books in their hands while we wait.
5.  Give back to the classrooms.  Whether you're a school librarian or public librarian, there are ALWAYS classroom teachers looking to build their collection.  Books tend to last a bit longer in the classroom where they're going through 20 some odd hands rather than hundreds.  Put them in the teacher workroom and I guarantee you, they'll get snatched up...if it's something the library can't use, chances are...a classroom teacher CAN.  There are always new teachers and teachers switching grade levels or subject areas looking to build their classroom libraries.
6.  Donate them to organizations who CAN use them.  The list is ongoing...nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, doctor's offices, homes for underprivileged or neglected children...someone will be willing to take those books off your hands.  If you can't use them, donate them to other organizations who CAN use them.
7.  Take them to a used bookstore.  If you have a large donation of books that are outside of your interest level or books you cannot use, take them to a used book store where you can sell them and purchase books you CAN use.  I recently received a large donation from a family...boxes and boxes of books.  The problem was, the books were all adult fiction paperbacks...but in the end, it really wasn't a problem.  I loaded up the boxes and took them to our local 2nd and Charles where I could purchase books our students would read.  I still had boxes left and those were donated to an area nursing home.
8.  Tear them apart and use what you can!  If you have a book that is falling apart or dated, but it does have some pages of worth...a time line you can use, a chart for student use, etc...pull out the pages you can use, laminate them and begin a file with resources for students or patrons to use while researching.  Students love our library's fact files...and often times they'll learn something they weren't even looking for...so it's a win/win!  You can also use these book sections or pull outs in the project boxes mentioned in number 3 above.  Anytime you can incorporate nonfiction, do it!
9.  If you have a growing collection of books just sitting there collecting dust, have a used book sale.  This is going to look different in a public library vs. a school library, but it's very doable in all libraries.  For a school library, it's fun to encourage students to bring their used books...collect books for a week...then have a school wide swap/sale.  My favorite way to do this is to give students a coupon good for one book at the book swap for every TWO books they donate.  Students can purchase books with their book coupons OR with money for those who have no books to donate.  I find 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardbacks is a fair price that most students can afford.  Students get "new to them" books and the library is making a profit as well.  Score!
10.  Give them to students who might not have books at home.  Once a month, I go through the books I've collected that are just sitting on my counters and give them back to students who need them.  We're a fairly large school, so I pick one grade level a month and give each classroom in that grade level one book.  I include a note to the teacher asking him/her to pick a student who might benefit from this book and include a "Book Fairy" note for teachers to give with the book.  Depending on how many books you have available, you could do this many different ways, this is just what works for me.  I've included my favorite free book fairy labels and teacher notes in the section below - enjoy!

Do you have other ideas for donated books?  Please share them!  The more we share, the more we learn...Keep Reading!  RR

FREE PRINTABLES from this Post
*Discarded book labels
*Book Fairy Note to Classroom Teachers
*Book Fairy Note for Students (FREE from TeachersPayTeachers)

Storyline Online - Free Books Online Read by Celebrities!

http://www.storylineonline.net/Storyline Online is one of my favorite places to find free "eBooks".  They're not books you read on the computer or tablet screen like your typical eBooks, but rather picture books read aloud by celebrities.  Founded by the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Storyline Online consists of approximately 30 books, each read by a different celebrity.  The only problem with this free site is that it doesn't grow quickly enough for the changing entertainment industry and the latest kid craze as far as favorite "super stars".  They do have an area on their page where you can make donations to help grow the site.  It's definitely a fun place on the web to visit together with your children or to show on the whiteboard to a class of students.  The more we use it, spread the word and make donations, the more it will grow.  It's a great concept - let's let them know we love it!

1/24/2016

Random Acts of Kindness - Operation Card Drop

I LOVE the idea of dropping these cards in random places for others to find...more specifically...I LOVE the idea of dropping these cards into LIBRARY BOOKS for others to find.  If you're a patron of a public library, drop them secretly, like a top secret mission, for other readers to find.  If you're a librarian, drop them in books for your patrons to find.  If you're a student, drop them in the books you read for your friends to find.  Guess what's going to happen???  A - You're going to make someone smile and quite possible change the outcome of their day and... B - You're going to make someone want to read more, visit the library more... in hopes they'll find another little hidden jewel in a book...a hidden jewel beyond the words on the page.  Use these from Blessing Manifesting or make your own... Love.This.Idea.  Be kind.  Be a reader.  Share the love...

Book Drop Cards for Readers (Drop a few in the library books...)

XOXO...

Why "AR" Makes me CRINGE: 5 Things You Should Ask Your Child's School About AR

So this is a long article...but if you have school aged children or grandchildren or students, it's so worth your time to read.  Print it, highlight it, save it for later...or just skim down to the five numbered questions...5 questions you can ask your child's school today to help determine if Accelerated Reader is HELPING or HURTING your child.  I promise you won't regret it.

