Colleen

Colleen

It’s no secret that kids love to spend lots of time on screens. All kinds of digital devices are popular these days and they seem to be present everywhere. While televisions used to be the only screen in town, with the invention of the computer, it wasn’t long before countless types of tech gadgets came on the scene. Now wherever you go, including malls, restaurants, schools and even summer camps, digital screens are unavoidable for both adults and kids.

Current statistics show that preteens spend on average 8 hours per day on screens (yikes!). This includes a combination of usage such as watching TV, playing music, watching videos, playing video games, and interacting on social media. In addition, as parents consider how much screen time their child is consuming, they often forget the time on screens kids get outside the home, such as at school (educational games, online assessments and learning software), on the bus (smartphones and iPads) and at friends’ houses (TV, video games, YouTube, Netflix, social media).  

Take this quick quiz to determine if you need to consider reducing your child’s screen time.

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Is this really a problem? Many moms and dads are asking this question lately, as the negative effects of screen time for kids becomes a hot issue around the globe. Research clearly shows that computers and personal devices can actually be problematic, particularly for the young not-fully-developed brain of a child and should be monitored closely by parents.

7 important reasons why parents need to pay attention to their child’s screen time:

  1. Studies suggest that screens such as tablets, smartphones, laptops, notebooks and desktops can increase depression, anxiety and aggression in kids while decreasing positive social interaction and interests such as playing outside and reading.
  2. Experts are calling video games and other online addictions (like gambling and porn) “digital drugs”. Much like cocaine and heroin, digital devices stimulate the front part of the brain, leaving the child hyper-aroused like only addictive substances can do. The dangerous part comes when the young user is not playing and finds regular life and people interactions boring, prompting a desire for more stimulation and creating a vicious cycle.
  3. When children devote all of this time to their screens, they spend less time on healthy fun such as getting exercise through outdoor games or sports, engaging in creative play or artistic pursuits, or mentally stimulating activities such as puzzles or reading. Each of these alternatives contribute to a well-rounded, healthy and intelligent child. For example, reading develops important skills such as reflection, critical thinking and imagination, and watching TV or playing video games contributes nothing to these areas.
  4. Over 200 studies show that screen time increases ADHD, aggressive behavior and social isolation, which may explain why your child’s attention seems to wander, or why he throws a tantrum when you ask him to put down the video game joystick and do his homework.
  5. It is WAY harder to treat a child or teen who is already addicted to digital media than it is to set healthy limits before the problem starts. Children who need to be treated for screen time addiction sometimes wind up going to “rehab”, such as a wilderness program, in order to detox and rewire the brain.
  6. There is a reason why parents from the techy world keep their kids away from devices as long as possible. Steve Jobs was a perfect example of a low-tech parent, as are countless Silicon Valley executives who enroll their kids in tech-free Montessori and Waldorf schools.
  7. While Minecraft and Facebook might seem harmless at first, time on personal devices can eventually lead to more dangerous and damaging sites. Hard as it seems to believe, kids today at very young ages are sexting, viewing porn and participating in depression-type blogs that glamorize cutting, anorexia and even suicide. These are easy for kids to access, particularly on their smartphones since they are small and everyone has their own. 

What can you do about it?

As one mom points out, “The smaller the device, the harder it is to control it” so don’t think if you don’t see a screen your child isn’t using one. Parents need to keep a tight watch on how their child is using devices. The more time on screens, the more closely you need to monitor. Set smart household rules, such as no electronics in the bedroom, or after 8 pm, and stick to them. Consider limiting the amount of time he spends on digital devices each day, and guide him to use screens for more productive pursuits such as reading an eBook or listening to an audiobook. Be sure to set parental controls and blocking software on digital devices and let your child know you are monitoring what she is doing online to keep communication open.

How much screen time is too much?

There are no hard and fast rules to answer this question, so as a parent you need to be the judge. Many parents of younger children feel one hour of combined screen time is enough, while up to two hours per day for older elementary and middle school children may be acceptable. When you decide on a time limit and share it with your child, be sure you are clear on what that includes and stick to it. A sure-fire way to fail at keeping this boundary is to enforce it intermittently.  Your child should participate in a healthy dose of non-digital activities that he enjoys every day to ensure that technology does not completely take over his free time.

The hard truth is that technology is too powerful for kids to handle alone, and they will always choose the fun, highly stimulating option over any other activity unless parents give firm guidance. You may be unpopular with the young folk in your house by setting up some rules and being the enforcer, but the rewards will be priceless for the whole family if you do.

If you notice that your child is no longer interested in healthy activities such as going outdoors, playing sports, being with friends and reading books, take this quick quiz to see if you may need to make some changes to help your child manage screen time.

