Choose Kindness

When children are “given”, it can create a sense of entitlement. When children “give”, psychologists tell us that human bonds are strengthened. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving and this is a lesson we should allow our children to learn.

This activity works for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; actually it works any month of the year! Here is my proposal: Give your child a blank calendar page. This simple page becomes a journal or record of kindnesses. Each night at bedtime, ask your child to record an intentional kindness they performed that day. This few moments allows your child to savor joy in the kindness they performed. It also allows you a moment to look your child in the eyes and genuinely say, “I am proud of you!”

That moment when you really look at your child and tell him or her you are proud is powerful and profound…this is a message that helps forge a strong, resilient, loving, lifelong bond.

Here are a few ideas to get you and your child started on this journey of giving:

  1. Do a chore for a family member.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Recycle.
  4. Pick up litter.
  5. Feed the birds.
  6. Give someone a compliment.
  7. Let someone get in front of you in line.
  8. Set the table.
  9. Send a Thank You note to a service member or first responder.
  10. Say, “I love you!” first.
  11. Read to your little brother or sister.
  12. Play with someone new on the playground.
  13. Write a Thank You note to your teacher.
  14. Help make dinner.
  15. Donate a toy so a less fortunate child can receive a gift.
  16. Bake cookies for a nursing home.
  17. Clear the table after dinner.
  18. Load the dishwasher or wash the dishes.
  19. Clean your room without being asked.
  20. Give a compliment.
  21. Offer to play with your little brother or sister.
  22. Write a Thank You note to your postal worker and leave it in the mailbox.
  23. Share a toy with your brother or sister.
  24. Help carry in groceries and put them away.
  25. Fold the laundry.
  26. Help your little brother or sister with homework.
  27. Share your umbrella space.
  28. Listen to your little brother or sister read out loud.
  29. Get a haircut for Locks of Love.
  30. Use sidewalk chalk to leave a positive message for others.
  31. Smile!!

 

KINDNESS CALENDAR

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Where have the toys gone?

Have you looked at your child’s holiday wish list? I talk to the kids here at school all the time and I have noticed that Santa’s lists have really changed!When I was a kid, I wanted a Barbie® or a Tiny Tears® doll. I wanted doll clothes, marbles, doll furniture, a paint by number set, Pick Up Sticks®, and a Chinese Checkers® game, wooden puzzles, and a bike. When my son came along, he wanted HeMan/Masters of the Universe® action figures, Match Box® cars, most anything Star Wars®, model trains, a painting/drawing set, Silly Putty®, a cowboy outfit, Legos®, and a bike.

The thing that amazes me is that kids don’t want toys anymore! Technology is really changing our world. Our kids want iPads, Nintendo®, Xbox®, cell phones, Blu-ray players, robots, drones, droids, and virtual reality systems. Yikes! What is a parent to do?

First of all, set your budget and stick to your limits. It is okay to tell your child/ren that something is too expensive. Even Santa is feeling the recession these days and teaching your child about the value of things is actually a GOOD THING! I try to focus on buying just one electronic gift and then giving lots of little things, even some that don’t cost money. For example, homemade gift coupons can be lots of fun. “What can I give my kids coupons for?” you ask. Well, how about a coupon to have a friend spend the night. Coupons for a free pass out of chores for a night is always popular. Coupons to rent a movie or to stay up an extra half hour are also big hits. Kids like coupons to get to pick the dinner menu for a night. My son once got a coupon to have a night off from vegetables. He especially did not like spinach. Even Popeye himself couldn’t convince him to swallow the spinach!

I also like to give inexpensive things that encourage creativity. Clay, scissors, crayons, colored pencils, markers, drawing paper, finger paint. Add some sparkle to art projects with glitter, ribbon, lace, and buttons. Old fashioned floor blocks are terrific for encouraging problem solving and creativity. Some of your old clothes, shoes, and hats can be cleaned and boxed; they make wonderful dress up and make believe items. Older children love having a diary where they can record their hopes and dreams. Finally, there are books. Make sure that the books you pick spark your child’s interest and tap into their imagination.