I hate AR.  As I tell my children, "hate" is a strong word, be careful where you use it.  Well, that's why I used it here.  I HATE it...despise it, loathe it, it sickens me...get my drift?  You don't have to agree with me, but I would love the chance to open your eyes to what AR is doing to our children.  My almost 15 years experience with students in grades PreK-5 and degrees in both Education and Library and Information Sciences has enabled me to form a free-thinking opinion.  I believe the more parents we have armed with knowledge about Accelerated Reader, the more parents we will see who feel the same way I do.  It's not okay to let it take over our schools.  After reading this post, if you feel the same, it's time to do something about it.  If you care about your children...your students...you will stand up.  Reading skills are plummeting across the nation because we allow programs such as Accelerated Reader to invade our schools and take over our children's way of thinking.  Not this Momma.  Not this Librarian.  Not this teacher.  It is my hope that if you find yourself feeling the same way I do, you will be able to use this post as a guide in your argument to rid your school of Accelerated Reader.

If you're clueless here and you don't know what I'm referring to when I say "AR" or "Accelerated Reader", then either A) You don't have a dog in the fight or any school aged children, B) You haven't been paying attention, C) Your child's school doesn't participate in AR.  Good for them.  You can find more information about the Accelerated Reader Program and what it claims to be, here.  Go ahead and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Accelerated Reader page and see how many AR tests have been taken TODAY alone...scary.  Basically, students read books and take multiple choice comprehension questions on the books.  As their reading level/ability progresses, the program gives a range or point system for what level they are reading on and what level books they should read.  So, students are often encouraged or even worse, required, to check out library books and read books within this reading level in order to take more quizzes, become a better reader and advance their level.  They earn points for the amount of tests they take and teachers often use this point system as an incentive to earn prizes, compete with other students and sometimes...God forbid...get grades.

As a PARENT (and in a moment as an educator), I have worked too hard, too diligently, put in TOO MANY HOURS to create a reader in my child for AR to take that from him.  I read to him before he was born, when he was two years old and couldn't sit still, I read to him while he was in the bathtub.  I read to him, I made it fun, I took him to the library, I took him to book stores.  Reading was and is a pleasant time to be together.  He is now in 5th grade and STILL loves to read.  He's an athlete, a boy's boy, a wisecracking kid...but he loves to read.  There was a time a few years ago when he brought home a book from the school library about two girls having a sleepover.  Hmmm...okay...that's fine with me if that's something he truly wants to read about...but I know my son.  And I know better.  When I asked him if that was a book he was interested in, his reply was, "No, but that was the only thing left on the shelf that's my level"...excuse me?  So we have a library full of books, but we're only allowing children to select from one shelf or case or basket or whatever??  I, the Mom and Librarian that I am, kindly requested of his teacher and librarian that he not be restricted to one shelf of books.  While I understand, some books are inappropriate, at the same time, he needs to find what he loves.  I worked too hard to instill a love of reading to have one teacher, one librarian, one individual take that from him in a matter of days.  My letter was not received with the utmost of kindness, but let's get real people.  Sometimes you have students who have younger siblings at home and they want books below their level so they can read to siblings.  Sometimes you have students who want books they CAN'T read yet because they want Mom or Dad to read it TO them.  Sometimes you have students who hate reading, but they're going to find a sports book and be able to read only the captions below the pictures, but they're going to want to find more...and they're going to become fluid readers because they found something they loved to read and invested time in it.  Sometimes you have a 2nd grade student that reads on a 6th grade reading level and I DEFINITELY don't want my 2nd grader reading some of the 6th grade books due to content, so it's okay every once in awhile to read DOWN a level...for pleasure.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

As a TEACHER and LIBRARIAN...I have seen student after student come to the library in tears or passing over a book they truly want to read because it's "not their level" or because "I need more points".  WHAT?!  Sure, we have to have accountability in reading, sure we need some assessments, sure we need to know if students are showing growth and progress, but trust me, AR is not the way to do it.  Reading is intrinsically pleasant...and by MAKING students read certain books or limiting their choice of books, we're creating little robots who are reading to earn something, they're reading for their grades, they're reading to push their name above the other student who is ahead of them on the chart on the wall.  We ONLY have them a short time...once they go off to middle and high school, if that love of reading isn't there, forget about it.  Sometimes someone will fall in love with reading later in life, but usually if that passion is not created early, it never comes.  Reading should be fun, we read to find out information, we read for pleasure, we read to escape, we read to create memories, we read to spend time together, we DON'T read to acquire points.  It's not how it works.  I'm fortunate to say, I now work in a school that DOES NOT DO AR.  Thank the Lord.  My school is in the middle of a very rural community and we circulate between 40,000 and 50,000 books a year to students in Preschool through 5th grade.  They love to read...most of them.  They get books because they're interested in them and they write reading responses or they talk about the book in literature circles or they draw pictures of their favorite parts of the book or they map the characters or they watch the movie and compare the book to the movie or sometimes, just sometimes...they don't do anything but read it.  *gasp*  Imagine that.  They read just to read...because they love the book...and they crave more books like that one book they found that they loved.

