Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Dogs enjoy any story you read to them, they don't judge when you get a word wrong, and they have an enormous attention span.
A non-profit organization in Chicago, Sit Stay Read!, uses trained dogs to help children read. The kids read to the dogs, and the dogs make reading more fun and relaxing for the children.
If your child has a pet, why not suggest she read to it?
Just don't read it one of those PETA brochures - it might get funny ideas and petition for equal rights. Woof!
Update: MaryEllen, of Sit Stay Read! suggests these tips for reading with your dog.
Monday, December 29, 2008
It's important that children discover that books can be used many different ways. Here's how we're using the books we got for Christmas.
*My husband and our son had a great time going through his new Guiness Book of Records, giggling over the disgusting records (biggest earthworm) and discussing the sports ones;
*We'll be using his new cookbook in the new year to bake some treats (and learn measurements);
*Our son loved his new, personalized book and was thrilled to see his picture on the back cover;
*Our son has already started reading his new Bailie School Kids series;
*He loved the Sports Illustrated for Kids Santa gave him in his stocking;
*His new joke books are going to keep us groaning well into the new year;
*Not to mention his puzzle book, Owl magazine, Space book with tons of facts about meteorites and planets, and Build It Bigger - a book about the world's largest building projects.
So he's got lots of reading options - to read alone, with mom and dad, to read to us aloud, or just flip through and look at the pictures. It was definitely a reading Christmas.
Hope you had a great holiday. We'll be taking a new bag of books (thanks, Julie!) to the Children's Book Bank in the new year so please do drop your donations off with me.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
The book fair was all Scholastic books, which meant that some of the money we raised went to buy books for the school, which is great. However, it means that this list is specific to Scholastic books - that's still a pretty wide range. But still.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
When my son was little, our life was a musical. If I could sing something rather than say it, I would. "We're... puttin' our shoes now, tying up the laces, goin' to the park!" (to the tune of Top Hat, White Tie and Tails). "Let's cross... to the sunny side of the street!"
I also frequently sang another ditty: "A says ah, A says ah. Every letter makes a sound; A says ah!" And I'd get him to join in. "B says... what?" "Buh!" "Right! B says buh. B says buh. Every letter makes a sound. B says buh!"
I'm not a spokesperson for LeapFrog, just a fan. It was their fridge magnet toy (which we didn't even own - another friend had one) that taught me this catchy tune. It helped my son to learn the sounds the letters make. And that's a huge step towards reading.
Singing has major teaching benefits. For one thing, you're happy while you're singing, and fun and passion always aid understanding. And facts that are sung are much more easily memorized. Singing also creates synapses in the brain, so you're really doing two things at once - learning and increasing the capacity to learn.
I'm going to ask the LeapFrog people if they can send me a music file so you can hear the fridge magnet song. I don't know how to post a music file, so I'm a bit scared of that. But I'll do it for literacy.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
If your child is a kinesthetic learner - he learns by touching and doing rather than by seeing or hearing - here are some great ideas.
Use letters made from blocks, cards, fridge magnets or Scrabble tiles.
Toss seven large letters (blocks, or wooden cut-outs) in the pool. Have him dive for them and make a word when he surfaces. Don't worry about how many dives it takes - let him just have fun.
In the bath, toss in a handful of foam letters. It probably won't be long before he starts making words that float around him!
Toss a handful of Scrabble tiles into a large bowl of rice. As he digs for the letters, he has to try and make words with them.
Play word games like Scrabble, "scramble" (online), or Word Thief (board game). Simplify the rules so it's more about making words and less about beating the other person.
If you're giving your child letters to make a word, look at them first. Make sure there are Es and As, and simple consonants like Ms, Ss and Ts. Consider adding in a "wildcard" that can be used for any letter.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Here are some tips:
1) Renew your books online. When your deadline is approaching, go online using your library card, and hit "renew" for all your books. It buys you some time.
2) If your books are overdue, renew them online anyway. It stops the bleeding until you can get to the library.