One thing that adds to the fun is putting things together to create a “kit”. For example, a few blank books, some colored pencils, a pretty fountain pen, erasers, and even notebook paper can be put together in a festive box as a Future Author or Future Poet kit. Those cleaned and polished dress-up items can be put together with an kid-friendly camera to become a Dream It ~ Believe It ~ Be It kit. Canvases, paints, a sketch pad, crayons, colored pencils, fun craft-edged scissors make a perfect gift kit for your artist. Do you have a budding chef? A quick trip to the grocery store will yield lots of treasures for a Cheftastic kit.

So, get creative. You can think of lots of things to give your children that don’t leave you with a stack of bills once the holidays have passed. Share your ideas by leaving a comment here on the blog. Happy Holidays!

Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part IV

x1_elf2So by now you may be asking, “How do I know when I’ve had enough?” and “What can I do about it?”  Hmmm…Stress.  We all have stress. They say that feeling overwhelmed or depressed is an important sign of stress.  Well, the holidays seem to ramp up that feeling of being overwhelmed  astronomically.  The expectations are enormous, and holiday stress begins, thanks to our big retail chains, around October 15th.  This year, the Christmas sales began before Halloween here where I live.  And, if you are a parent, you know what happens…the holiday season of over-the-top, too excited kids begins and continues all the way to Christmas. Then, the post Christmas morning let-down ensues.

Yup…stress.  There are so many layers of it at this time of year.  For example, there is the baking expectation for the kids’ holiday parties at school, the cookie swap, and after school snacks.  Let’s see, what else?  Parties to attend…what will I wear and will it fit in with what everyone else is wearing?  Shopping for food, for gifts, and for decorations.

Why, I can’t tell you how many friends I have this year who are stressed out about finding the most creative, innovative, exciting ways to position that famous shelf-sitting elf!  If you start with the elf on December 1st, that’s 25 days of stress right there.  I was laughing over one mom that got so stressed about the elf that she wrapped his leg in a fake cast and stuck him on the bookcase with a note that said “Skippy had an accident and can’t move around until his leg heals.”  BWAHAHAHA!

And let’s just talk about gift wrapping for a moment…am I the only one that thinks this is a huge chore? I spend hours cutting, folding, taping, coordinating bows, finding cute gift bags, and worrying about whether or not Santa has all the wrapping paper he and the elves need for their gifts.  Then, those hours of careful wrapping translate to a pile of shredded mess in the middle of the living room floor in no time at all.  Sounds like stress to me!

So, how do we know if we are stressed?  If all of the above hasn’t convinced you, there are some signs of stress, and we all need to be aware of them. You’ll know you’re stressed when you begin losing sleep. If you’re lying awake at night worrying about all the stuff that isn’t done yet…that’s stress. Loss of sleep makes you irritable. If you find yourself snapping at your children, your boyfriend, your husband, your mom, or your boss…that’s stress. If you have lost your appetite and are losing weight… that’s stress. Now another sign of stress is a sudden weight gain, but I don’t know how reliable that would be around the holidays when everywhere you turn someone has something yummy and fattening for you to try!

Are you having aches and pains? What about muscle aches? If your neck hurts, back hurts, or you just ache all over…that could be a symptom of stress. When you’re stressed, you’re tense, and all that tension can make your muscles think they’ve had a real workout. They get sore.  Or, if you are taking aspirin for frequent headaches…that could be from stress too.

Well, now that we’ve talked about what stress is, the next question is, “What can I do about it?” First, eliminate some of the things around you that make you stressed out and add some much needed time for you. For example, you might want to take a quick bath before bed to try to unwind. Pamper yourself with bath salts, a candle or two. You may even want to put on some music to help you relax, or you may need to shut the music off if that reindeer has been running over grandma all day, or if Santa’s Coming to Town has been blaring non-stop at work. Make sure you eat…real food. Don’t skip meals or try to live on snacks and half stale Christmas cookies. Feed your body.