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Suggested Resources:

Dunckley, V. (2105). Reset your child’s brain: A four-week plan to end meltdowns, raise grades and boost social skills while reversing the effects of electronic screen time. California: New World Library.

Kardaras, N. (2016). Glow kids: How screen addiction is hijacking our kids – And how to break the trance. New York: St. Martins’ Press.

Guernsey, L. (2012). Screen time: How electronic media – from baby videos to educational software – effects your young child. Philadelphia: Basic Books.

www.FamiliesManagingMedia.com

www.ResetYourChildsBrain.com

References:

Kardaras, N. (August 27, 2016). It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies. New York Post. Retrieved from: http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/

Kardaras, N. (August 31, 2016). Screens in schools are a $60 billion hoax. Time Magazine. Retrieved from: http://time.com/4474496/screens-schools-hoax/

Field, G. (September, 2016). Parenting against the internet. Real Simple. Retrieved from: http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/technology/safety-family/internet-safety

Sometimes you just need a reason, any reason, to throw a little party.  I can’t think of a better excuse to get your party on than to inspire kids to read. Wondering how a good birthday celebration will get your child to pick up a book? Read on for my best secrets for what cake and streamers have to do with reading.

Authors are people too. Like all people, authors have birthdays! Some authors are alive and well and still celebrating their special day themselves, while others are, well, not so much. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate on their behalf! After all, so many authors have inspired and touched our lives decades after their books were written. To keep the memory alive and thank them for all they have contributed, we should throw them a party. Plus, everyone loves a good time – including kids – and if we help kids see how fun and reading are connected we’ll be shining a positive light on something they don’t ordinarily want to do.

How to throw an author's birthday party in 7 easy steps:

1. Choose an author: This is definitely where you want to get your child involved! Brainstorm a list together of all the children’s book authors you both can name. Scan your own bookshelves for a mental jog, or go online to Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and enter key words to help you out. Once you have your list, discuss together which authors are cause for celebration. Which ones have written books that your child likes (even a little) or could like if he was motivated? Highlight those names to get started.

Tip: If your child is a reluctant reader, then start by brainstorming the books that have been turned into movies and TV shows he loves. There is no end to these! Here are just a few: Goosebumps series, The Magic School Bus, Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Coraline, Harriet the Spy.

2. Find the authors’ birthdates: This is as easy as cake. Just search their names and birthdays on Google. To up the fun, celebrate a monumental year. (Roald Dahl would be 100 on September 13th!) Choose the one whose birthday is the closest so you don’t have to wait too long to party. For a done-for-you cheat sheet, download my list of famous authors and their birthdays here to get you started.

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3. Plan your party: It may be soon in which case you can keep it simple, or the date may be further away, allowing ample planning time as well as time to build anticipation. You’ll need to decide how you’re going to celebrate! You can do the customary routine, such as an easy meal (frozen pizza is just fine!), cake and candles, or add a little flavor by getting into a theme. For example, for Roald Dahl the theme might be chocolate – after all, he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  For Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, everyone can come wearing their pajamas. (YES!)

4. Learn some fun facts: Break out a few interesting details about the chosen author so you can share them during the party. Turn them into a guessing game (What was Maurice Sendak’s favorite character he created? Or Which book came second in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series?) for simple prizes such as a paperback book of choice from Amazon.com!

5. Enjoy the big day: Invite friends or keep it quaint with just family members but either way, be sure to have a good time and get into it. Yes, it’s a bit silly, but why not have fun and get some laughs in? Humor helps kids want to read so if your child sees the fun in the situation, she may be more open to reading books by this author.

6. Take the opportunity to make the connections to reading. We all like a good party, but don’t forget the purpose of this event is to celebrate a writer of wonderful books! Spend time during your celebration and whatever activities you have planned to actually read. Be sure you have a stack of books around – at least one for each person attending. Books by the honored author should be on prominent display and read aloud by the master of ceremonies (AKA mom or dad) at appropriate intervals throughout.

7. Plan your next party (or encourage your child to plan it!): Once you host an author’s birthday party, the kids will likely want to do it again. By choosing a new author to celebrate each season you’ll always have something to look forward to!

Helping children find the joy in reading is often a challenge. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while trying. It often takes creative ideas to draw kids to books so don’t be afraid to try something new at home. This idea may not be brand new to your child as classrooms around the world throw author birthday parties with great success (which equals kids having fun while reading).  You can’t do this wrong so give it a chance and hey, it’ll be a good excuse to eat pizza and cake for dinner once in a while!

Don't forget to download my cheat sheet of famous authors and their birthdays!

