Saturday, August 1, 2009

Be a Pirate Parent

We can learn a lot from pirates. I'm not talking about real pirates. I'm talking about my kind of pirate who bears a marked resemblance to Captain Pugwash, a favourite from my childhood days. In times of financial belt-tightening, I'm sure Pugwash would advise parents to join me in steering a course to plunder some of the wonderful free literacy resources available on the Internet.

Harrowing Hurricanes! (as Pugwash would say.) Have you noticed publishers are scrambling for their slice of the pie nowadays? Many of them are offering far more at their web sites than a list of available books. Check out these little beauties.

Blake Education has resources aimed at teachers 
available as free pdfs. If you scroll down, you'll see codes you can enter to try Storylands. Here kids must read an easy-reader, and complete a simple quiz to get to play a game.

New Frontier is another great publisher's site. I love their 
Teacher's Guides and Worksheets. Of course, they work best with the books they're designed for, but you can search for literacy ideas to use with your own kids.

Jumping Jellyfish! Some people think a game can't be educational AND entertaining. With a couple of exceptions, that was the case years ago. But pirate parents excel at balance (comes from all that plank-walking), and they want web sites that do double booty er duty - web sites where kids can have fun, while engaging in activities that develop skills.

Our next port of call is 

Can't afford books? 
Read some online. Can't afford games? Play some online. Can't afford a private tutor for your kids? Let them play games that make it fun to learn spelling or maths facts.

Now heave-to for some great TV sites:

PBS is a treasure-trove of delights. (The Book Chook particularly enjoys Booklights, brought to us by an amazing group of kidlit bloggers.) You can twist your 
tongue in knots, find educational games for your kids to play, and do read-along stories with Between the Lions. You'll need hours to plumb the depths of PBS, so pack a picnic lunch!

HiT Entertainment has some lovely pre-reading activities such as following directions and sequencing to go with 
Bob the Builder, or ideas for things parents can make with their kids at Fireman Sam. Use the header to navigate to more characters for the under sixes.

ABC TV, has a wonderful playground for kids. There's the cutest Radio with very simple controls on which kids can listen to songs. Some of the songs are from PlaySchool, one of my favourite Australian TV shows for kids. The pirates like Five Little Ducks, The Wiggles' song New Shoes and Itchy by the Hooley Dooleys. There are alsostories to listen to, and a ton of activities for the under fives.

But life can't always be about fun, even for pretend pirates. They love to learn. Visiting 
The Happy Scientist makes them happy. So does a trip to National Geographic Kids, where if they can dodge the advertising, your children are bound to find something they can read and do.

Train your telescope on great writers' sites. The ones I like are those that generously share activities to add value to the writers' own published works.

Jan Brett's website has hundreds of 
activity pages, and piggyback projects.

Sandy Fussell's 
Samurai Kids website has all sorts of activities to involve kids before or after they read the books, as well as teacher ideas for parents to use.

Kim Chatel's Chatel Village is such a visual treat. Kids can click on any part of the village to find crafts, recipes, book reviews, and contests. I enjoyed this advice for young photographers.

Pirates love poets. 
Shel Silverstein offers some great ideas for engaging kids in poetry in a downloadable Classroom Poetry Kit, and has some lovely activity books as pdfs.

Poetry4Kids is a great place to browse. Some of Ken's poems may not please the Political Correctness police, but they are sure to please kids.

Diving Dolphins! Pirates keep a weather eye out for good children's magazine websites in their travels.

Alphabet Soup
You can read a free issue online of this 
great magazine for kids who love to read and write. {Alphabet Soup has a special place in my life because editor, Rebecca Newman, has just hired me to write their Writing Tips column for kids. Wheee!}

Launch Pad
online magazine publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews and artwork by children aged 6-12.

Free magazine for children, parents and teachers that encourages parents to read with their kids.

Print out 
Hidden Picture puzzles, or read free stories and jokes.

{And if you'd like to learn about my favourite pirate when I was young, 
Captain Pugwash, you can read a lovely interactive 
storybook, or check out some short videos on YouTube.}

There are thousands of websites claiming to benefit kids. Finding the good ones takes time. But a pirate's unpatched eye can spot a gold nugget in a beach strewn with coconuts, so be a Pirate Parent. Pillage and plunder to your heart's content. These are free resources. Of course, the publishers of these sites are not silly. They hope you'll like their products, buy them, and spread the word about how good they are. Maybe you will, but meantime, you can incorporate some great literacy activities into your kids' lives without breaking the pirate piggybank.

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