You can try to cut down on the amount of things you do. One of the things that makes us feel stressed is that we try to create holiday moments for our families that are just perfect, like the families you see laughing and smiling in their beautifully decorated homes. The problem is, they are all in commercials or made-for-TV movies. I confess, I have a holiday movie addiction; it is a love/hate relationship. I love that they always have a happy ending, they always have beautiful decorations, and there is always snow. I live in the Deep South where there is never snow, so it’s a treat.  However, I get depressed when I look around my home and every inch of it isn’t festively twinkling with holiday decorations. So I have to limit my viewing so I don’t get too stressed!

I need to remind myself that they aren’t real families who have cats shedding, dogs chewing the baseboards, kids fighting and crying, a batch of burnt cookies, a Gingerbread House with no roof because it is lying half-eaten  in the toddler’s room,  or a Christmas tree that just got knocked over. That sounds more like real life to me. So set realistic expectations. Santa will still come to your house if the cookies are a bit burnt around the edges, if the tree is crooked, or if there are a few dust bunnies in the corner. Pinky swear!

So, take a moment, breathe, and relax. Ask yourself what will be important when twenty years have flown by and your children have children of their own. Do you want them to remember you being stressed, tense, cranky, and frantic?  Probably not. When your children are grown and they talk about their Christmas memories, they will not remember that the floor was perfectly waxed. They will remember how special they felt when you spent with them.

I hope that your feet are up and that you are sipping a nice warm cup of hot chocolate while you read this.  Remember, the time you spend together with your children snuggling, reading a bedtime story, or building a snowman will become their best, most treasured memories. You, just you, are the best gift of all, so be present in your own life and theirs. Merry Christmas to all of my readers.

Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part III

dec10_button1Holidays can be expensive, and most of us have to be cautious about what we spend. I know I’m not the only person out there who is bothered by the commercialism of Christmas. My goodness, the Christmas “season” is in stores before Halloween and “Black Friday” has become “Black Week” followed by “Cyber Monday”, which is now followed by “Green Monday”.  Yes indeed, corporate America is encouraging us to spend, spend, spend. Our children are watching endless toy commercials on TV, the radio, and social media.  Greed is running rampant; how many times have you been in a store and witnessed a child crying and having a melt down because, “I want…”. You can fill in the blank.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to cut corners financially while keeping the true meaning of the Holidays front and center for my family. In my mind, the truth behind Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa is all the same: Faith ~ Family ~ Friends ~ Fun. When my children become adults, I want them to look back on their childhood Christmases and remember these core values

I spend time each year thinking about how to balance giving and getting. My belief is that when children “get”, they learn entitlement; when children “give”, they learn generosity. One of the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that the greatest, most precious gifts come to us when we GIVE. The story of Christ begins with an act of  giving; we are taught that God gave us the gift of his Son. Soon after His birth, the Wise Men came bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Indeed, the joy of giving is a life lesson that we can begin teaching even our youngest children.

So many of us are busy working moms and dads. As a result, one of the most precious things we can give is our TIME.  Time spent together is what creates the memories we carry with us for a lifetime.  I promise that twenty years from now, your children will not look back on the 2017 holiday season and remember that the tree skirt matched the color theme of the room perfectly. And even though they have begged for it endlessly since October, they probably won’t remember that they got that Star Wars toy either.

They will remember that they had fun spending time in the kitchen baking cookies, snuggled on the couch reading with you, making homemade cards, secretly delivering batches of cookies to the neighbors or caroling at a nursing home.  Take a moment and think back on your own memories.  What stands out? See, I’m right…you remember TIME too, don’t you?  Anyway, I have decided to focus on giving and I’m doing that by spending TIME on the traditions that don’t cost a lot.  Here are some suggestions:

~ spend a quiet afternoon baking and decorating Christmas cookies with your child/ren.  Even your youngest toddlers can help in small ways.

