How to Work From Home

Learning all about this the hard way!

First, it must be understood that we don’t know what we’re doing. Nothing wonderful can come from this unless this is made perfectly clear.

Are you working from home? We are. Or we’re trying to.

Because of the Covid Pandemic, we can’t film together in studio. So we’re finding things to work on that we can do solo, like our website and our new podcast Socratica Reads.

We’re also doing our best to keep our spirits up by watching movies, reading books, playing games, and doing a little creative cooking.

Liliana and I made this video via video chat so you could get an idea of how we’re handling this very strange time.

Stay well, Socratica Friends!


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Subscribe to Socratica on YouTube

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Learn to Read: 40 Preschool Sight Words

I honestly can’t really remember not knowing how to read. My darling mum taught me, through a kind of osmosis, simply by reading to me incessantly from the time of my birth. She loved to read, so I loved to read. By the time I started school at around 2 1/2, I already knew how to read. “Ice Cream!” I read the announcement on the board to my teacher. (Friday was ice cream day at my preschool.)  “Can you read that?” she asked, incredulous.  Hey, there was ice cream on the line. This was no time for messing around with Play-doh.

Now that's positive reinforcement.

Now that’s positive reinforcement.

We have made a new video for all the kids who need to learn this magic trick.

Learn to Read: 40 Preschool Sight Words

What are “Sight Words,” you ask?  A fellow named Edward William Dolch compiled a list of words commonly found in children’s books. The list was prepared in 1936, and is still commonly used to this day.  They are broken down into different levels, according to the grades in which children are expected to memorize these words.

Edward Dolch championed the “whole word” method of learning how to read.  Many of the Dolch words can be sounded out phonetically, but recognizing these words can dramatically improve reading speed and comprehension. Between 50% and 75% of all words used in schoolbooks, library books, newspapers, and magazines are a part of the Dolch basic sight word vocabulary.[1]

This video covers all 40 of the Dolch Preschool Level Sight Words.  Each word is pronounced, spelled, and used in a sentence.  The pictures will help new readers remember each word.  Please share it with your favourite new reader!

And for the youngest viewers, don’t forget our alphabet videos!


Click to subscribe to Socratica Kids on Youtube

Click to subscribe to Socratica on Youtube

Free Android Apps from Socratica on the Google Play Store!

We recommend:


A Purple Reading Pyramid that holds your book or your tablet so your hands don’t get tired. For readers of all ages.

Vintage Science Books are Free.

In the Great Hall of my public library were the words of Christopher Marlowe:

Infinite riches in a little room. 

I truly felt like the world was at my fingertips when I went to that library as a child. I can’t imagine what it must be like to grow up with the resources we now have. Just look at what I found online today:

I want every single one of these.

I want every single one of these.

These and other delectable titles are available to read free online, in a collection called Folkscanomy Science: Books of a Scientific Nature. 


Please subscribe to our YouTube channel, and share with your friends!

Don’t forget to check out our FREE educational apps on the Google Play Store.

Beautiful book full of beautiful ideas.

Jean-Francois Chabas and David Sala have collaborated on a number of children’s books, but my favourite has to be La colère de Banshee.  It’s a visual feast.

colere de banshee 1



Sala’s artwork here is an homage to Klimt, and the words by Chabas are poetry. I haven’t found this book in English, but it sounds better in French anyway.

“En Irlande, pays des enchantements, la banshee est la plus puissante des fées.”

In Ireland, land of enchantment, the banshee is the most powerful of the fairies.


When the little fairy loses something dear to her, the world responds to her fear and anger.

colere de banshee 2



Don’t stand between a banshee and her comfort item!


colere de banshee 3


Available on Amazon (in French).



Click to subscribe to Socratica on Youtube

Free Android Apps from Socratica on the Google Play Store



A is for Alphabet Videos

My darling mum taught me how to read when I was really little (2 – 2 1/2 or so) by reading out loud to me. She read kids’ books to me, but she also read her Reader’s Digest and mystery novels and eventually, just by following along, I picked it up.  But most kids learn in school in the more traditional way, first by learning the alphabet, and then sounding out words with phonics and recognizing words by sight.  Learning how to read and loving reading has had the most profound effect on my life.  For someone who loves to read, it feels like my solemn duty to pass on what I know.

But learning, even learning something Very Important, doesn’t have to be solemn and serious. I have had so much fun making my “little learning movies” with Socratica, and I hope that comes across in our videos. The latest videos I’ve been making are about the alphabet, one for each letter.  We filmed these with our old friend Louise McCartney, star of many of our early videos.  Actually, Louise was in the very first video I wrote and put up on YouTube, “Anion.”  Louise is herself now a teacher in Texas. One of these days I’ve got to write a bio about her, because she has done such a wonderful job bringing the words on the page to life.  Louise also has that joy of learning, and I think you can tell she’s going to be a great teacher.

