I received an e-mail last week from a student I taught this past year. She needed help selecting summer reading books from the required summer reading list. The students at my school receive really good summer reading lists, but the lists are big. It can be difficult to select a book when a child has too many choices. How do you narrow down and make good selections when you have many titles from which to choose?
Look for authors on the list that you recognize and see if there are new or different book titles by that same author.
Locate a title on the list that you have already read and really liked. Search that book title on a website like Amazon or Goodreads. These sites offer suggestions or “read-alike” book titles. Check the suggestions against your required list to see if there are any matches.
Often the lists are organized by style or genre. Look for books within the same genre. If your child loves survival books or mysteries or humorous realistic fiction select other books in that same category from the summer reading list.
Bring the reading list to your library or bookstore and ask people there for ideas. E-mail the teacher like my student did and ask if he/she has favorite book recommendations. Ask classmates what they are reading from the list.
Look up titles and check the page count. Start with a shorter book that can be completed quickly. I don’t recommend choosing a book simply because it is the shortest, but if the summer reading list is a little daunting, start with a quick read to get in the groove.
Look at the reading range of the book. Narrow down choices by choosing books at the lower end of a child’s reading range. If you are unsure of your child’s reading range, make a guess based on his or her upcoming grade level. If your child is about to be a 4th grader and was an average reader the previous year, look for books that are intended for 3rd graders or roughly 8 to 10 years old. There are websites that help with book reading ranges if it is not listed on the back cover of the book. Scholastic Book Wizard is easy to use.
Once your child has selected a book, stay involved. Read the first few chapters together. Ask questions about what is happening in the story. Many kids need some monitoring when reading independently to make sure they are grasping key events in the story.
Don’t have a list from your school? You can use some suggestions from the books TheRoomMom’s family is reading this summer.
Mr Star Wars’ Summer Reading Choices (age 12/13)
Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Bad Books by Pseudonymous Bosch
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
We are summer swim team people. Mr. Star Wars moved up an age group this year, and his practice time is now an hour later than Miss Priss’. That means we spend every evening at the pool from 5:30 until about 7:45. Prime dinner hour. I was bringing snacks with us to practice and then we would eat really late dinner– like a bowl of cereal– when we got home but that was a disaster. I have started just bringing meals to the pool. My goal for pool meals is food that does not require utensils or dishes.
Yesterday, I brought a pan of those baked ham sandwiches that people serve at tailgates or football parties. The classic recipe with the Hawaiian rolls is really greasy and has too much butter for me (I can’t believe I am saying that), so I combined a few different recipes to reduce the butter amount– a little.
Mini Baked Ham Sandwiches
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 T. horseradish mustard
2 T. finely chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. deli ham, very thinly sliced– almost shaved (I like maple glazed)
1 lb. baby Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
1 pkg dinner rolls (you will use 9 rolls)
9×9 inch metal baking pan (disposable aluminum pans work well)
Mix the softened butter, horseradish mustard, chopped onion, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Combine well.
Cut the rolls in half horizontally. Keep the top and bottom halves separate.
Spread a layer of butter mixture on the bottom half of each roll and place in a 9×9 pan.
Cut the Swiss cheese slices into quarters. Place one piece of cheese on the buttered bottom half of each dinner roll.
Top the cheese slice with ham.
Add another quarter slice of cheese.
Spread the remaining butter mixture on the top half of each roll and place one on each cheese/ham stack.
Cover the pan of sandwiches with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
What kinds of snacks do you bring to eat at the pool? It is amazing how hungry swimmers get!
The most popular activity at American Girl camp last week was the hair salon station. We had a hair salon set up every day. We gave instructions on how to properly brush and care for American Girl doll hair. The girls could visit the hair salon area any time they finished a camp activity. We had doll brushes, spray water bottles, and hair accessories available along with directions about a specific hair style each day.
On Caroline day, the campers learned how to put their doll’s hair in a bun. Caroline lived during the War of 1812. Ladies during the early 1800s might wear their hair with curls around their face and have a bun in the back.
Keep your doll still. Hold between your legs or use a doll chair.
Always use a wire doll hairbrush. Plastic bristled hairbrushes snag and frizz the doll hair.
For best styling results, lightly mist your doll’s hair with water. Cover the eyes and face with a small cloth or paper towel while misting. Protect the body from water too.
Take a small section of hair at the tip and brush gently. Work your way up the small section of hair.
Don’t pull the doll’s hair too hard when brushing. If possible, hold the doll’s neck as you work.
NEVER use a blow-dryer, hot rollers, curling iron, or straightening iron on your doll’s hair. The hair is made of plastic and will melt and burn.
styling spray water bottle (found spray bottles that will lightly mist in the soap making section at Michael’s crafts)
short bobby pins
classic hair pins (the kind that are wide)
small elastics (the kind that look like Rainbow Loom bands or rubber bands for braces)
paper towel, washrag, or some type of covering to protect the doll’s face and body when misting hair with the water
Gather the hair at the back of the doll’s head and make a high ponytail. Tie with an elastic. Twist ponytail tightly; spritz it with water; wrap twisted ponytail around the elastic. Tuck the end of the ponytail under the bun and insert a hairpin to hold. Pin the rest of the bun in place, crisscrossing pins.
Classic Bun Step 1
Classic Bun Finished
Make a ponytail and tie with an elastic. Using small sections at a time, very loosely pin the ends of the ponytail around the elastic.