~ make some homemade gift wrap; again, let kids use markers, crayons, colored pencils, or even paint and potato stamps to decorate plain paper.  Will you have the most elegant tree on the block?  Probably not, but your child/ren will have a wonderful memory to store away.  Remember, Beautiful House magazine is not coming to take pictures at your house.

~ ask your child/ren to spend an afternoon going through the toys and outgrown clothes.  You may find things to donate to a woman’s shelter, a foster program, or a church that supports needy families.  Focus on the joy that comes from giving.

~ get together with friends and neighbors.  Plan an evening of Christmas caroling.  Take the carolers to a nursing home, the local hospital, or just around the neighborhood.

~ remember, it is okay to tell your child/ren that something is too expensive.  Even Santa is feeling the recession and learning about the value of things is actually a GOOD THING!  Managing finances responsibly is an important life lesson we must teach our children.

~ if you live where it snows, build a snowman; if you live at the beach, build a snowman out of sand!

~ visit the local library to check out some Christmas books; bedtime stories are such a positive bonding activity for you and your child/ren.

~ let your child/ren decorate some pretty stationary and then write a thank you letter to a soldier or first responder.

~ make homemade ornaments to decorate the tree, string popcorn, cranberries, make paper chains.  All of these are fun and keep little hands busy.

~ make homemade Christmas cards for grandparents; they will treasure them!

~ snuggle up with the book or movie, The Polar Express.  When you finish the story,  go to the kitchen for some hot chocolate and have a jingle bell waiting there with a pretty red bow.

~ cut paper snowflakes to decorate the home, porch, windows.

~ watch a favorite holiday film as a family.  We love Elf. Which is your favorite?

~ plan snacks for Santa, the elves, and the reindeer.  What will they eat? Where should the snacks be placed?

~ make photo props for the family to use in pictures this holiday season. Use words like JOY, FAMILY, HO HO HO, MERRY…

~ pile the whole family into the car and drive around the neighborhood enjoying all the festive Christmas lights.

You get the idea…Each of these ideas means TIME spent with your child.  TIME is one of the most precious gifts of all.  Trust me, childhood goes by so quickly.  You and your child will treasure these memories of simple fun.

These are just a few ideas.  I know you will have some of your own. I’d love for you to send along a comment letting me know some traditions you and your family share.  MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part II

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I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.  I LOVE the music, the lights, the TV specials, spending time with family and friends.  I HATE the stress, don’t you? Social media certainly doesn’t help; no one takes pictures of the cake that collapsed on itself, the toddler having a temper tantrum meltdown, the lopsided tree, or the cat batting the ornaments all over the house.

Nope, the pictures we see are all the best of the best and sometimes make me feel as though everyone has it all together…except me. I bookmark pictures of perfectly decorated trees, smiling children dressed in holiday party-best, gorgeous rooms with nothing out of place, and party food displayed in an appetizing assortment of colors and tastes.  My Pinterest account is overflowing with “should do” ideas and my camera is loaded with a laughable assortment of what I lovingly refer to as “Pinterest-fails”. Just keeping it real here, folks.  LOL!

Part of my problem is that I’m trying to do it all myself.  I have come to realize that the holidays are not just for me, but for everyone, and everyone can take part in the preparation and the celebration! This was a huge shift in my thinking and has helped me relax and focus on what is important. Here are some tips that helped me make it all more manageable.

If you’re like me, you want everything to be extra nice for the holidays.  Don’t try to do it all yourself, share the jobs.  My son is grown now, but I used to make a list of jobs that needed to be done. I learned from experience that you have to be specific – put down details of how it should be done, the supplies needed to do the job, and when it needs to be completed. Now cut the job list apart, fold each piece of paper, and put them in a hat, a basket, or a job jar.  I have the cutest job jar all decorated for Christmas. Each family member reaches in and selects a job or two, or even three; somehow this became a tradition that we looked forward to. Finally, each person tapes their jobs next to their name on a chart on the refrigerator.  Getting ready for the holidays has now become a family affair and everyone will enjoy the results as you get things ready for a wonderful holiday!

