Tag Archives: education

Celebrate With a Good Book

I’ve always done events in a big way. When I say “big way,” I mean the jaw-dropping, time-devouring, kill-yourself-off, massive-effort kind of way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to scale back a little whenever I get involved in a project, but the truth is: I love to throw myself whole-heartedly into making something fantastic and fun for other people, especially kids.

Birthdays around my house are usually a slice of over-the-top. I don’t go out and rent ponies or anything, but I always let the birthday girl choose a theme and plan the party around that theme. My favorites are the ones based on books. (I am a chronic bookaholic, after all!) It’s a great way to not only encourage kids to read, but to get them super excited about it! It brings the book to life!


fablehaven-05When my oldest daughter was ten, she became obsessed interested in Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. So, I put together a Fablehaven party for her. It was so much fun! I really enjoyed stretching my creative muscles.


Since her birthday is in the summer, we set up the Fablehaven “preserve” in the backyard, complete with fairies and a naiad pool.


There was a dragon cake (as you can see, I’m not so great in the cake department, but I try), and a bag of goodies, complete with “umite” wax and “milk” candy to give the kids magical sight.fablehaven-04


I loved the Fablehaven theme so much, that I also used it for a haunted house on Halloween. For that, I set up a black light fairy village that was being taken over by the shadow plague.fablehaven-01


We also used an animatronic “Fur Real” dog dressed in a costume to play the demon Graulas. He really moved, which was fun for guests!fablehaven-02

So, why not choose a book for your next party theme? I can totally see a Dreamkeeper party. (Hmmm. Maybe that’s my next Halloween haunt!) and a Ginnie West party, complete with horses and a rodeo, or Andy Smithson …. Okay, okay! I could go on and on. With all the tons of books right here on Emblazoners, you’re sure to find something fantastic that can spark a passion for reading in your kids!

Audiobooks as a Literacy Tool

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.Jim Trelease, author of The Read Alound Handbook

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The Benefits of Reading Aloud

When I attended college back in the 1990’s, we elementary education majors got an earful about the 1985 findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Study after study was telling us that reading to children is one of the very best ways to help children become successful readers.

That consensus hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s a philosophy that was pushed heavily in the schools where I worked. When I stopped teaching to raise a family and it became apparent that two of my kids struggled with varying degrees of dyslexia, I read widely on the subject. Guess what the experts recommended? Reading aloud in a variety of formats: teachers reading to students, students reading to teachers, teachers reading chorally with their students, students reading chorally with other students, students performing practiced text aloud to an audience, students recording practiced text, etc, etc, etc.

brainAgain and again studies suggest that listening provides many of the same benefits as reading. And it seems that taking in language audibly and visually creates connections within different parts of the brain that aid a variety of reading skills: decoding, comprehension, increased vocabulary, fluency, word recognition…

I opted to homeschool my low readers so I could impliment these suggestions liberally throughout the school day and across the curriculum. It was a wise decision. Though they aren’t quite up to grade level, their proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Audiobooks: A Practical Solution

But very few teachers have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio. And parents may not have time to read aloud as much as they would like to. Let me suggest a very practical solution: audiobooks.

Many teachers I know actually record themselves reading classroom books and provide their students with MP3 players so they can listen while reading along. I did this with my boys. It’s a great way for kids to practice reading without direct help. But pre-recording all those books takes a lot of time. And the quality? Um… Let’s just say listening to professional voice artists is far more enjoyable. Reading along can be really FUN!

But aren’t audiobooks expensive?

They don’t have to be! If you buy an ebook on Amazon, the audiobook is often available for a ridiculously low price. For example, the audiobook for The Candle Star lists on Amazon for $14.95. But if you purchase the ebook for 99 cents, you have the option of adding the audiobook for another $1.99. That is a significant savings! Just look for “Add Audible narration” on the page listing.


I don’t know how to listen to an audiobook.

No problem. You can turn any device you own into an audiobook player (Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Android phone, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android tablets, even your PC or MP3 player). Just download the appropriate app and bingo! You’re listening.

If you’re still not certain you want to jump onboard the audio bandwagon, let me suggest that audiobooks are absolutely AWESOME for family road trips. (They’re not bad for work commutes, lawn mowing, cooking, or other brain-free, hands-busy moments either.)

We have a growing selection of kid-friendly audibooks here on Emblazon, often for dirt cheap through Amazon’s narration option. Now that you know about that little secret, you can watch for it on thousands of Amazon titles.

Audiobooks should never replace the special one-on-one time a parent and child share reading books together. But they’re an effective, practical, and inexpensive option for all those other “listenable” moments. Pick one out to enjoy with your family today.


Michelle Isenhoff is a former teacher, current homeschool mom, and reviewer on her award-winning children’s lit blog, Bookworm Blather. Listen to samples of her audibooks here.