3) Use your child's card. Library fines are a lot cheaper for children than adults. So take out materials on a child's card whenever possible.
4) Have a separate basket for library books. Our son's is at the foot of his bed. Library books automatically go in there, so we're never scrambling to find them amongst his other books.
5) Post the due-date tape near the front door. The library gives you a printout with your due dates. Hang it where you'll see it often.
You did get your child a library card, didn't you? If not, take him to the library and help him get his own card. When he checks out his first book, I guarantee you a parenting moment you'll never forget.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I don't mean the words themselves. I mean how a newspaper works. What a headline is. Where the author's name is, and how to tell what's happening in the pictures. Where does the rest of the article go off the front page? Why are there sections? And how to use the index to find the comics (very important).
This kind of information is crucial to a newspaper reader, because it helps you understand what to read, what you should skip, and what you can skim. It helps put the images in context. For instance, the same photo on the front of the Style section, and the front of the News section would have very different meanings.
Beginning readers need to know that they don't have to (and shouldn't) read every word of the newspaper. They need to understand what advertisements are vs. articles, what headlines and subheads are for, and how to tell which article goes with which picture.
You wouldn't do this all at once, of course. Even a thirty-second explanation could have a huge impact. Let's say you're reading the paper in the morning and your child is eating her breakfast. Why not take the section that would be most interesting to her, and point out an article. Show her the headline, and the photo, and tell her what's happening in the article.
Thirty seconds. That may be all she needs to get started - and curious. And curiosity creates amazing readers.
Newspapers are great because there's something for everyone. You child might enjoy the sports section, the comics, the main news, or fashion. Just keep them away from any articles that could be too scary - like in the business section.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Christopher Robin goes
Hoppity, hoppity, hop.
Whenever I tell him
Politely to stop it, he
Says he can't possibly stop.
If he stopped hopping,
He couldn't go anywhere,
Poor little Christopher
Couldn't go anywhere...
That's why he always goes
Monday, October 27, 2008
It's essentially a wireless, electronic pen. When you poke a special "Tag" book with it, the book talks. Kids can hear the story, listen to the characters speak, play games and identify words.
You have to use the Tag books, and currently there are about 20 of them including Click Clack Moo - Cows that Type, The Little Engine that Could, Diego, Spongebob Square Pants, The Little Mermaid, Cars, and my favourite - Olivia.
The system is a lot like LeapPad, which is being phased out. My son grew up on LeapPad, and to this day says things like, "Ginko leaves have been around since the dinosaurs." He learned that from LeapPad. Tag is like LeapPad except it's wireless.
Tag is also intuitive. Kids just poke the pen anywhere on the book to get the information they want. And, if this system is developed like LeapPad, there will soon be many more titles and games to choose from.
Tag is $59.99 (Canadian) at Toys R Us online.
It's also great because it works for a wide range of ages, from very little children (parents just have to make sure they don't rip the book), up to about grade 1. LeapPad also had books for older kids, and I'm hoping the Tag line will extend to higher grades as well.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
But in the midst of our Hallowe'en party today, I managed to sneak in some learning. We had hidden "eyeballs" (bouncy balls with corneas printed on them) in the backyard. Each child had to find five with their initials on them.
As I was telling them about it, I realized that not every child knew what "initials" were, or what their personal initials were. So I told them about how initials could be just for the first name, or for the first and last names.
And then we went through each person's name and shouted out their initials. So not only did they have treats, but we taught them a new trick.
This is a picture of the punch we had at the party. It had a hand in it. Fun.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Once you think of books that way, you can't help but have a certain reverence for them and this in turn reinforces the idea that they contain something valuable. Accordingly, I don't allow books on the floor, or to be thrown or stepped on. That's just not cool in our house.
Understandably, books get torn and damaged through everyday use - that's different. When they do get banged up, they're repaired as soon as possible. I don't make anyone feel bad about accidentally damaging a book, because if you feel you have to pussy-foot around books you'll be afraid to open them.