Remember to give yourself permission to let it be less than perfect. My family constantly reminds me that a house and garden style magazine crew is not coming to photograph my home. Bet they aren’t coming to yours either! So just take a deep breath, relax, take lots of pictures, and gather precious memories. When you look back on the 2017 holiday season, you won’t remember if the throw pillows were perfectly fluffed; you will remember the magical, joyful moments you shared with your family.  So, from my slightly messy home to all of you, Merry Christmas!

Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part I

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There is no way around it! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, this time of year is hectic. I feel as though the holidays have begun before I’ve even finished washing the dishes from Thanksgiving dinner! With all the hustle and bustle of shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking, cleaning, and traveling, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important – family, friends, and fun!

I know I lost track of the fun while my son was little. I remember driving to my parent’s home for the holidays with him in the back seat whining all the way because he wanted some toy that I probably couldn’t afford.

So how do we balance it all and not get frustrated? What’s the solution? How do we find time to get it all done and still enjoy our children?

  1. Start some new traditions.

Talk to your children about starting some new family traditions. For example, if you enjoy an Advent Calendar for the Christmas countdown, how about changing it up a bit? Instead of a calendar, wrap up 24 short stories;  start a tradition that every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, your child gets to unwrap one book. Now, you and your child spend 10 minutes reading a Christmas story together. If your child is older, you can read a chapter book, one chapter per night. This accomplishes two things: first, it gives you a few quiet moments each day together, and second, it helps your child with reading. Reading together is a wonderful way to help your child become a great reader…and that is the gift of a lifetime!

2. Be sure to check out your local library.

The library will often have pleasant holiday activities for children on the schedule. While your child is busy with the library activity, you can check out some holiday books to use for the activity above.

3. Think about paying it forward.

This is a season of giving. Plan some quiet time for yourself by having your child/ren work on a charitable project. Here are some ideas to get you started… What is your child interested in? Does s/he love to draw? What about drawing some cards to send to folks in the hospital? Let’s not forget our soldiers overseas. Children can send holiday wishes to soldiers far from family and friends.

4. Simplify.

Another way to combine fun and family (and save money) is to create a tradition of making some of the gifts. Your child can help. For example, take a copy of a favorite family photo. Mount it on a piece of cardboard and cut it up. Now you have a puzzle! Use leftover baby jars, some glitter, and water and you’ve got a snow globe! There are many great ideas out there for fun family gifts that you and your children can make. You would be amazed at the things you can do with everyday items such as toilet paper rolls, marshmallows, buttons, popsicle sticks, glue, paint, and some glitter!  Do a simple search on the internet for “Christmas Crafts for Kids” and you will find tons of ideas!

5. Give.

The advantage to having your children make some of the gifts is “ownership”.  When children are “given”, it creates a sense of entitlement. When children “give”, psychologists tell us that human bonds are strengthened. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving and this is a lesson we should allow our children to learn. Could your child sacrifice one of his gifts to donate to the needy? What about finding a few older toys in the house that could be given to an orphanage or to a family who has lost everything to a fire?

6. Set limits.

Some families have put a limit on how many gifts are expected. Jesus received just three gifts from the Wise Men. Could you limit your giving for each child to three gifts? Other families have set items: one item of clothing, one book,  one toy, and one gift of food for each person. Other families set an expectation that each member will receive only one gift from each person in the family…one gift from mom, one from dad, one from sister, one from brother. You get the idea. Setting boundaries such as these accomplishes two things: 1. You will be less stressed trying to wrap a mountain of gifts and, 2. Your child will know what to expect ahead of time and will have realistic expectations.

