Julie Westcott – Masters in Curriculum and Instruction

Southwestern Advantage has developed materials that are written to help children build on their knowledge and curiosity.  I value and utilize a variety of the Southwestern Advantage product line.

The My Books help children identify & match words using vibrant illustrations.  When my children were very young they enjoyed pointing and identifying pictures in each book.  Becoming familiar with written text, as well as learning how to page through a book the correct way, nurtures their reading experience.  The My Books have been used for years and years in my home.  Having these books in my own children’s hands at a young age, has given them independence and a sense of accomplishment.  As young as one year old, my children have paged through the My Books.  At first I would ask them to label the words.  This helped them as they were learning to talk. If they did not know, I would tell them and we would locate other objects in our house that matched the illustrations.  As simple as it may seem, it was helping my children.  The repetition of asking my children questions about the pictures, gave them a sense of confidence as they answered.  I would change my questions or add more questions as we looked at the book time and time again.  They were never tired of looking at the book.  As they became more comfortable with the idea of looking at books, I would see my young preschoolers select the My Books on their own.  Children need books in their preschool libraries that identify common objects so they can start to make connections in their world around them.  The words in the My Books are found in many beginning and emergent level books. My children have been exposed to these words time and time again in isolation.  What a benefit to my children’s reading development!

The SkWids characters take the books to another level.  Online you can see the SkWids characters come alive.  They have educational songs to download as well as vignettes online that teach preschool skills.  The Lexi character is cute and lovable.  I have watched a few episodes with my son.  They are lively and entertaining.  The online opportunity gives you more resources, and the videos are set up to give lessons as well as directions for basic preschool crafts or activities.  These resources enhance the books and are fun for my preschooler to watch, as well as learn and follow along.  My son and I have used the songs from SkWids because they are upbeat, and he learns at the same time.  Some of the concepts are more complex, and I use them in the classroom.  The students listen intently when I play a new song from SkWids.  Once they know it, they are singing along strong.

Baggin the Draggin is a CD game we downloaded.  I am never sure what to think of games to download, but this one was great!  My son, in 1st grade, is building many new skills using this game.  Skills he hasn’t mastered like putting the months/days in order, repeat throughout the game.  I like that you can set the level to the ability of your child as well as age and grade.  As a parent, I don’t mind him playing this game, because I know he is practicing skills and learning new ones.  My daughter has seen him play the game and is now curious as to what it looks like for her level.  She has yet to get a chance.

The Ask Me book set is hard to keep on my book shelf at school.  My 1st & 2nd grade students want to read them in their free time. These books are also open and being read at home.  My son who is a 1st grader will share information facts in our conversations at home.  I will often ask him where he learned the fact.  His reply is simple, “I read them in the Ask Me book.”  He seems very knowledgeable and gains so many great skills as he reads this series of books.  Both he and my 4th grader will sit and read the books together, marveling at the facts they read.

Over 15 years of teaching, I see students fascinated with historical events, social systems, and cultures in our world.  Students are intrigued with all aspects of life science as well as physical and space science.  The Ask Me books have topics that not only answer question, but this series is build to cultivate more questions.  TheAsk Me series lists each title in question form, which really lights up a young reader’s mind.  Teachers, like myself, are always in search of well written non-fiction materials for young children.  It is quite hard to locate books that provide information at reading suited for a beginning reader or an emerging reading ability. Many children at the primary level are learning to read, instead of reading to learn.  Many non-fiction books for children have a reading level that is appropriate for intermediate students, instead of primary learners.  Young students are torn with wanting to learn the information, yet not having materials that match their ability to read.  The Ask Me books bridge that gap. Students who are learning to read instead of reading to learn, can look at the Ask Me books.  The short paragraphs are manageable.  The reader gains a lot of great information as well as success reading.  Inquisitive minds want to know, therefore it is no coincidence, the Ask Me books begin with questions for each heading.  This approach really interests 5-9 year old readers.

Science and social studies units become more defined as children develop in the intermediate grades.  Students in 3-6th grade need materials that forge deeper into content areas. Independent learners value building on their knowledge and seeking new information.  The Explore and Learn books give learners a place to begin as they go on their journey.  This set has done wonder’s for my daughter this year.  When she received the books this past summer, she was rejuvenated and ready to dive in.  The Explore and Learn set has aloud my daughter to do just that…explore and learn.  This series provides illustrated experiments, activities, & crafts throughout each book.  Children at this age need to apply, create and analyze a concept in order to fully understand the complexities within each topic.  With this series, I often I saw my daughter filling a bin with odds and ends, such as balloons, funnels, water bottles and other materials.  She used a deck of cards to bookmark many pages.   She did not want to miss any of her favorite pages.  Seeing her grow-up with Southwestern Advantage resources, makes me wish I had the same opportunities as a child.

Knowing a child is driving their own learning in a positive and productive way is what I love to see in both my classroom and at home.  My children ignite their own learning through the Southwestern Advantage books and it makes me proud that I made the choice to give them these resources at a young age.  I hope other families are able to share in the same excitement as their child learns and grows.  Giving your child books that help them learn gives your child the advantage to do and be more in life!

warren-and-julie-westcott-sw-photoJulie Westcott

Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, St. Mary’s University
1st & 2nd Grade Teacher (looping)
Clover Ridge Elementary – a recipient of the School of Excellence Award by the State of Minnesota

Southwestern AdvantageJulie Westcott – Masters in Curriculum and Instruction

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