But really, you don't step on a treasure chest - you open it. And you savour the treasure.
How did I get my son to treat his books kindly? When I walk in his room and there's a book on the floor, I gasp. I say, "There's a book on the floor!" as if I just can't believe it. (And I kind of can't.) He got the message early on, and now he doesn't like to see a book mistreated either.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The person who opens the cover will discover infinite possibilities - excitement, emotion, great characters, facts, new ideas! When I leave a book on my son's bed for him to "find," it's like I'm leaving him buried treasure.
Sometimes I'll sweeten the pot a little. As I put the book down I'll say, "Hmph, I never knew that was the largest land animal! It's all in there." And then I'll walk out of the room, leaving him alone with this - treasure - to find.
Consider how different "books contain treasure" is from "reading is hard work." Who wants to open a book if it's going to mean work? Who doesn't want to open a treasure chest?!
An attitude shift from the parent is often all that's needed to elicit a big change in the child. Change the way you think about books, and so will your child.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I have nothing against comic books, except that sometimes they can be a bit violent and they're not always terribly well-written. Fortunately, there is a healthier alternative.
These books have superheroes and illustrations like comic books, but they're non-violent and the vocabulary is age-appropriate.
Perfect Man - Michael Maxwell McAllum suspects that his teacher is Perfect Man's alter ego. A heartwarming book with a wonderful ending. My favourite.
Atomic Ace (He's Just My Dad) - Atomic Ace misses his son's recital because he's battling crime. Even superhero dads mess up. The main text is written as a poem; the illustrations are very similar to a comic book.
Max - Born into a legendary family of superheroes, will little Max ever develop superpowers? The illustrations, and the characters, are cute and endearing.
Superhero ABC - From Astro-Man is always alert for an alien attack, to The Zinger zanily zigzags through the zero zone. Author Bob Mcleod illustrated Spiderman and Superman comics before this.
There's also Atomic Ace and the Robot Rampage, which is also excellent but might be a bit scary for younger readers. If you know of any other superhero books like these, please let me know.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
This post is the first of many, as I share with you a love of libraries. Being enthusiastic about libraries rubs off on children, and the library can become a place where kids feel comfortable and empowered.
When my son was about three years old, I was, like many new mothers, exhausted. I wanted to go to the library, but how? My son didn't want to go (and I didn't need a war on my hands), and I knew that it would just end up being work for me, as I reshelved the books he got down - never mind finding time to browse.
Here's how I solved it. The library has computers! And they have a half-hour time limit. So I would tell my son, "Let's go to the library." (Screaming, whining.) "You can use the computer for a little while." (Zoooom! - coat on, shoes on.)
He always understood that when the computer shut off, that was it, time to go - I never gave him "another" half-hour. During that 30 minutes, I could browse the children's books to my heart's content. He would go on the very kid-friendly and educational TVO website. The added bonus was that he got to use a computer - but not mine.
And after the library computer shut off, I would let him pick out some books, and we would check them out together. He got familiar with the people and the layout of the library, and began to understand how it all worked and to feel like it could be his place, too.
We also do a ton of other things at the library, so there's not much danger of my son seeing the library only as his "computer arcade." Still, I respect other parents' views on computers and not allowing their kids to use them until they're older. I'm just saying this was something that worked for me. I welcome your comments!
Friday, October 10, 2008
If you've said it, he's heard it.
The way we define our children goes a long way towards making them that way. So if we tell people our child's not interested in reading, he'll live up to that expectation.
Fortunately, when we speak positively about our child's reading, he'll internalize that message, too.
So instead of, "My daughter's not a reader," how about, "My son loves those Magic Treehouse books." Or, "Last week, Martina read Amelia Bedelia at school." Or, "I love it when I see Sam reading."