My son excelled in Accelerated Reader.  I'm not an upset Mom looking to promote my agenda because my child's feelings were hurt.  My child did WELL with AR.  He's extremely competitive and he continued to be in the top of his class for Accelerated Reader.  He was in the top ten for his school one year.  He's not one of those kids that would be "ruined" by AR, although I firmly believe his love for reading would be at a much lower level than it is now.  He wouldn't wake up and stay in bed for hours reading for pleasure if reading was still "work"...working for points.  That's not the point.  The point is, as an Educator, I saw what it was creating.  I saw where the path was leading, I saw the fruit this tree was going to bear...and I didn't and DON'T like it.

I'm telling you now, if you feel as though Accelerated Reader is pushing your child/children or students to hate reading, you need to take a stand.  Often times the requirement to participate in Accelerated Reading comes from outside the individual school...it might come from the Principal or Administrator or it might come from the county or school system.  It COULD even come from the state or a Reading Coach.  Whoever it is, it would be worth your while to get to the bottom of it and ask them if they have data that Accelerated Reader is helping your child.  They might tell you yes and show you the growth or comparison charts...good for them.  But you see...your child is typically, usually, for the most part, going to show growth in reading whether they're doing AR or not...because they're in school, they're learning, they're being made to read whether they enjoy it or not...so they ARE going to show growth, but while they are showing growth on paper (most children WILL show growth while in school regardless of their reading program), they are silently, internally beginning to associate reading with WORK instead of PLEASURE and that could very easily become what causes them to stop being a reader at all...later in life.  Most studies done with Accelerated Reader are either done BY affiliates of the company in controlled groups or done and compared to groups where no reading is involved at all.  I assure you, if you participated in or held a year or several year study with a random group of students reading using AR and a random group of students actively participating in reading without the use of AR, the group NOT using AR is always going to show more growth.

If you're ready to present your argument for the discontinuation of Accelerated Reader in your school or for your child alone, here are some facts that will help you with your argument, some questions you can ask to see how your child's leaders respond.  Don't go in ready to attack the teacher or librarian or anyone for that matter.  As I stated previously, often times Accelerated Reader is being done per request or at the direction of someone outside of the building.  However, you CAN ask these questions as you go down the path to discover what the best way might be to build upon your growing reader.  If AR is working for your child, FABULOUS.  I hope it's being used correctly as a tool and not as an assessment or end-all, be-all guide to reading.  I also hope the following will give you some insight as far as what to watch for as your child continues to grow in reading.

1.  Ask your child's educators if he/she is being limited as to the selection of books available from the overall pool of books.  In other words, does your child have access to all books in the library?  In the elementary section?  In the classroom?  Or is your child being limited to one section, one basket, one "level"?  Teachers tend to limit students because they must maintain accountability for student progress.  While the AR program has over 100,000 books in its database, that is merely a fraction of books available for young readers.  If a book is not in the AR database, teachers often discourage it from being read because "we can't take a test on it".  I'm getting sick at my stomach already and we're only on number one...

2.  Does my child have any new books available to read - books published this year?  Does my child have access to books from local authors within the state or area?  We need to support our local and up and coming authors and illustrators.  Who knows...you might find a new favorite.  I hope schools are taking advantage of any local authors for school visits.  Students need to meet them, see what they're doing and the process they've had to follow to get there.  It takes time for Accelerated Reader to get quizzes into their system, so many times newer releases are excluded and therefore, discouraged...by all means we should only read books with quizzes because as an adult...that's why I read...NOT.  Come on people...what do children like to read?  NEW BOOKS!  What do adults like to read?  NEW BOOKS!  If your child is being discouraged to read new releases because AR does not have a quiz...that's a big problem.

3.  Is my child who reads on a higher reading level being forced to get books only on that level or can he/she drop down a few levels for some book choices?  Now I hope most teachers, even if participating in Accelerated Reader, are careful with what students are reading under their care.  With that said, the truth is...we can't read every book ever written.  While I try to be a good steward of my readers, sometimes books go unnoticed in the middle of a busy day.  If your child is reading well above his/her grade level, teachers might be pushing for books to be read ON THAT LEVEL.  I don't know about you, but I don't want my first grader reading a book about a middle school crush...but that's just me.  Another thing to think about is the amount of time it takes your child to earn points.  If a class is participating in a points and rewards system, first graders reading on a first grade reading level can read small books at a fairly fast pace and earn points for each book.  At the same time, your child who reads four or five grade levels above them is reading a chapter book that takes a week to read...so while the child on the lower level is acquiring points each day, your child is getting them maybe once a week...and the child who is earning more points because he/she reads lower level books or because he/she has figured out the point system and is reading quick reads to get fast points, they are going to be rewarded for "reaching their 25 point goal" faster than your child who is a better reader.  So we're going to punish our excellent readers while encouraging our strugglers???  In what world does that make sense?  I've seen it time and time again...it's happening...EVERY DAY.