So, take a deep breath…relax…make a plan…enjoy this precious time of year.  Twenty years from now, your child won’t remember the video game that was under the tree this year, but s/he will remember the time spent with you.  Merry Christmas!

 

Start with a Good Book

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 2.34.27 PMHere is a list of over 60 wonderful read-aloud stories that I have enjoyed reading to my child and my students over the years.  You will find many more as you visit book stores and your local library.  Your child will enjoy reading them over and over!

Click here for a printable copy of the list.  Read Aloud Books

Book Title Author Celebrate the Letters
A Chair for My Mother Vera B. Williams M/m
A Hole is to Dig Ruth Krauss H/h, D/d
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Judith Viorst A/a
Bedtime for Frances Russell Hoban B/b, F/f
Biscuit Alyssa Satin Capucilli B/b
Caps for Sale Esphyr Sobodkina C/c
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Bill Martin, Jr. B/b
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Judi Barrett C/c, M/m
Corduroy Don Freeman C/c
David Goes to School David Shannon D/d, S/s
Frog and Toad are Friends Arnold Lobel F/f, T/t
Goldilocks and the Three Bears James Marshall G/g, B/b
Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown M/m
Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss G/g, E/e, H/h
Gregory the Terrible Eater Mitchell Sharmat G/g, T/t
Harold and the Purple Crayon Crockett Johnson H/h, P/p
Harry the Dirty Dog Gene Zion H/h, D/d
Hattie and the Fox Mem Fox H/h, F/f
How Rocket Learned to Read Tad Hills R/r
Hurry! Hurry! Eve Bunting H/h
I can Read with my Eyes Shut!  Dr. Seuss R/r
It Looked Like Spilt Milk Charles G. Shaw M/m
Kindergarten Rocks! Katie Davis K/k
Lemons are NOT Red Laura Vaccaro Seeger L/l
Leo the Late Bloomer Robert Krauss L/l
Letters from a Desperate Dog Eileen Christelow L/l, D/d
Library Lion Michelle Knudsen L/l
Little Bear Else Holmelund Minarik B/b, L/l
Llama Llama Red Pajama Anna Dewdney L/l
Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! Nancy Carlson K/k
Lost and Found Oliver Jeffers L/l, F/f, P/p
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile  Bernard Waber L/l, C/c
Make Way for Ducklings Robert McCloskey M/m, D/d
Me I Am! Jack Prelutsky M/m
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Virginia Lee Burton M/m, S/s
Miss Nelson is Missing Harry Allard, James Marshall N/n, M/m, T/t
No Roses for Harry! Gene Zion R/r, H/h
No, David! David Shannon D/d
Pete’s a Pizza William Steig P/p
Regards to the Man in the Moon Ezra Jack Keats M/m
Sheep in a Jeep Nancy E. Shaw S/s, J/j
Snowballs Lois Ehlert S/s
Snowmen at Night Caralyn Buehner S/s
Stellaluna Janell Cannon S/s, B/b
Stone Soup Marcia Brown S/s
Strega Nona Tomie DePaola S/s
Swimmy Leo Lionni S/s
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble William Steig S/s, M/m, P/p
Tacky the Penguin Helen Lester T/t, P/p
The Carrot Seed Ruth Krauss C/c
The Kissing Hand Audrey Penn K/k, H/h
The Little Engine that Could Watty Piper E/e, T/t
The Little House Virginia Lee Burton H/h
The Mitten Jan Brett M/m
The Mysterious Tadpole Steven Kellogg M/m, T/t
The Pout-Pout Fish Deborah Diesen P/p, F/f
The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats S/s
The Story of Ferdinand Munro Leaf F/f, B/b
The Ugly Duckling Hans Christian Andersen U/u, D/d
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle C/c, V/v, H/h
Three Billy Goats Gruff Paul Galdone G/g,
Tikki Tikki Tembo Arlene Mosel T/t
Time out for Sophie Rosemary Wells T/t. S/s
Wemberly Worried Kevin Henkes W/w
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak W/h
Whistle for Willie Ezra Jack Keats W/h

Growing a Good Reader

rk8_bookbox1Reading Tips for Parents: You can be the key to your child’s success with literacy. As his or her first teacher, you are in a unique position to help instill a love of reading in your child. The first thing for you to do is model reading; your child should see you reading every day for information or for enjoyment.  Having a home filled with books, magazines, comics, newspapers and other print material is a good start.

