9 Books Kids Actually Want to Read

9 Books Kids Actually Want to Read (BayTreeBlog.com)

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find great books for children. But if you’re the parent or teacher of a child who struggles to read, a book might not seem like much of a gift.

For reluctant readers, cracking open new books is like running the gauntlet. Will they be able to read it? Will it make sense? Will they feel embarrassed if they can’t finish the book?

If you’d like to give a child a book, and you need something enticing, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

After years of teaching struggling readers, I’ve discovered a handful of books that any child can enjoy. There’s not just one way to read these books. Children can open the book anywhere and just enjoy the photographs. They can jump around to easier sections.

Best of all, these books are so compelling that the child will want to read a sentence or two. But there’s no pressure. There’s no expectation that they’ll start at page one and finish the entire book.

I’ve collected my favorite books that kids pick up by themselves. These books don’t need an introduction. Just leave them in a room, and children will want to investigate.

The most discriminating of readers – children with dyslexia – have field-tested these books for me. Trust me, if one of my students can’t put down a book, it’s gotta be good!

Continue reading “9 Books Kids Actually Want to Read”

The Science of Spelling with Pete Bowers, PhD (The Exceptional Educator, Ep. 3)

The Science of Spelling with Pete Bowers, PhD (The Exceptional Educator, Ep. 3) (BayTreeBlog.com)

Have you ever heard a teacher say, “Just sound out the word,” to a struggling young speller?

Or maybe you’ve said those words to a student yourself?

This simple strategy frequently backfires, especially for kids with dyslexia. Why do students end up spelling words like “jumpt,” or “advenchur”?

In this episode, Dr. Pete Bowers reveals why “sounding it out” isn’t enough. He demonstrates how sound-symbol correspondence is a key principle in literacy instruction, but often we miss crucial components of our writing system: orthography and morphology. What’s more, research shows that this type of instruction is most powerful for struggling learners.

Using Pete’s methods, teachers can revolutionize spelling instruction into a dynamic opportunity to foster logical thinking, vocabulary development, and deepen literacy skills.

Pete Bowers
Dr. Pete Bowers

Pete Bowers is the founder of the WordWorks Literacy Center in Ontario, Canada. In his career, he’s worked as an elementary classroom teacher, researcher, writer, and worldwide presenter. He’s a sought-after speaker in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending a conference Pete presented here in California, and it transformed my understanding of spelling and inspired my teaching. I know you guys are gonna love this one!

Listen to this episode, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or stream the episode below:

Continue reading “The Science of Spelling with Pete Bowers, PhD (The Exceptional Educator, Ep. 3)”

25 Must-Have Tools for Learning Specialists, Educational Therapists, and Literacy Tutors

Must Have Teaching Tools For Kids With Learning Disabilities (BayTreeBlog.com)

Have you ever been over the moon to receive a new teaching book you ordered, only for it to fall flat?

Have you ever wondered what great books and tools your colleagues are using?

Today, I’d like to invite you to a virtual visit of my office. Let me show you my favorite books, games, tools, and software programs. I’ve highlighted several of my favorite materials below, but feel free to hop over to our resources page for a complete list of teaching goodies.

I’d love to hear your suggestions too! What are some of your favorite teaching resources? Please chime in by sharing a book, program, or material you love in the comments section.

Teaching Kids to Read

1. Locating and Correcting Reading Difficulties

by Ward Cockrum and James L. Shanker

If you’ve just started working with a struggling reader and you’re not sure where to begin, this is an essential tool in your literacy toolbox. You can use a variety of informal assessments to pinpoint a student’s area of difficulty. The book also includes activities to build up those skills. I especially like to use this book to measure progress in phonics, multisyllable decoding, and sight word acquisition. (www.baytreeblog.com/difficulties)

2. Seeing Stars Letter Cards

I use these cards to teach kids sound-symbol correspondence (i.e. learning the sounds that letters make). They’re sturdy enough for daily use. (www.baytreeblog.com/vccards)

3. Seeing Stars Decoding Workbooks

Once kids have cracked the alphabetic code, they need tons of practice decoding. These workbooks are divided into six levels based on word length. I find workbooks #2 and #3 most useful. The first workbook includes CV/VC words with just two sounds, the second workbook includes CVC words with three sounds, and the third workbooks include CVCC/CCVC words with consonant blends. I like to use these words as a jumping off point for phonemic and orthographic awareness activities. (www.baytreeblog.com/seeingstarsworkbooks)