4.  Is my child competing for points in the classroom or school as a whole?  As I stated above, my child is a competitor.  He is driven by it.  Some students are not.  They shut down.  In some situations, competitiveness can lead to hard feeling among classmates who are supposed to be living daily life in the classroom as a family of learners.  Students can begin mocking other students who don't get as many points as they have or they can become angry at students who haven't taken many tests because those students "made us lose the class pizza party" or "made us lose our movie day".  So while I love competition in sports and I'm not one of "those moms" who believes everyone should be rewarded equally, I do believe that in the world of learning and education, we should not reward SOME students for doing what we expect them to do when OTHER students are trying EQUALLY as hard to be successful or maybe they're one of those higher readers and not able to earn points as quickly.  Ultimately, we want students talking about the books they read...we want them discussing, getting excited...do you see AR encouraging this or discouraging this? With each student reading different books instead of doing a novel study or partner reading, the social nature of reading is minimized.  Research shows time and time again that having communities of readers, not isolated readers, is KEY to developing a love for reading.  They're too anxious to move on to the next book in order to earn points...who has time to show a favorite book to a friend?  I've got points to earn...you're on your own!  Do you see the problem with this??

5.  How long does the class as a whole spend on AR each day?  Okay...this is important.  Sometimes teachers allow Accelerated Reader to soak up WAY TOO MUCH TIME.  Instructional time is precious...think of all the lovely things your child could be learning during the day instead of running around catering to AR.  Often times, students have to wait their turn to take quizzes because classrooms only have one, two, maybe three computers.  If students are sent to the library to take quizzes, that's time spent walking to the library and back...hey, every second is precious.  Usually students are told things like, "Just read the book again while you wait" or "Put your head down until it's your turn".  What a waste of instructional minutes.  Don't get me wrong...if the teacher has been told to do this or has not been trained properly on the most effective use of his/her time, I don't blame the teacher for this AT ALL.  Accelerated Reader is the enemy here, not the teacher.  If it's AR incentive day, then teachers and/or librarians spend time tallying point totals, passing out prizes or, excuse me...incentives.  If students are being sent to the library to collect prizes, that's an entire day the librarian has spent on handing out prizes instead of ordering books, doing book talks, teaching students how to use the newest technology...you get where I'm going with this.

Another key factor is the $$$ issue.  This has nothing to do with your child's teacher and again, it might go above school level, but Renaissance Programs (the company that created Accelerated Reader) are EXPENSIVE.  Many times the school library which is underfunded or not funded at all (another story for another day), is expected to pay for Accelerated Reader.  I had rather be purchasing books for my students, bookmarks to make them want to come to the library, art supplies to set up an Illustration Station, paying authors to visit and meet with students...rather than paying for Accelerated Reader.  If a school participates in Accelerated Reader, they probably also have students taking periodic STAR Tests...this is the test that will tell them your child's reading level...give or take...trust me...take it with a grain of salt...and it is separate from AR as far as money is concerned.  There's STAR Math and all kinds of other programs that add up to THOUSANDS, yes THOUSANDS of dollars EACH year.  Accelerated Reader in and of itself is a subscription service.  Schools pay yearly, it's not a one time purchase deal, and it costs thousands of dollars EACH year.  Think of all the books that could be bought, materials for science experiments, cleaning supplies...just saying.

Everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion and this is mine...based on years of experience spanning multiple states, schools, economic areas, ages, based on parenting both a male and female child with VERY different personalities, based on years using the program (because I was forced) and years NOT using the program...I have come to the conclusion that Accelerated Reader is just not helping our children...scratch that, it's HURTING the majority of our children.  The sad news is...I don't see it going anywhere unless we as parents and educators FIGHT to make it go away.  In order to fight, we have to come into battle armed with knowledge.  We can't make an argument "just because", we can't ask that it be taken out of the school because "we don't like it".  We must have concrete reasons.  I bet many of you have your own AR horror stories and I bet many of you have children who have had great success in the program and you have celebrated their "points" as I have with my child.  Push all that aside and look at the big picture...no matter how AR has hurt or helped your child, I promise you...when your child is engulfed in an active reading program that encourages a love of reading, discussion and discovery...they're going to soar higher, read better, rise above anything you ever IMAGINED in the realm of reading.

WHEN WE HAVE CHILDREN LOOKING INSIDE BOOKS  TO SEE IF THEY CAN READ THE BOOK, TO SEE IF IT'S TOO EASY, TO SEE IF IT'S TOO DIFFICULT, TO SEE IF IT'S EVEN INTERESTING INSTEAD OF LOOKING ON THE SPINE OF THE BOOK TO SEE WHAT THE LEVEL IS, THAT IS WHEN WE WILL BEGIN TO TRULY CREATE READERS.