Let those "big ears" of your child hear that you think he's a reader - and that's what he'll become.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Not just the words themselves, but what everything on an election sign means. My son and I discussed the concept of the "incumbent," sparked by the word "re-elect" on a sign we saw. Check out an election sign, and talk to your child about the various elements including the slogan, logo and other messages, verbal and pictoral.
Three-minute discussion topics:
*Each party uses a different colour.
*There are five people who want to be PM.
*Who is the Prime Minister right now?
*Where our family will vote, and when.
Slightly longer discussions:
*The differences between the parties (left-wing, right-wing).
*Federal vs. municipal elections.
*Each party has a set of ideals.
*The election in the States (who is President now, and who wants to be President).
I'm not pushing any specific political party - I tried to get a generic sign but it's harder than you think. In the end, I just downloaded this one from the Liberals.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Well, she has done an amazing job and in just one short week, her son is now picking up books and reading more.
She says she went right home and got out a selection of books in subjects that interested her son. She put some on the coffee table, one or two on her son's bed, and scattered others throughout the house. Her husband saw the books in the living room, and started flipping through them. Before she knew it, her son had joined him and they were both sitting there reading.
Not only that, but the other day she was wondering why it was taking her son so long to get ready for his bath. She thought, "What the heck's taking him so long?" And then she realized - he was up there reading. Something he wouldn't have done before.
She also tried out the Hide-a-Kiss idea, and said it was really fun, and it worked.
Congratulations to another super reading-friendly family - way to go!
Friday, October 3, 2008
You've got me thinking about what sorts of things encouraged my boys to enjoy reading when they were small. One idea that really worked and was a lot of fun:
When my son was about seven or eight years old, he spent several snowy afternoons writing a simple story and illustrating it with playdough art. He was inspired by the Barbara Reid books, particularly "Two by Two," which is a wonderful depiction of "Noah's Ark."
Ryan worked for hours and hours on his "illustrations." I covered a flat surface for him with plastic and he produced eight different pictures. Then I took photos of each illustration and he dictated while I typed out the words for each page.
We put words and pictures together and created a book. Ryan was really proud of it. I think his grandpa was as well because he took Ryan's book to church where Barbara Reid was also a member. She was kind enough to respond with a letter to my son.
A nice memory!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
She said her son wasn't reading at grade-level, and she's just signed him up for an expensive course to teach him phonics. (Or read this blog - for free. Plus it's more fun. But I digress.)
Another mom had a great idea. She said, "I put books in the bathroom!"
She said she always has to "hold it," because her kid's in there reading. (The things we do for our children.)
But it is a good idea, sprinkling books all over the house, wherever the kids tend to lurk. And the bathroom's the perfect place for a little Robert Munsch or, well, Capt. Underpants.
When kids are surrounded by books, they'll eventually pick one up and flip through it - and that's the first step to creating a ravenous reader.
No photo on this post because, I figured, who needs pictures of the bathroom? Not us. Gack.
Oh, and by the way, if you haven't put your phone on the Do Not Call list yet to get rid of those pesky telemarketers, here's the website (Canada only). Nothing to do with literacy; I just hate getting calls during dinner.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Here's the Scholastic booth, which is where I spend most of my time - and money - at Word on the Street.
It looks crowded, and it is, but you get to the front pretty quickly.
The Scholastic people offer these great "book bundles" - five or six books from a series for one low price. I got a set of Geronimo Stilton for 10 bucks, for instance. (That's going to be a Christmas gift.)
Half the Scholastic booth is French, which is perfect for me, because I've just started teaching my son some French. For some reason, though, every book I bought in French is about a dog.
This year I bought more than a dozen books for what I would normally spend on one or two books. A pretty great deal.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
You may remember Nancy, from our Sept. 18 post. She's the little girl who wasn't terribly keen on reading.
Her mom and I discussed getting her to write about something she's interested in.
Well, Nancy and her mom took the idea and ran with it! We're pleased to present her first-ever book of poetry.
