Category Archives Educational

Apps to Encourage Summer Reading

#VZWBuzz DisclosureSometimes reading can be a chore for kids during the school year. Older children have to read specific books for classes and it can be a challenge to push through something they may not enjoy. This can result in some kids becoming reluctant readers. As a reading teacher, I love the summer and the freedom for my boys to be flexible and read fun books. While I would love them to read award winning books from time to time, reading is what matters most. The summer is a valuable time for them to be able to find new genres, authors, and books that they enjoy and want to read more.

 Apps to Encourage Summer Reading

Of course, managing reading time during the summer is important to me. We are in school until the end of June, but I always work on ways to encourage my own children to read as much as possible. We frequent the library a lot throughout the year, but sometimes technology can assist us. Some of the apps that I plan to use this summer to nudge my kids are listed below in a few categories.

Library Apps – Not everyone is able to get to the library as often as we are. Many local and state libraries now have apps for people to use. Our library app allows me to search their catalog to request books that I can pick up later. I am able to manage my account and renew items. Location and hours are available, along with a list of other ways to connect with them on social media. When my boys start reading a book series that they adore, I can go online to the library app and search for the next books for them to continue along. I no longer have to find the branch that has it, I can request that an available copy goes to my branch for pick up. Being able to get the next book quickly is priceless and can make everyone happy.

Apps to find a good book

Finding a Good Book to Read – While I am a big fan of talking to the librarian at your local branch, that is not always an option. There are two apps that I will be using to help the kids find books this summer. Scholastic Book Wizard is the mobile version of Scholastic’s database of over 50,000 children’s books. The app allows you to search by book title, author, interest level, reading level (Grade Level Equivalent, Lexile Measure, Guided Reading Level, and DRA). While a teacher tool of sorts, it will definitely help families to search for more books to read together or independently.

I have been using GoodReads for years and want to utilize it for my boys more. When you add and review books, it keeps track and gives you book recommendations as well. In addition to this, many people have submitted their own reviews on GoodReads for others to read. I think it will be a wonderful way to keep track of books that they read or want to read. My youngest always has a book in his hand and I can’t keep track of what he has read these days. Setting up a GoodReads area on my account for him marked for a certain bookshelf would be easy to do.

Apps for Ebook and Audio Books

Audio and Ebooks

Kindle/OverDrive – While many people prefer paper books, there is still a convenience factor associated with eBooks. When traveling over the summer, you can carry more books on a Kindle app than in a backpack.  What I love with the Kindle app is that you can move from device to device and it will sync up where you have been reading. Bookmarks will not be lost and if you fall asleep reading, no worries about losing your place. You can easily purchase a new Kindle book from Amazon or borrow one from many library selections without leaving your home. Last summer, JSL fell in love with reading chapter books. Thanks to the online library options he rarely had to wait to continue with his reading.

Another fun option for summer reading is an audiobook selection. Families can listen to them during a road trip, or kids can relax and listen to a book while crafting or something else. OverDrive connects to online libraries where you can pick out books that fit your reading style. As noted in the past, OverDrive was fantastic during the school year for my son in middle school. Android devices allow kids to select from MP3 format book and it helps with their listening comprehension at the same time.

Apps to log reading time

Tracking Reading Time – My missing link is an app to have the kids keep track of the minutes read, along with books. I would adore something that logs the book title, how long they read, and possibly number of pages (so I know nobody is rushing and skimming). So far, I have found two possibilities and need to check into them a little more.

Reading Time Tracker allows parents to make an account and have child accounts within them. Both adults and kids can log in to use the stopwatch feature to track reading and record times. This app has been around for two years and has no reviews, so I need to research it a bit more to see if it will work for us.

I also found Reading Log. With Reading Log you can keep track of books read, date of reading, and time spent reading. There is no timer available to use within it to assist the kids when reading independently. This app only came out in April of this year and I have read that people wish you could have folders to keep track of items for multiple children. This may be a reason it will not work for us, but I plan to look more into it before the kids start their summer break

Why do I want a reading time tracker? It’s simple. I have one son that would play games and avoid reading without motivation. While he has found new books he enjoys this year, a reward system helps motivate him to read. In the past, we have set up an arrangement where minutes read earned minutes with his tablet, Nintendo WiiU, or computer. If you have tried any apps that may help us with this, I would love to hear about it.

No matter what we do, I want to make summer reading fun for our entire family. Life long readers are inspired when they have choices in literature. Be sure to look into summer reading programs at book stores, check out the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, and look for events at your local library. I know we will be going to our library and many others will also be participating in the Every Hero has a Story theme this year.

What apps will you be using this summer to encourage you or your family to read more?

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Droid Turbo to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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NYS Parents Have Spoken

Today is the final day of the NYS Math test in grades 3-8. Last week, my oldest son, along with at least 190,000 other students across New York refused the ELA tests. Final numbers are not in throughout the state and may not officially be in for some time. Thanks to dedicated parents, we are collecting our own data. This data is way more than a test score. Yes, this data from district after district across New York State tells a story.