Share it, be an advocate for it, live it.  Happy Reading...RR

How to Find Lexile Levels for Children's Books

While Lexile Levels aren't as commonly used as Grade Equivalent Book Levels, they are growing in popularity in many school districts.  I am a fan of your good old fashioned reading levels.  They're easy to read, easy for parents to understand and probably the most commonly used ranking system for books in the U.S.  However, due to some standardized as well as computer based tests showing student scores and progress in Lexile Levels, some schools are now changing to Lexile Levels in their classrooms and libraries.  While Lexile Levels aren't quite as easy to grasp as AR or standard "Book Levels", there is a site that can help you figure out a level quickly - and it's simply www.lexile.com.  You'll find a wealth of information on this website from book lists in your child's/student's level to information on how these levels are calculated.  In the upper right-hand corner of the page, you will see a search box where you can enter book titles, authors or ISBN numbers.  This is a quick and easy way to search for a book and find the correct lexile level for your child or student. 

If you need a way to find AR levels, see my previous post here.

Keep Reading...Me

Be a Volunteer - READ!

Have you ever asked your local public or school librarian if you can volunteer to read one-on-one to students?  You should!  You'll be surprised by how excited he/she gets...and if that's not the case...you might want to speak to someone else since more readers is ALWAYS a good thing. 

For me, in a school library, I send an email to teachers once school has been in session for approximately a month.  This way, it's still more or less the beginning of the year, but it has given the teachers a little bit of time to get to know their students.  I simply ask this...Can you please respond to this email with up to five students who might benefit from being read aloud to in the library.  I make a list compiling all of these students and keep it in a folder for anytime I have volunteer readers.  I have readers who come once a month, readers who show up when they're able and one time reading voluteers.  I always encourage drop in readers - if they're willing, I'll take them.  Keep in mind, some readers are going to be "better" than others.  I have one volunteer who reads to students and I KNOW she must have been a teacher in a previous life.  She asks great comprehension questions, she makes connections with students, she is AH-MAZING.  I have other readers who are a little less exciting, but they do read the book to the student.  All in all, it really doesn't matter...if these students are not getting read to at home or DO get read to, but are simply struggling due to outside issues, any reading aloud they can hear and take part in is of benefit. 

As for a public library, they're always having groups come in such as preschool field trips, children's homes, nursing homes, etc.  There's usually always a day/time that you can volunteer to read.  We librarians LOVE to read, but unfortunately, there's much to be done other than JUST sit around and read aloud all day...plus our students and patrons enjoy hearing a new voice and meeting a new face. 

So...if you have a few extra minutes in the day, stop by your school or public library and simply ask..."Is there a good time when I can read to some of your students/patrons?"...they'll be glad you did...and YOU'LL be glad you did!

Keep supporting our libraries and our children...reading is a priority.

Yours Truly...Me

Mystery Genre Book Review and Recommendation: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

This book is among my top 10 favorite picture books of all time...

Sometimes amazing books get lost amongst the thousands of "other" GOOD books...and sometimes, these books are worth finding...because they contain treasure loved by most if not all.  It's my intent to bring these hidden jewels to light, the books that are sometimes left behind the others, but so deserve a space among the stars.

If you're familiar with Chris Van Allsburg, you know he writes amazing pieces of literature including Jumanji and The Polar Express.  What you might not know is that he also wrote what might be his most ingenious work of all time, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  This book is perfect for so many situations in the classroom and/or library including mystery genre studies, illustration studies in art and creative writing activities.  This is one of my all time favorite read alouds during our genre study on mysteries.  During their study, our third grade teachers have "Mystery Readers" each afternoon with clues...the students try to guess who is coming to read...it's a fun way to incorporate some new faces during your genre study.  I always bring this book to read aloud, along with copies of the illustrations in the book to leave with the classroom.  Classes usually end up completing a follow up activity of some type using the illustrations.  It's such a fun read...and it's true...so it makes for a great discussion piece. 

With only an introduction to read and the captions and titles to the pictures, the illustrations are far more important than the text in this particular book.  Be sure to set aside some time to allow students to study and think about the pictures.

The summary on the inside flap of the book cover reads as follows:

When Chris Van Allsburg was invited to the home of Peter Wenders, he discovered fourteen drawings that were, like pieces of a picture puzzle, clues to larger pictures.  But the puzzles, the mysteries, presented by these drawings, are not what we are used to.  They are not solved for us, as in the final pages of a book or a film's last reel.  The solutions to these mysteries lie in a place at once closer at hand, yet far more remote.  They lie in our imagination. 

For those who have thought of themselves as unimaginative, this book will prove the opposite.  Even the most reluctant imagination, when confronted by these drawings, will not be able to resist solving the mysteries of Harris Burdick.

The students LOVE this book.  The teachers LOVE this book.  If your child is in a class studying mysteries, this would make a great gift for the teacher!  Volunteer to read it aloud and then give the book to the class.  It's such a fun read.  I highly recommend it for grades 3-5.  I wouldn't go any lower than 3rd grade unless you're using it in an art class setting or with gifted learners.

Below are five free resources to use with this book...but it would be so easy to come up with so much more!
1.  Harris Burdick Comprehension Chart
2.  Harris Burdick Writing Lesson
3.  The Harris Burdick Project Complete with Illustrations
4.  Harris Burdick Teaching Prompts from Houghton Mifflin
5.  Harris Burdick Teacher's Guide from TeacherVision

Beautiful Bookmarks to Print and Color - FREE!