Here's a sample of one of her wonderful poems:
FALL IS HERE
The leaves are falling
It's almost winter
And I see you
In the trees
I look outside
And all I can see
is flying leaves
So rest your head
On the pillow
It's time to go to bed
Throw the blanket
Over your head
She wrote four other poems as well, and illustrated them. And, she's been reading them out loud to her mom.
Her mom plans on getting the book cerlox bound (after first taking a colour photocopy). Nancy's school has an incredibly supportive librarian, who lets children put their books into the school's circulation system, with a bar code and everything, so other kids can check it out.
Way to go Nancy, and her incredible mother!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
What were the books that soothed you, that made you laugh, that were your friends?
One great idea that will help your child (and you), is to revisit them at the library, and then share them with your child.
Your child will experience your emotional response to the book, and you'll not only share a special moment, but it may help him to see what an amazing thing a book is.
Thanks to Michele for this great idea.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I don't know for sure, but she captivates her audience, and she'll capture your heart. From the first time I met her, she had me scrambling to find more. Fortunately, there is a whole series of Winnie books. Winnie is not your typical witch. She doesn’t cackle, or wear black, or cast spells. Except sometimes, when she does. But then she does something un-witch-ey… like accidentally toss her wand in the washing machine.
And when that happens, the colours just explode! They’re practically running all over the page! What will happen next!?
If you're looking for something to entertain your reluctant reader - boy or girl - try Winnie and see if she doesn't light a spark.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The first thing to think about is, “What will motivate her to read?”
So we talked about what she likes. She’s a bit of a girly-girl, the mom said, and the only “reading material” she’s been interested in lately are those celebrity magazines with Hannah Montana in them. She doesn't read the articles, but she does look at the pictures. The mom wasn’t too thrilled that her daughter was getting into them, but we all know that with kids, you’ve just gotta go with the flow.
But this sparked a great idea. How about making up a small book, entitled, “The day Hannah Montana met Nancy”? How motivated would that little girl be, to read about the day she met her hero?
The mom said she could see her daughter getting excited about a book like that.
Two 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper or cardboard, sideways, and folded down the middle makes a cheap and simple book. The mom’s going to stick with simple sentences, and the whole story can be told in the six pages (not including the front and back covers).
“One day, Hannah Montana visited Sunnyvale School. While she was backstage, she realized her hair clip was missing. “Oh no,” she said, “I can’t sing with hair flying all over my face!” A little girl with curly hair came forward from the audience. “Why don’t you use mine?” she said, taking a clip from her hair. “Thanks so much!” said Hannah Montana. “What’s your name?” “Nancy,” she said. “Nancy – stick around after the concert and I’ll sign a special autograph just for you!”
We discussed illustrations, and came up with a great idea—her daughter can illustrate it herself. She can cut out pictures from her magazines, and draw pictures. Illustrating the book will not only give her a sense of ownership, but it will ensure greater understanding of the words by providing a context for them.
We’ll let you know how the project goes, and whether it does encourage Nancy to see reading in a new light.
(Photo source: Starpulse.com)
Monday, September 15, 2008
For kids who are really resisting reading, here's an idea that makes reading instantly fun and rewarding.
Hide a Hershey's Kiss in the child's room. Then, put a note on his pillow that says something like: There is a Kiss for you under your bed. Or, even more simply: Look under your bed.
Using words to find a Kiss gives your child an immediate reward for reading, and for kids who have never known that "reading pays off," it's a really visceral way to give them that feeling.
They may need you to help them sound out your notes the first couple of times, and that's fine - you've gotten over the hurdle of them not wanting to read at all. Try this whenever you feel like it - don't lock yourself into a weekly thing or it won't be fun for you any more.
If you don't like the idea of using chocolate, you can hide a non-food treat like stickers, Play-Doh or a Hot Wheels car. Or even just another note that says, "Congratulations!"
Of course, eventually reading will be its own reward.
But in the meantime - there are Kisses.
Friday, September 12, 2008
He didn't learn it from a book, but from the neighbourhood stop signs.