Kids Are More Than a Test Score

The story is one of civil disobedience from families that are fed up. We are not refusing the tests because of a union issue with the teachers. Nor are we babying our children because the tests are too hard.

Opt Out of Testing Shirts

No, we are standing up to protect our children. We are refusing the tests to be heard after years of being ignored by the New York State Department of Education and countless politicians like our dear governor (note the extreme sarcasm). Our children deserve a well rounded education like we had years ago. They should be able to learn, be creative, and not be used as guinea pigs for high-stakes testing companies and politicians that want to privatize public schools.

More Than a Test Score Shirt

While the numbers keep going up, we will not back down. We are in this fight for our children. They are more than a test score and thanks to the NYS Allies for Public Education, our demands are clear.

April 2015 Demands from NYSAPE

The official press release from NYSAPE may be seen on their website. Did your children refuse their NYS tests the last two weeks? I would love to hear how it went for them and if this was their first time opting out.

It's Me

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Kids Are More Than a Test Score

Spring break is over and kids are heading back to school.  Students, teachers, and parents that are in grades 3-8 in New York State will begin the high-stakes testing on Tuesday. Of course, my sixth grader will be refusing the tests for the third year in a row.

Refuse the NYS Tests

Quite simply, my son is more than a score and he deserves an authentic public school education that is not all test prep. If things do not change within the next year, I will refuse the tests for my younger son in 2016. Watching recent events unfold in New York has been especially difficult for me. This isn’t simply an attack on the education for my children, this is my career. While I may not be in a classroom right now, I am still a teacher. My colleagues and friends are in the trenches right now dealing this first hand. I want to be able to go back and teach one day, and with the current environment it will not be possible.

Here are two songs to lighten up the mood a bit.

If you have any questions about Refusing the tests in NYS, please feel free to email me Beth @ OptOutAlbany.com. I have many resources and will point you in the right directions to get answers if I do not have them. Remember, it is NOT too late to refuse the test. Please help children across NYS by refusing the powers that be the data they need to destroy and privatize public education.

It's Me

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Testing Season is Here in New York State

Waving hello from here to there. My blog often takes a back seat this time of year. You see, this is when my educational advocacy mode seems to kick into high gear. After going to a wonderful Reclaiming Public Education forum on March 12, I decided to do something I had been thinking about for a while. I bought a domain name to start a Capital District website about educational advocacy. Within a short time, OptOutAlbany.com was born!

OptOutAlbany is born

It took some time for TechyDad to get the backend parts of the website ready. Then, it was ready to roll and get the first post up. Community members from around the eleven counties making up the Capital District will be working together to make this a reality. This is not simply about refusing the NYS 3-8 testing, it is about so much more.

Refuse the NYS Tests

To learn more about our mission, please head over to see our welcome post about Reclaiming Public Education in the Capital District.

It's Me

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Reclaiming Public Education in New York

Public School Parent Advocacy

Testing season has already arrived in many parts of the United States. Whether you are talking about the PARCC exams in a variety of locations or FSA in Florida, parents, teachers, and students are getting upset and are more vocal about what is happening in their schools. The reality of high-stakes testing in public schools is frightening, especially when you connect the dots and follow the money. The testing is not about helping students, it is about privatizing our public schools, getting rid of teachers, and making companies rich. This video about PARCC has been an eye-opener for many.

The Other PARCC – Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

In New York State the grade 3-8 exams do not begin until April. Thanks to this there are a lot of events throughout the state letting parents know about choices that exist and how they can help us to reclaim our schools. The first Capital Region event will take place on Thursday, March 12 in Delmar, NY. The speakers will be from New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE). Bianca Tannis and Jessica McNair will share a wealth of information with those that join them at 6:30.

Reclaiming Public Education event in Delmar

On Monday, March 16 there will be another event at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. Speakers for this event include Gail Richmond, Michael Lambert, and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.

Reclaiming Public Education event in Clifton Park

Additional events in other regions are listed on the NYSAPE website. I urge you to take time and join others at one of these events to learn more about what has been happening to schools in recent years. Now is the time to stand up and save our public schools. Our children are more than a score. No politicians will be using my child as a guinea pig and pawn in a game against the teachers. I am done with people that are not educators coming into our schools to make changes that make no sense and only hurt the kids. Charter schools are not the answer and they are only making more of a mess in New York State. Connect the dots and understand that schools are not failing our kids. The reality is that poverty and other factors that are out of the control of schools are being ignored by individuals like Governor Cuomo.

I support teachers and public schools

I am a teacher, I am a parent, and I am a public school advocate that will continue to fight for my children and others to have the education that I was blessed to have while attending public schools.

It's Me

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