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If your child does not like to read, one of the most helpful resources in your world should be your child’s teacher. After all, assuming your district has hired highly qualified educators, she is an expert on both children and reading. It won’t take her long to get to know your child as an individual and learn what makes him tick. She sees a different side of your child than you do, too, and her perspective may just be the one that you need in order to guide your child to what books he should be reading at home.

How do I know this?

I taught elementary school for almost a decade, and then became a school principal with a serious focus on literacy. I trained hard, read a lot of reference books and attended many conferences and workshops to learn as much as I could about teaching reading. I focused intently on becoming a strong reading teacher and then literacy leader, and was thrilled when my students’ parents wanted to learn more about how they can help at home.

Even if your child’s teacher doesn’t eat, sleep and breathe reading instruction like I did, they will get to know your child well in the next few months and most likely be excited that you ask how to help at home.

What questions should you ask the teacher in order to have the most productive conversation? Get my free downloadable question guide here:

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Here are some tips about how and when to hold this conversation:

Dos:

Give the teacher at least several weeks after school starts to get to know your child before you reach out. Many teachers have 22-27 kids in a classroom so it takes a bit of time to learn about each of them personally.

Let the teacher know you want to support her efforts in school by reading with/to your child at home. Use my checklist ( click Access Now above) to help guide your conversation.

Make your first contact regarding your interests through email when you can. Email is an easy way to let the teacher know you are interested in a conversation without it seeming like an emergency. This will also give the teacher a chance to get back to you with her thoughts together about when you can talk, and what materials she might be able to provide you.

Greet the teacher at Back-to-School night and introduce yourself, but hold off on having this conversation until you actually set up a time to chat together. There are so many parents to meet that night and you don’t want this topic to get lost in a busy event.

When you meet with the teacher, be sure you have at least 30 minutes to discuss your thoughts, and take some notes so you don’t forget what she recommends. Many ideas and book titles may be new to you so you’ll want to write them down.

Don’ts:

Don’t catch the teacher on the fly to discuss this, such as at a concert, back to school night or school play. There is too much else going on to give this the attention it needs.

Don’t try to have this entire discussion through email. In person is best, on the phone can also work too. Initiate by email, but move off email once you make contact.

Don’t make a big deal of it with your child. In fact telling him you had this discussion is completely optional. Use your judgement about whether he should know or not. You don’t want to make him upset and think that a possible reading issue is the reason his parent and his teacher are talking.

Don’t go unprepared. Instead, take the list of questions to ask with you and also a list of what you already do at home. You want feedback, as well as to let the teacher know the support you are already providing.

Don’t follow every word the teacher says if it doesn’t feel right. Consider the teacher just one resource out of many and only follow any advice given that makes sense to you for your child.

The bottom line: The more you and your child’s teacher work together as a team to help your child become a better reader, the faster he will make progress. A teacher can provide insight into your child as a learner, which can help as you support your reader at home. Don’t be a stranger - Towards the end of the first month of school, be sure to connect with your child’s teacher!

Don't forget to download my free question guide on the Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Child's Teacher About Reading here: Access Now!

 

 

As the lazy, hazy days of summer wind down, the days are getting shorter and families are getting ready to send the kids back to school. This time can be filled with such mixed feelings for kids (and parents!), including excitement, nervousness, enthusiasm, trepidation, delight or sadness. Many children have a mixture of feelings all at the same time. They may be excited about seeing old friends and meeting some new ones, while being nervous to meet a new teacher, go to a bigger school or take a different bus. Some kids love the fact that they are starting a higher grade level (Fifth grade rocks! We are the kings of the school!). Then there’s the sadness that summer is ending and with it, a lot of fun and relaxation. All these feelings are totally normal, though they can make everyone act a little loopy (I’ll include teachers in this one too!). Getting these feelings out in the open is a good idea.

Books can be a great way for kids to get in touch with their feelings. When they see how a character is also going through a similar experience (new bus, new school, new friends, new lunch meat…) kids can relax a little and maybe even laugh a bit as many insightful authors tell stories about kids in school that will have you rolling on the floor laughing.

Want a great list of both picture and chapter books that you can read aloud to get your child prepped for back to school? Download my free Top 10 List of Back to School Read Alouds!

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Reading aloud books about the start of school is a great way to get your child excited for the first few days. However, I like to see parents keep reading books about school for the whole first month because the transition actually takes more than just a few days. Plus, there are so many wonderful stories to share about kids in school, and many teach useful lessons, such as how to stand up to a bully, understand disabilities or accept people’s differences. See the whole first month of school as an opportunity to share read-alouds such as the ones on my Top 10 List , and your child will build confidence in his school transition way into the school year. You'll also find a few titles to add to your family's favorites to revisit annually.