When I was an ESL tutor, I learned that one of the biggest motivators for new readers is relevance. People are more apt to want to read something when it is relevant to them.
Signs are great because they're relevant, they're usually fairly simple, and they provide a context that helps the beginning reader. For instance, the word Stop is at the end of a road.
Literacy isn't all about words, however. It's important - and kind of fun - to teach kids the non-verbal signs as well. I ask, "What do you think that sign means?" Usually, the ideas kids come up with are more interesting than what the sign is really all about. And children are generally interested in knowing what the sign really does mean.
As they get a little older, we talk about how signs can be miscontrued. These two signs are across from each other on the same road. The one on the left implies "no parking on Thursdays" but the other sign clarifies "no parking except on Thursdays." My son and I had a laugh trying to figure them out.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
One of the best ways to get a child excited about reading is to give him a book that he opens to discover it's all about him. What could be better?
And it's really simple to do. (This isn't one of those "scrapbooking, super-mom" projects.) I found this mini-scrapbook at a Goodwill for about a dollar, but you can get them at Chapters/Indigo as well.
Then, I picked out 10 of my favourite photos and taped them onto every other page. The pictures were mostly about my son's favourite activities, his friends and relatives, or places we'd been.
I made captions in Word - using a large font - cut them out and pasted them in place. I didn't complete the whole book at once. I did as much as I felt like doing, and then I gave it to him for his birthday. For his next birthday, I added another chapter to the book.
I used age-appropriate language and words, keeping it very simple at first ("I am two years old.") and using slightly longer words as he got a bit older ("...hockey is my favourite.").
When he was very young, we read the book together. Eventually, he memorized it and could "read" it himself. Later, he was able to read new entries all by himself. Being very familiar with the content of the photos helped him figure out what the captions said, and made his guesses about the words much more accurate. (Beginning readers make guesses about some words at first, and later begin sounding them out.)
The book has an added bonus - it's a time capsule for him, and for me. Plus, I can add to it - or not - or start a new one any time.
It's been about four years since I worked on this one, but I'm planning on doing a new one for next Christmas. It will have more complicated captions and words, commensurate with the way he's reading now.
But the most important thing won't change - it will be all about him.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Our lives are full of cliques. There are the athletes. The computer geeks. The artists. When someone who is athletic walks into a sporting situation, he feels at home. That's because he's regularly surrounded by sports - he watches it on TV, plays sports, goes to sporting events, reads the sports section of the newspaper, talks to his friends about sports.
Reading is like that. The child who is surrounded by books, who is read to every night, is encouraged to take books out of the library, reads in bed, and sees books as things to be touched, looked at, enjoyed - becomes comfortable in reading situations.
In the wonderful best-seller Freakonomics, they note that there is a correlation between kids who have lots of books in their homes and kids who get good grades. Not "kids who read books," but "kids who have books in their homes." That's because kids who are surrounded by books feel entitled to books and reading.
So whenever they see books outside the home, they feel comfortable picking them up and flipping through them. When the teacher opens a book to read to the class, their eyes light up because they know what's coming (something exciting).
Children who feel entitled to books will read more and enjoy it more. So one simple way to encourage a life-long reading habit is to fill your child's bookshelves so he always has lots of choices, and develops a sense of entitlement about reading.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I'm passionate about reading, and believe that kids can feel passionate about it, too - with a little help from their parents. My son has been reading since he was very young, and now, at age 7, it's almost as natural for him to pick up as book as it is to play a video game. Almost.
For him, books are an escape - a source of excitement - a place to go to relax - a way to find out about stuff - a conduit to unlocking the secrets of life.
My husband and I have helped encourage this excitement about reading from an early age. We used a wide variety of really simple techniques. I strongly believe there isn't one "right way" to teach reading. There are a whole bunch of things you can do, depending on your child and how much energy and time you have to invest on any particular day.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage other parents, caregivers and teachers - especially those whose kids may be resisting reading as a fun activity - to help their children feel great about reading and writing.