4. Quick Reads

Once kids are decoding accurately, they need to apply their skills. The Quick Reads program includes short passages that can be used for repeated reading and other activities that build reading fluency. I like that the articles are grouped by topic so that students get many exposures to topic-specific vocabulary. (www.baytreeblog.com/quickreads)

5. Unlocking Literacy: Effective Decoding and Spelling Instruction

by Marcia K. Henry

New to teaching reading? Not sure how to best help a struggling reader? This is THE book for you. Henry shows how children learn to read and how to best teach literacy. She focuses on morphology (the meaning system) and orthography (the writing system), which are two vital, but overlooked, layers of language. The 100-page appendix of prefixes, suffixes, and bases is worth the price of the book alone. This is an invaluable resource, especially for teachers of children in the intermediate grades. (www.baytreeblog.com/unlockingliteracy)


by Vicky Vachon, Mary Gleason, and Anita Archer

Anyone who’s offering you a silver bullet for solving reading problems is probably selling snake oil. However, this inexpensive, accessible program is probably the closest thing to a decoding cure-all. Here’s why. Each lesson includes explicit, structured practice with:

  1. a vowel pattern
  2. decoding a single syllable words with that vowel pattern, and
  3. a multisyllable decoding strategy.

Students are taught to identify common prefixes and suffixes, so they can successfully read multisyllable words. I’ve seen kids’ reading ability grow by leaps and bounds. The intermediate version is for children in grades 4-5. The standard version is appropriate for middle school students, high school students, and adults. (www.baytreeblog.com/rewards)

Continue reading “25 Must-Have Tools for Learning Specialists, Educational Therapists, and Literacy Tutors”

What’s Holding You Back from Living Your Dreams?

What’s Holding You Back from Living Your Dreams? (BayTreeBlog.com)

Can I tell you a secret?

Something I don’t tell clients or colleagues?

I’m 29.

That’s my unspeakable secret – I haven’t hit 30 yet.

I’ve been keeping this under wraps. I make a point of not sharing my age. If a student asks how old I am, I’ll answer, but my cheeks burn.

I’m afraid that if my age leaks out, I’ll lose credibility.

When I started my practice four years ago, I was terrified that no one would ever want to hire a 25-year-old. I was paralyzed to begin networking because other professionals would think I was a “cheeky upstart.”

It turns out that neither of those fears materialized.

As I’ve met more educators, I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one who experiences feelings of not being competent or successful enough.

We all have our own way of saying, 'I’m not enough.' BayTreeBlog.com

Every day I get to talk to other teachers about their dreams: launching a private practice, publishing a book, or hiring an employee. I’ll be darned if nearly every person I encounter has their own reason why they think they’re not enough.

Have you heard something like this before? Maybe you’ve even said it yourself:

Continue reading “What’s Holding You Back from Living Your Dreams?”

How to Teach Students Who Are Too [Insert Emotion] to Learn, with Diana Kennedy (The Exceptional Educator, Ep. 2)

How To Teach Students Who Are Too [Insert Emotion] to Learn (BayTreeBlog.com)

For a moment, I considered titling this episode, “How To Be A Cool Cucumber When Your Students Are Angry Apples.”

Too much fruit.

I don’t know about you, but remaining calm when a student is in pain is one of the most challenging parts of being an effective educator. And forget about actually teaching when a student goes nuclear.

Diana Kennedy
Diana Kennedy

To help us manage these common difficulties, I’d like to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Diana Kennedy. Diana is a fellow educational therapist who runs a thriving private practice in Marin County, California. She’s compassionate and playful, and one of the best educational therapists I know.

Listen to this episode and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or stream the episode below:

Continue reading “How to Teach Students Who Are Too [Insert Emotion] to Learn, with Diana Kennedy (The Exceptional Educator, Ep. 2)”

Do You Make These 3 Mistakes Teaching Phonemic Awareness?

3 Mistakes You Could Be Making With Phonemic Awareness (BayTreeBlog.com)

You know that nagging voice inside your head? The one that says that you’re missing something BIG?

“What’s wrong with my teaching?” it says. “Why can’t my students do something as simple as blending together three sounds?”