Not long ago I found myself cringing in the grocery store when I heard a frustrated mom threaten her five year old by saying, “If you don’t stop that, I will take away the iPad and you will have to read.”  Nooooo!  Reading should be a pleasure, not ever a punishment!

Children with a large supply of reading materials in their homes are known to score higher on standardized tests. Why? Think about it.

There is a tremendous difference between digital input and text.  When a child watches TV or plays on a tablet, all the pictures come streaming in from the screen.  When a child reads, s/he has to visualize the text. The act of painting the picture the author is describing is a most creative process.  Reading helps students begin to visualize new possibilities, solve problems, think out of the box, and become the young adult that companies clamor to hire.

Here are some easy suggestions for helping your child develop a lifelong love of reading.

  • Read aloud to your child. Choose material (books, magazines, comics) based on topics your child finds interesting. Ask your child questions about what has just been read…the Who, What, Where, When and Why of a story.
  • Choose a sound and ask your child to cut out pictures of things that begin with that sound. Help your child glue their picture onto an index card and write the letter that makes that sound. Use these cards to review sounds. Create an alphabet of pictures on index cards. Celebrate the letters of the alphabet; make it fun!
  • Surround your children with reading material; give books as gifts, rewards, etc.
  • Encourage a wide variety of reading activities.
  • Make reading an important part of your child’s life. Have them read menus, grocery lists, roads signs, game directions, the comics, or movie time listings.
  • Be knowledgeable about your children’s progress. Schedule regular conferences with your child’s teacher each year.
  • Find out what reading skills your child is expected to have at each grade level. The school’s curriculum will give you this information.
  • Get help promptly for reading problems. Reading problems do not magically disappear with time. The earlier children receive help, the more likely they will become good readers.
  • Let your child gradually share some of the reading aloud. You read a sentence, paragraph, or page, then it’s your child’s turn. Take over if your child seems tired or discouraged. Keep reading light-hearted; focus on the fun, not just hard work.
  • Leave notes in a lunch bag or on the refrigerator for your child to discover and read. Make it simple, using words your child knows or you think they can sound out.
  • Take your new reader to the library. Pick up a library card and make a big deal about it. Let your child know how important and special books can be.

Raising a reader is a joyous journey for parents and the reward is great. Check back here on the blog for a list of wonderful read-aloud books to share with your child.  In the meantime, snuggle up tonight for a sweet bedtime story.

Magical Moments: Reading Together

Reading with your Beginning Reader

rk8_boy11In my last blog I challenged you to read with your child for 20 minutes each night.  This practice makes a BIG difference in the reader your child becomes.  Yet, parents of young children who are in the process of learning to read may have questions about how to approach this.

Actually, it is pretty easy.  Here are some tips that will help you relax and enjoy the experience with your children as they learn to read.