I love a good freebie...especially when it's a resource I can use in the library or pass on to my students.  My kiddos are always asking for bookmarks...it's fun to visit the library and leave with something you get to KEEP along with the book you have to RETURN.  My theory is this...if you have something in the library that makes them want to COME to the library...that's half the battle with our struggling/disinterested readers.  Once they're here, it gives me a few minutes to help them find a book they love or to entice them to try something new...even if they only came for the "free stuff". 

I came across this great website by a talented artist who offers freebies as well as paid doodle coloring books...we're never too old to color, right?  I fell in love with her free bookmarks and print them on cardstock often for my students.  I have a stack of them by their check out station as I type.  These would be fun little tokens to include in Halloween or Fall Festival goodie bags or to print/cut/send to school with your child as a little spontaneous act of kindness for your favorite teacher.  The students will love them and the teacher will smile because he/she did not have to take the time to print and cut them!

You can find Dawn's beautiful, hand-drawHERE.  Go leave her a comment and let her know how much you appreciate her freebies.  Keep spreading a love for reading...
n bookmarks

I Visited the Library Today - Freebie for Teachers/Librarians

This is a fun little freebie for teachers/librarians.  It's a great way to announce the first library visit of the year to parents.  In my school, the Kindergarten students DO check out books during their Back-to-School Orientation, but they do not take them home yet.  The PreK and Kindergarten students keep books in their classrooms so they can practice "book responsibility".  Since books are not going home yet, many times parents don't know if their child has visited the library or not.  This is a fun way to reinforce how to say "L-i-b-r-a-r-y" with your younger students AND a great way to practice writing the librarian's name - or for those still learning, the name can be filled in by the teacher before copies are made.  Just a fun token for the librarian to give to students the first time they visit OR for teachers to give upon returning to the classroom while talking about their library visit.  Enjoy!

Grab your "I Visited the Library Today" Freebie HERE.

1/23/2016

5 EASY Ways to Save Money for ALL Your Christmas Shopping...Even When You Don't Have Any Extra $$$

Don't get a Christmas bonus?  Don't have enough extra money to put away into a Christmas fund each month?  Don't want to load up those charge cards?  I want to share five QUICK and EASY ways you can earn money from home...small amounts at a time...that will add up QUICKLY.  If you don't "cash out" anything until November or December, you should have enough (depending on your spending limit) to pay for everyone's Christmas!  These are such easy things to do AND it's by doing things you already do or by spending a mere 3-5 minutes every couple of days to stash away into your Christmas fund.  Each of these are things I do personally, so I'm not giving you ideas that I "think" will work or ideas that "sound like" they'll work...these are PROVEN ways to stash away for Christmas.  It's so exciting to watch it add up and guess how much you'll have by November 1st or December 1st...I cannot WAIT to share these with you!

1.  Put ALL your spare change into a jar/container/etc.  Don't spend ANY!  Let's start with an easy one that you've probably all heard before...so this is a method that has been shared time and time again, but it's SO true!  If you will gather all change throughout the year and stash it in a jar where you won't "rob" it throughout the year, you will be amazed at what it adds up to by Christmas!  I don't even keep much cash on hand, but this still adds up for me throughout the year.  If you're robbing your container for vending machine money each week, well...this simply won't work...BUT ...if you're diligent in stashing and saving, you'll be surprised at the amount!  I even throw dollar bills in there if I find them in the laundry or if I have any extra cash...I just throw it into the jar.  You could make a coins only rule, but I sell heat pressed appliques for shirts and love to throw my extra cash in there...so if you have a little hobby business or if you sell clothes at a consignment sale, etc...throw in what you can and watch it add up.  When it's time to shop for Christmas, I throw mine into a Coin Star and let it do the work for me...it's worth the time it saves with me not having to count it.