The little worries keep piling up. Most of your students are doing fine. But that little voice reminds you that things are not working for all of your students.

“Well, those students aren’t trying as hard. They’re just distracted,” you say.

“What if it has nothing to do with your students?” the voice replies.

What if it really is you? What if that little voice is telling the truth?

We’ve all been there, and THAT’S the truth.

I know I have.

Continue reading “Do You Make These 3 Mistakes Teaching Phonemic Awareness?”

37 Ways to Help Students with Dyslexia Flourish in the Mainstream Classroom

Classroom Tips for Teaching Students With Dyslexia (BayTreeBlog.com)

As promised, here is guest post number two!

I feel honored to be featured on Rachel Lynette’s popular blog, Minds In Bloom. I’ve included the introduction to the article below. You’ll find my 37 tips over at Minds In Bloom (link below). Please enjoy and share with a friend if you’re moved to do so!

37 Ways to Help Students with Dyslexia Flourish in the Mainstream Classroom

You work so hard. You’re dynamite with your students. You spend hours preparing your classroom activities. And yet, your hard work isn’t paying off for all of your students.

You’re not alone.

Most classroom teachers have a small handful of students who misspell words, struggle to memorize math facts, or hate to read out loud. Sound familiar?

Chances are good that some of these students have dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a loaded word.

There are lots of misconceptions and misunderstandings about this condition. Maybe you’ve heard a few of these myths?

Continue reading “37 Ways to Help Students with Dyslexia Flourish in the Mainstream Classroom”

Why Your Students Can’t Stay Seated, Organized, or Focused (And What To Do About It)

6 Ways To Teach Distracted, Disorganized Students (BayTreeBlog.com)

This week, I’m excited to share with you two different posts (written by yours truly) on websites other than Bay Tree Blog.

Today’s article is on Adrianne Meldrum’s website, The Tutor House, and features actionable strategies for supporting students with executive functioning weaknesses. The Tutor House is a beautiful site, and if you have a moment, you should check out some of Adrianne’s terrific resources there.

I’ll get you started on today’s article right here, but to finish reading this post, you’ll need to hop over to Adrianne’s blog. Please enjoy!

Why Your Students Can’t Stay Seated, Organized, or Focused (And What To Do About It)

So, your students forget to turn their homework in too?

Mine certainly do.

Maybe you also have students who can’t sit still? Who can’t follow instructions? Who’s backpacks make your recycling bin look organized?

It’s not like your students aren’t capable. They’re bright, imaginative, and kind. Heck, they even fix your pencil sharpener for you!

Despite your best efforts, your students just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

You might be wondering, “What am I doing wrong?”

If your disorganized, distracted students aren’t making sufficient progress, chances are good they struggle with executive function deficits.

The normal tricks of the trade aren’t going to cut it. You need explicit, strength-based strategies for supporting these different learners.

Continue reading “Why Your Students Can’t Stay Seated, Organized, or Focused (And What To Do About It)”

Free Download: The Strengthening Executive Function Workbook

The Strengthening Executive Function Workbook (BayTreeBlog.com)

Do you have students who do their assignments, but can’t remember to turn them in? Or maybe they want to get better test scores, but they can’t seem to initiate studying at home. Maybe they don’t even know what good study habits look like?


Chances are good your students are struggling with executive function.

I have a few of these students myself. As a matter of fact, most of my students have some sort of executive function challenge.

That’s why I’ve created and shared this free workbook of executive function resources. This downloadable PDF has detailed teacher instructions and templates for teaching students to make their own homework plans, organize test preparation, and overcome emotional frustrations.

Continue reading “Free Download: The Strengthening Executive Function Workbook”

What To Do When Your Student Says “I’m Stupid!”

What To Do When Your Student Says “I’m Stupid!” (BayTreeBlog.com)

“There’s no pain on earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.”

― Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings

You’ve heard it before, and it breaks your heart:

“I’m dumb!”

“I’m stupid!”

“Everyone is better than me!”

As educators, our usual response is, “Of course not! You’re smart!”

Unfortunately, empty reassurance doesn’t fix anything.

Here’s why. When a student confesses these feelings, they’re trusting you. They’re giving you a glimpse of deep pain. Rushing to reassure the student does nothing to heal that pain.

Instead, try empathy. Continue reading “What To Do When Your Student Says “I’m Stupid!””