Messy Bun Back View
Messy Bun Side View
Brush all of the hair back into a high ponytail or pull a small section into a side ponytail. Tie off with an elastic. Separate the ponytail into 2 equal sections. Twist both sections of the hair clockwise. Tightly cross one section over the other counterclockwise until you reach the end of the ponytail. Tie off with another elastic.
Rope Braid Step 1
Rope Braid Step 2
Rope Braid Finished
Some campers visited the hair salon and did nothing but brush their doll’s hair. If you plan to host an American Girl camp, I think having a hair styling area is a must! I think this would also work well as an activity at an American Girl birthday party.
I got a text earlier this week from my neighbor, Miss Jackie, suggesting we order pizza and have snacks Saturday night in the front yard while the kids rode bikes, played Ghosts in the Graveyard, and ran around. Easy enough– we love casual summer get togethers. Who knew there would be a pop-up thunderstorm at 5:00? The whole group ended up in my kitchen and playroom, and I drank margaritas. I made a blue cheese Columbine dip that works really well as a topping for hamburgers too, so we cancelled the pizza idea and grilled burgers.
The original recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Colorado Collage. Sewing Sister thinks we should add crumbled bacon to the top to make it even more delicious.
1/2 lb. crumbled blue cheese
1/3 c. chopped red onion
1/3 c. olive oil
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. crushed garlic
1 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
Pour crumbled blue cheese in a 9-inch pie pan or similar sized dish (I used a quiche dish).
In a food processor, combine onion, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard, and pepper. Pulse to blend.
Pour the dressing evenly over the blue cheese.
Sprinkle with parsley.
Let stand 2+ hours at room temperature.
Serve with blue corn tortilla chips, pita chips, or little toasted bread triangles.
Add a scoop to the top of a freshly grilled hamburger to make a blue cheese burger.
The school where I teach runs American Girl camps in the summer. The history teacher in charge of AG camp is pregnant and had to go on bedrest at the end of the school year, so the school needed last minute subs to run the two camp sessions. Clearly, I am totally qualified to run this camp, but I was hesitant to accept the job. I immediately had visions of American Girl crafts run amok since I tend to think big and have difficulty prioritizing and gauging what is realistically possible for little hands. 20+ campers and overly complicated mini craft projects are not always a good combination. Nevertheless, I took on the challenge, and we just finished the last day of American Girl camp today.
I recycled many of my American Girl craft projects, but I also designed some new ones too. This past Monday was Kaya Day. With the help of my nieces who are still staying with me, we engineered tepees out of brown butcher paper, strung Nez Perce-like beaded necklaces, and wove mats for the tepee.
brown butcher paper (I used painter’s floor covering paper from Lowe’s)
wooden dowels– 1/4″ diameter, 24″ length (4-5 per tepee)
duct tape or masking tape
mini hair bands or Rainbow Loom bands
My oldest niece has the original Kaya tent. She traced the outline of the cloth tepee cover for me to use as a template. The tepee shape is basically a half circle. The diameter is 48″ with a small circle cut out at the center of the straight edge.
Using the template, we traced the shape onto the brown butcher paper and then cut out the shape.
I added Native American looking patterns and symbols. I cut geometric shapes out of poster board for the campers to use as templates for designs on the paper.
I also shared a handout with some Native American symbols.
After decorating, turn the tepee paper over and tape 4-5 dowels to the paper. Space the dowels evenly around the tepee shape, and the bottom of the dowel needs to be even with the bottom edge of the tepee.
Fold the paper in half and stand up. Pinch the first and third dowel together and wrap a rubber band around the top of the dowels. Pull the rest of the dowels together to make them look like the poles at the top of the tepee. Add another rubber band around all of the dowels. (We also wrapped some twine around the top to make it look more authentic).
Spread the part of the dowels that touch the floor out and fiddle with the paper to get the desired tepee shape.
waxed cotton thread
plastic beads– various shapes (perler beads work well too)
lanyard clips (2 per necklace)
Cut 3 pieces of cotton thread in 3 different sizes– 14″, 13″, and 12″.
Line up the 3 pieces of thread so the ends are even. Keeping the ends even with each other on one side, tie a “granny knot” around the lanyard clip.
Thread beads onto all 3 pieces of string. You can create any bead order and partially fill the string or fill the string full with beads. Leave space at the end to make it easy to tie the threads into a knot.
After adding beads, gather the loose ends of the strings and even them up. Tie them in a knot to a second clip making sure the ends are even with each other.
When the necklace is on the doll, the strings will hang at 3 different lengths in a similar way to the quill necklaces worn by the Nez Perce Indians.
Cut scrapbook paper into the mat size you would like. Our mats were 5″ x 5″.
Fold the mats in half with the design facing in.
On one side of the folded paper, draw guidelines for cutting. The lines begin at the folded end of the paper and stop about 1/2″ from the opposite edge (the open side of the folded paper). My lines are 1/2″ apart. You can adjust based on the mat size you use.
The campers made cuts along the lines being careful to stop when the line stopped. Then, kids opened up the paper flat and weaved strips of scrap paper over and under securing each end with a glue dot. My strips are about 1/2″ wide, and I used a paper cutter to make all of the strips.
The mats fit neatly inside the tepee, and if our American Girl doll had been living with Kaya in the mid 1700s, the mat would have helped keep rain out of the tepee.
For more DIY American Girl ideas, visit my other AG posts or check out my Crafts link in the menu bar to the right!