  • It is okay for your child to track with their finger.  In other words, don’t discourage them for putting their finger on each word as they read it.  As they become more proficient, you can give them a bookmark to slide under an entire line of text at a time.
  • In the beginning, model for your child. You read a sentence and have them repeat it.
  • Next, you can begin to take turns reading.  At the beginning, you and your child can alternate sentences. You read the first one and s/he reads the next.  As your child becomes a better reader, alternate paragraphs and then finally, alternate pages.
  • The discussion you have with your child as you read is very important, so talk about the story.  Ask your child to:
    • Predict what will happen next. You can ask,
      • “What do you think will happen now?”
      • “What makes you think so?”
    • Retell what just happened. You can say,
      • “Tell me what happened first, next, and last in the story.”
      • “What was the most interesting part?” “Why?”
    • Make a personal connection to something in his/her own life. Discuss how the characters are feeling. You can say,
      • “How do you think the character is feeling?”
      • “Have you every felt that way?”
      • “Does this story remind you of another story we have read? Why?”
    • Identify new words. You can say,
      • “Point to a word that is new to you.”
      • “Let’s look at the story to see if we can figure out what it means.”
      • “What do you think it means?”
      • “Let’s keep reading to see if you are right.”
  • Each time your child gives an answer, ask him/her to give evidence from the story to support the answer.
  • Ask questions that require your child to think deeper, to think beyond the surface.
      • Who? What? Where? When? are considered lower level questions; the answers will be right in the book.
      • Why? and How? are deeper, higher level questions that require your child to use the information in the story to come up with the answer.
  • When your child finds a favorite book, they want to read it again and again.  That’s rk8_girl5great!  Re-reading is a great strategy for building stronger readers.
  • Have lots of reading materials in your home.  Talk to your child’s teacher about his or her reading level. Find out what interests your child and help him or her find books on that topic.
  • Check books out from the school library, the public library, give books as gifts and rewards, subscribe to magazines for kids, comics.
  • MODEL! MODEL! MODEL!  If your child sees you reading, they are much more likely to become a reader.

Learning to read is a magical time in a child’s life. Reading opens up a world of possibilities and adventures.  Sharing this is a wonderful experience for a parent.  Don’t miss it…it only happens once.

How to Change a Life in 20 Minutes!

rk8_girl12Does this sound familiar? The teacher sends home a note every week asking that parents read with their child for 20 minutes each weeknight.  You are thinking, “Does she not get it?  I have 3 children! I work all day, have to cook dinner, answer the phone, fold laundry, feed the dog, clean the litter box, sign field trip forms, pay bills, and chase a toddler.  Are you kidding me!?!”

There are days when 20 minutes sounds like an eternity, but, let’s take a moment to look at this reading equation mathematically.

John reads 20 minutes five nights of every week;

Sally only reads 4 minutes a night, if at all.

Step 1:  Multiply the minutes per night X 5 times each week.

John: reads 20 minutes X 5 times per week = 100 minutes each week.

Sally: reads 4 minutes X 5 times per week = 20 minutes each week.

Step 2: Multiply the minutes per week X 4 weeks each month.

John: 100 minutes per week X 4 = 400 minutes per month.

Sally: 20 minutes per week X 4 = 80 minutes per month.

Step 3: Multiply the minutes per month X 9 months per school year.

John: 400 minutes per month X 9 months = 3600 minutes per year.

Sally: 80 minutes per month X 9 months = 720 minutes per year.

Step 4: Divide the number of minutes per year by 360 minutes per day to find the number of days spent reading.

John: 3600 divided by 360 = an additional 10 full days of school spent just reading.

Sally: 720 divided by 360 = only 2 additional days of school spent reading.

So, by the end of 8th grade, or 9 academic years: 

John will have spent an additional 90 days reading.  John has gotten the equivalent of an extra  half of a 180 day school year just spent reading!

Sally will have read the equivalent of 18 days, or one tenth of a 180 day school year.

Food for Thought:

  • Which student would you expect to be a better reader?
  • Which student would you expect to be more knowledgeable?
  • Which student would you expect to be a better writer?
  • Which student would you expect to have a better vocabulary?
  • Which student would you expect to be more successful in school?
  • Which student would you expect to conduct a better interview?
  • Which student would you expect to be more successful in LIFE?

So there you have it. Twenty minutes a day can make a big difference and set your child up for success.  Will you do it perfectly?  Probably not.  But if you teach your child to value reading by reading together, you will definitely have a positive result!  You are your child’s most significant role model and I already know that you like to read…you are reading a blog!  My guess is…you’ve got this!