2.  Use Cash Back and Rebate Sites ANYTIME you shop online!  There are a ton of these out there, but I'm going to share my favorites and how I make it work for me.  Basically, these are sites that give you cash back for shopping through THEM at stores you're already using.  They work different ways, but typically they have a pay out date and either send a check or pay through your PayPal account.  I get checks through the mail, cash them and throw them into my jar (#1 above).  Here are my favorites:  
Ebates
So this is one of my faves!  This is how I make it work for me.  When I'm ordering online, I shop as I normally would - at Kohl's, Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc...anywhere online...then...when I have everything added to my cart, I open up a NEW tab, go to Ebates and log in...search for whatever store I'm shopping with - "Kohls"...and click the button to "Shop Now for 3% cash back" or whatever the cashback for now might be.  If you're already shopping online, it's well worth your time to make that extra click and get cash back!  While it's only a dollar here or a dollar there, it will add up faster than you think.  My lifetime payouts on Ebates is several hundred dollars...I mean, why not get paid back for something you plan on purchasing anyway??  It doesn't matter if my purchase is $1 or $100...I ALWAYS go through one of my rebate sites.  I like to look through each of them if I have time, to see which has the highest rebate amount for my current store.  If you don't have time to do that, pick one that will be your "go to" since you usually have to have a minimum of $20 to cash out - and go to town!  You can go through Ebates for hotels, car rentals, flights...just about ANYTHING!
Shop at Home 
This is another great rebate site that basically works like Ebates.  It also has Shop Gold Points, so you earn those points (can be redeemed for gift cards) as well as cash back.  Ebates is my standby, but I've had several hundred dollars paid out from Shop at Home as well - just depends on your preference!
Top Cash Back
Another great rebate site that works much the same.  This is not my go to site...no reason, I just tend to go to Ebates first and Shop at Home second...but they claim to have the highest payouts, so it might be worth checking into... I've received about $50 from them, mainly because I don't use this site as much as the others.
Upromise
This ranks among one of my favorites as well, but it works a little differently.  Upromise helps you save for college so you can start a college fund with it or select the payout option.  I always select the payout option because I like to put it into an account of my choice - or you can use it for Christmas!  Upromise works without THINKING about it, so this is why the site is so great.  They do have rebates and coupons, so you can use Upromise much like the sites above, but you can also register your debit or credit card with them and earn anytime you use your card...so your rewards add up without you even knowing about it.  I just checked my Upromise account and I have $60 sitting there that I didn't even know about, so it's well worth registering those cards to watch your money add up throughout the year - especially if you're like me and your debit card or credit card is your go to source for everyday shopping.  If you decide to sign up with Upromise, feel free to message me first and I can send you their somewhat secret referral page that yes, adds money to my account, but allows you to sign up friends under your account as well.  You can also have grandparents and other family members register their cards on your account so their spending gives cash back for college for your kiddos...LOVE.IT.

3.  Couponing Apps  Free Couponing Apps can be downloaded to your phone and they offer cash back on various products...so for example, if you purchase Pillsbury Biscuits and they have a 50 cents coupon for Pillsbury Biscuits, they don't take this price off your total, but they add it to an account, much like the rebate sites listed above..then they pay out on a specific date or per your request.  Let me explain how I make these work for me with VERY little time and effort involved.  I don't have time to log into each app every time they add new coupons and select everything I "might" buy.  Instead, I log into my apps AFTER each grocery or drug store visit and select the items I actually purchased.  Usually you'll need to scan the products you purchased, can your receipt and the cash back is almost instant.  For example, I went shopping at Publix yesterday, bought some groceries, used some digital and paper coupons, came home, put up my groceries.  After my groceries were put away, I logged into my couponing apps, selected the items I purchased, scanned them, scanned my receipt while I still had it out...and I instantly received $7 cash back from all my apps combined.  I have four apps on my phone and I check each one after I shop.  That's about all I have time for...you can limit it to one, but each app is going to have different coupons, so it's well worth your time to install a few - however many works for you.  They often have deals like, "tomatoes" or "bell peppers"...so these coupons work on any brand, wherever you've shopped...so easy.  If you leave these savings in your couponing accounts until December, you'll have a good bit saved to put toward your shopping!  These are my favorites that you can download to your tablet or phone NOW for free.  You can also create your account online and download the app later:
SavingStar
Ibotta
(Ibotta is my fave...this one has the most generic coupons such as fruits, veggies, etc...that work with any kind you buy!)
Checkout 51
Snap by Groupon
(This one is last but definitely not least - it's AWESOME!  You don't have to do anything but log in and scan your receipt - it will automatically give you any rebates available and it has HIGH rebate payouts - love, love, love.)