Spring In The Bees!

bee on flowerSpring is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, so in honor of all things blooming, I decided to bring a special page from my web site over here to the Emblazoners. Most Tweens I know have a healthy curiosity about the world and all things in it. One creature that should not disappoint in amazing curious minds is the Honey Bee. I’ve spent over a decade working with these fascinating creatures and am still learning about them. Here’s a bit of Bee Trivia that might surprise you as much as it did me:

* Lotta bees

There can be up to 80,000 honey bees in a single hive during the summer months. A queen can lay upwards of 250,000 eggs per year, possibly more than a million during her lifetime.

* Girl power

95% of honey bees are female. One is the queen and the rest of the girls are worker bees. These workers do all the work in the hive: cleaning, feeding and grooming the queen, tending to the larvae, guarding the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen, making honey and beeswax, heating and cooling the hive, basically everything other than laying eggs and fertilizing the queen.

* What’s all that buzzing?

Honey bees have 4 sets of wings that move at a rate of 11,400 strokes per minute, causing their buzz sound. They also use their wings to fan and cool the hive in the summer.

* They mind their beeswax

Honey bees have special glands in their stomach that secrete wax. They take the wax and chew it up to shape into honeycomb–hexagonal wax cells used to house larvae and to store honey and pollen.

* I have a mother, but no father. Say what?

Male honey bees, or drones, are born from unfertilized eggs. So, they have a mother, but no father. A drone’s only job is to mate with a queen, and once he does, he dies. Before that time, he wanders around the hive eating lots of food and doing nothing much else. They are quite large, with big eyes, powerful wings, and tiny mouths. And they do not have a stinger, so are virtually harmless.

* Let’s boogy

Honey bees use several types of dances to communicate with each other. A Round Dance tells of a new source of nectar less than 100 meters from hive, a Wag-Tail Dance tells of nectar more than 100 meters from hive, an Alarm Dance warns that poisonous food has arrived in the hive, and a Cleaning Dance is a request to be cleaned or groomed (sort of like the honey bee’s version of going to a spa).

* Timeless food

Honey is the only food humans eat produced by an insect. Honey bees visit 2 million flowers and travel 55,000 miles to make 1 pound of honey. Each worker bee can make in her lifetime 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. So, when you put a teaspoon of this liquid gold into your tea, you are eating the labors of 12 bees. Honey contains vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes, and it never goes bad. In fact, an archaeologist found a 3,300 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb that was still edible.

* All the better to see you with

Honey bees have 5 eyes: 2 compound and 3 simple eyes. They have hair on their eyes and no pupils. They see one notch right of the color spectrum, meaning they see ultraviolet, but not red. Their compound eyes are best at detecting motion, so they will visit wind-blown flowers more readily than still ones. Almond trees have nectar that fluoresces under ultraviolet light to help bees know which flowers have food (sort of like a restaurant advertising for business).

* A plea for the honey bee

Honey bees are vital to our food production. Every third mouthful of food is produced by bees pollinating crops; 80% of our food relies on pollination somewhere down the line. We humans should do everything we can to keep these wondrous creatures alive and healthy. Setting up a hobby hive in your garden, eliminating the use of pesticides on flowering plants and trees, and planting nectar-filled flowers will contribute to a healthy population of honey bees and other important pollinators.

head shot image extra crop colorChristina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit www.christinamercer.com




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Writing for the Tween Market

20111210_ABS_1296[1]Hello Everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m Lisa Orchard, the bestselling author of the Super Spies series and I’m here to talk about writing for the Tween Market.

First of all, I love this age group! When I look back on my life, I recall my tween years as some of my happiest memories. In fact, my friends and I formed our own detective squad and tried to solve a mystery in our  small town. We never did, but let me tell you that was one of the best summers of my life. When I get together with those friends, we always bring up that summer and laugh about it.

When I look back on those years, I chuckle at my attitude. We thought we were invincible and we could accomplish anything! What a wonderful feeling to believe that there are no limitations or obstacles.

So, when I decided to write for this market I wanted to bring that same feeling to my readers. And being an avid mystery fan, it was a natural choice for me to write stories in that genre. However, I had to be careful because I wanted my characters to be good role models too. So, I made sure they didn’t condone or take part in any negative behavior like bullying or teasing. I had to do that and keep the story entertaining. No small task, that’s for sure!

While keeping my stories interesting, I also weave life lessons throughout the books; that way my readers can learn the lesson right along with the characters. Fiction can be a wonderful teacher, and sometimes it’s easier to learn a lesson from a book than it is to learn one from a parent. Sometimes, it’s easier on the parent too. 🙂

I’m always striving to teach with my stories and the other Emblazoner authors feel the same way. It’s so nice to work with a group of like-minded individuals. We all use different tools to tell our story. For example, some of us use humor, and some use fantasy or history. What’s nice about that is there’s something in our selection for every type of reader. So go ahead and check out our books, I’m sure you’ll find something for even the most reluctant reader!

Thanks for reading my post and if you’d like to share some of your thoughts on writing for the tweens in your life, feel free. We’d love to hear from you!