Louise plays “The Letter Lady,” who teaches kids what sounds the letters make, and how to write them, and helps you pick them out from other letters that look similar.  I don’t care, I’ll say it myself, the videos are simply beautiful. Just because we’re making these videos for little kids, that doesn’t mean we’re cutting corners. We are lucky to work with truly adept and accomplished graphic designers and editors who use their artistic eye to make something we like to watch.  After all, if I don’t enjoy watching my video, why would I expect a new learner to want to watch it over and over?

We just finished the Letter I, and every few days we publish another letter.  Please subscribe and share these videos with young friends who need to learn their letters of the alphabet as the first step towards a lifetime of reading.  We know how important it is. Let’s make it easy and fun for them!


Did you hear the one about the librarian who was fired for encouraging kids to read?

I wish I were joking.  No punchline – this really happened, to Lita Casey, a 28-year veteran of the Hudson Falls Public Library.  She also taught nursery school for 42 years.  She knows a thing or two about kids.  They call her “Gram.”  What was her great offense, that would get her kicked out of the library?

Every summer, the Hudson Falls Library in the great state of New York hosts a reading contest for youngsters, and for the last 5 years, one outstanding reader has walked away with the prize. Meet Tyler Weaver.

Lita Casey and Tyler Weaver

Lita Casey and Tyler Weaver


He’s 9. That means he’s been the top kid reader in this town since he was 5.  This year, he read 63 books during the 6 week contest.  Are they celebrating this outstanding kiddo? Putting up his picture in the library?  No – the library director complained that Tyler was “hogging” the prize, and he should step down and let another kid win for a change.  She planned to award next years’ prize by drawing names out of a hat instead.  Paging Harrison Bergeron?

Librarian Lita Casey came to Tyler’s defense, and spoke up for him.  As a result,  Casey was let go – not for being bad at her job, but for drawing attention to this embarrassing situation.  You know, all those television cameras and newspaper headlines.  Well they SHOULD be embarrassed.  Firing the person who stands up for what is right?  Is this really what you’d like your town to be known for?


Things I miss: OMNI magazine

Were you one of those kids who subscribed to OMNI magazine?  I was.  I think I was slightly younger than their target audience – It was on my 12th birthday when I started subscribing – and I think about a third of it was over my head.


But it looked so different from the magazines my classmates were reading (Seventeen) and the magazines my parents had (Time, the National Geographic) and it felt so right. It was different in the same way I was different. It had stories from the authors that only I had heard of (Zelazny, John Crowley) and pictures of tech that only I had heard about (lasers!), and strange, sexy speculations (can you control your dreams? a generation of psychic children in China?). I wasn’t getting this kind of information anywhere else in 1980s suburbia.

Bob Guccione (of Penthouse fame), and his partner, Kathy Keeton,  created this magazine.  Talk about a power couple.  Ms. Keeton had the idea for this magazine, so they went out and made it. These are the same people who were selling “used” underpants to their Penthouse subscribers. Boy, have I learned not to underestimate anyone. Guccione writes in 1983:

Have you ever looked up at the sky on a clear, star-filled night and wondered at the awesome magnitude of the universe… and asked yourself: who and what am I; where do I come from and where am I going? And have you ever considered the possibility that life—life in any form—may exist out there among the stars? If that thought stimulates your mind as well as your imagination—you may be interested in seeing a very unusual publication called OMNI, the newest and most original magazine in America today.

And here’s my magnificent find – all OMNI magazines are available for free on the internet archive.  Of course it doesn’t feel the same as holding the magazine and inhaling that glossy ink – I can still feel those thick slick pages – but at least they exist somewhere other than just in my awkward adolescent memories.


I found the issue from my 12th birthday month, and it’s almost spooky looking through it – how familiar the illustrations are, how I recognize some of the text. I must have read and reread these magazines, or maybe I was just in that “sponge” stage. Some of the articles are meant to be “way out there” – topics that today seem mostly rather commonplace.  For instance, there is an article about the breakthrough in corneal transplants (the first 250 patients) – just seven years later, I would do research on artificial lens implants, which have become so common in recent years, my own mum had one without a second thought. There is a speculative article about the possibility of infants and toddlers using sign language before they are able to speak, and recently I saw this in action – what has come to be a very common parenting technique –  with one of my grad school classmates and her very young (pre-verbal) daughter signing for milk instead of wailing like we did. Another article talks hopefully about the use of electrophoresis to distinguish DNA samples in criminal cases – you can’t turn on a TV these days without watching some CSI show or other. As a molecular biologist, it’s hard for me to imagine that when I was 12, these techniques were still in the “hope we get to do this someday” stage.

I miss how hopeful OMNI made me feel.  This was one of my true sources of inspiration growing up.