4.  Short Product Surveys
Okay...I've never been a survey person...it's usually not worth my time, but I have four favorites I've discovered recently that ARE worth my time.  I have participated in several group studies with the incentive being $75-$300 for ONE study.  They send a check in the mail within a week after you've finished.  Some sites award points.  For example, 100 points = $1.  Each survey awards approximately 300 points, so $3 per survey.  Currently I've been participating in one just since January 1st, so less than a month, and I have $27 in my account.  If you'll be faithful to LEAVE IT IN YOUR ACCOUNT, you'll be amazed at how much you have to cash out by Christmas!!  EEEEE!!!!  So exciting!  Some websites allow you to sign up now and some, you'll have to wait until they're accepting applicants because so many want to sign up with them.  Here are my favorite, no scam, no spam sites to earn cash or points to convert to cash:
Pinecone Research
This is the one that I have been doing since the beginning of the month and currently have $27 for payout if I wanted...but I'm saving up for Christmas.  They only accept member sign ups on an as needed basis and even then, it's certain ages and groups they're looking for.  If you can get in, you'll be glad you did!  Once you're a member, they send surveys directly to your email, no spam.  You don't have to worry about checking in on their website.  Collin at Hip2save.com always posts when they're accepting new members, so you can check in with her site each day or each week to watch for updates...plus you'll find some great savings from her as well!  Here's a blurb from Pinecone's Website:   PineCone Research is a trusted leader in voicing the opinions of consumers nationwide. Companies are seeking your input to develop new and improved products. By completing our online surveys, your opinions will directly influence tomorrow's products today, AND you will be rewarded!  
Harris Poll
I have just registered for Harris Poll, so I can't tell you much from experience, but everyone I've spoken to who participates says it's well worth your time.  They're making a few changes to their website, so they're a bit slower than usual getting out surveys.  I haven't received my first survey via email yet, but I did receive 50 points just for registering.  They're always accepting applications, so you can sign up for this one now.  Yay!
Focus Group
This is a fun website where you can register for various product research - receive free products for studies, participate in person, participate online, etc.  You can register for studies on their website or wait for them to email you, but I find it best to browse their site to find the best opportunities.  I recently signed up for a study with a $300 payout - not too shabby!  If you're interested in this site, you can click the link and sign up directly OR you can send me a message with your email address and I can send you a referral link - FYI - signing up through referral links often get you better opportunities with this site because they see it as you working with a network to spread the word and they're all about networking!
20/20 Research
This one works much like Focus Group.  They usually send opportunities via email, you click a link to take a survey and they call if you fit what they're looking for.  They tell you during the phone call if you qualify or not and tell you exactly what will be expected so you know what you're getting into before you accept or decline.  I have been accepted for two studies in a month, one paying $75 and one paying $200 and I have gone six months without hearing from them...it just depends on what they have available.  They definitely don't harass you, only sending emails when an opportunity is available.  Receiving five emails a month from them would be A LOT for this site.  Much like Focus Group, you can click on the 20/20 link above to sign up OR you can email me your email address for a referral link - it helps us both!

5.  And finally, product reviews!
Did you know companies PAY for great product reviews??  I'm going to give you my favorite website for this, but look around...you might find one you like better.  The site I participate with awards points for writing reviews and then awards MORE points when companies purchase your reviews from them.  I try to log in several times a week and add 2-3 reviews.  It's fun to log in and see how many times your reviews have been purchased.  It's almost INSTANT.  IF you write a great review, someone will surely buy it within 24 hours...and other companies can purchase the SAME review, so you might sell it 10 times!  Once your review is written, the site basically works for you because the review you wrote ONCE can be purchased again and again.  Just a little work for a lot of points.  Save your points up until you're ready to shop for Christmas and you'll be amazed.  You can go to Google and search for "get paid to write product reviews" and it will pull up a LOT of sites for you to look through.  My favorite is Sticky Chicken.  Other than an email confirming my registration, I've never gotten an email from them, so they definitely don't spam.  I just log in a few times a week and review away.  Be sure to write great reviews...if you write - "Liked this product", buyers aren't very likely to purchase your review when there are others out there singing their praises.  Talk it up - state WHY you love the product and how you'll buy it again and again and again...then sit back and watch your points stack up.

A few of these sites have my affiliate links attached, but most do not.  I truly enjoy sharing ways to earn and save.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask!  If you have a favorite easy earning site, feel free to share!  Happy saving!

1/14/2016

Cajun Snack Mix - YUM!

We LOVE snack mix in my house.  The kids eat it, I eat it, but my husband wouldn't eat it...it just wasn't his favorite...so I started thinking...if I gave this snack mix a little SPICE...a little ZING...I think I might have a shot with the ol' hubby.  He's from around New Orleans, so he's a fan of all things spicy.  Sure enough...the Cajun version of this snack mix has become a family favorite...it's requested for Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthday parties.  We give it in tins as gifts and it's our go-to snack recipe.  The good thing is, it has enough spice to satisfy the spice lover in your life, but it's not too spicy for most of the littles...my kiddos still love it!  I try to keep the easy-peasy favorite recipes under lock and key because...well...then I won't have any easy recipes to give as gifts because everyone will know how to make them!  BUT...I've decided, it's time to share.  Here goes...the recipe for our family favorite, Cajun Snack Mix:

6 cups of goodies - you can switch these out and come up with your own unique combination, but here are a few favorites of our favorites:
Chex Cereal (rice, wheat, corn)
Bagel Chips
Fritos
Bugles
Pecans
Peanuts
White Cheddar Cheezits
Goldfish
Cheerios
Oyster Crackers
Pretzels

I usually pick 6 things and use a cup of each.  My crew isn't a big fan of pretzels, so we usually leave those out and do 1 cup of corn Chex cereal, 1 cup of rice Chex cereal, 1 cup of white cheddar Cheezits, 1 cup of Fritos, 1 cup of broken up bagel chips and 1 cup of pecans (if you like nuts and have no nut allergies in your house, pecans make a WORLD of difference when used in place of the peanuts - super yummo!)

Put all your mixers in a large glass bowl and set aside.  In a small glass bowl, mix the following:
1 stick of melted butter
2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 heaping tsp. Tony Chachere's Seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Mix well and drizzle over your mixed up mixers/goodies.  Stir well.  Microwave for 6 minutes, pausing every 2 minutes to stir THOROUGHLY or your mix will burn and/or be soggy.  Pour from the bowl onto paper towels and let cool.  All done!  Eat 'em up!
 
 
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