Be sure to download my Top 10 List of Back to School Read Alouds now!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016 19:07

Creating a Homework Haven at Home

Back-to-school season can be a distressing few weeks leading up to the first day in the classroom for so many kids. While some of the angst around this return to routine makes sense – after all, days get colder and shorter and we need to get back to tighter schedules and earlier bedtimes – there are also a few things we can do to ease this transition and actually make it an empowering time for kids.

Many kids dread, and even fear homework. Even the word can spark anxiety in some children (and parents!). This is understandable; as kids get older the homework gets harder and the time spent on it gets longer. However, you can be prepared in advance and lessen anxiety by creating a homework sanctuary of sorts for your child to feel safe, even empowered, as he gets his work done.

The following are my top 5 ways to empower your child at homework time:

  1. Create a homework haven in the house somewhere that’s bright, cheery, and full of all the items he needs to get his work done efficiently, with minimal distractions. Consider the kitchen to be close to a helpful parent, or a bedroom if noise can be a problem.
  2. Don’t let it be obvious that you dread this time too. Children pick up on your emotional state. Instead, be as positive as you can about this learning experience, even when things get tough.
  3. If your child is having a rough time on homework, let the teacher know. There is no reason to struggle for hours over a few problems when really the child just needs more instruction.
  4. Get the hardest subjects done first when she is less tired; trying to tackle the hardest at the end is never a good idea!
  5. Set up an afternoon routine to get homework done before other evening activities whenever possible so it isn’t hanging over your child’s head.

For a simple, child-friendly checklist to organize a homework haven in your home, download my free resource below: How to Create a Homework Haven at Home.  

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Kids crave routine; they (and most adults) do best when they know what’s coming next and they can be ready for it. By having a homework routine and a space that is comfortable and efficient, it probably won’t make homework fun but it will make it easier to accomplish and more organized for return to school the next day. This in turn will definitely lessen the anxiety around homework in general and allow your child to focus on some more pleasurable activities each evening, perhaps even a little reading. 

Monday, 15 August 2016 01:40

In All Seriousness, Humor Works!

Don’t you just love a good laugh? Any kind of laugh is awesome, right? I mean, I’ll take a light chuckle, a hearty giggle or a deep belly laugh that leaves me teary-eyed and out of breath any day over being sad and gloomy. My guess is most humans, big and small, agree on this point. We all just like to be happy!

Scientific research proves the health benefits of laughter, and that it is really good for us! Without getting too medical-ly here, laughter promotes relaxation, stress reduction, socialization, improved communication and creativity, to name just a few benefits. For these reasons and more, people love to laugh and we all should be promoting more of it!

So how does this help with getting children to read?

Ask any child reading a book why they like it and I guarantee if it is funny, he will point that out. I have tested this over and over and every time without fail it happens. Kids tell me that they love funny books and they love books that make them LOL (If your child texts, you know that means laugh out loud). Sometimes those books tell silly stories, or have outrageous characters, or hysterical illustrations. Sometimes they are funny throughout, or just have funny parts sprinkled here and there. The ways a book can be funny are numerous, but the effect is still the same. They make kids happy, they make kids laugh, they make kids want to keep reading. Want to test me on this one? Go ahead! Just do a quick Google search on "funny books for kids" and see how many websites pop up with tons of recommendations. Why? Because there are dozens of great books out there that will make you laugh so hard you shoot milk out of your nostrils and my friends, we like to share the good stuff when we find it.

For a quick resource that gives you some awesome titles to pick up right now, download:

Dr. Carroll's Fast 5: Recommended Hysterical Picture Books for Kids of All Ages

As if you needed more reasons to find some funny books to put in front of you child, here are several:

  • NOTHING makes for a better read-aloud than a funny story. Really.
  • When your child has had a hard day at school, a funny book can pull her out of a funk.
  • Some funny stories actually teach lessons, have a moral, or help you drive home a parenting point. Use them accordingly.
  • Some funny stories have absolutely no point to them whatsoever except they are just funny. That is perfectly fine too and makes for lighthearted reading which is a benefit unto itself. 
  • Humor may just be the absolute easiest way to hook a reluctant reader to open a book. Start with funny books if you just don’t know where to start. I promise, you can’t go wrong!
  • Sometimes the illustrations are the funniest part. Use them in a read-aloud to get your child talking about what the illustrator is trying to say through pictures.
  • Authors who use humor are often crafty in their language. Maybe the book is rhyme-y or poetic. Funny language can be a great tool for easily remembering new vocabulary words.

Last week on the blog we covered how to create a reader-friendly home. In that article and in the free essential checklist  available for you to download, I suggested you set up a book nook; a place for your child to get cozy and read. I also suggested making a basket of books and other readable items for your child to always have access to (keep it in a SUPER conspicuous location!). Today I build on those recommendations for your child who avoids reading. Fill that book nook and book basket with loads of humor and you’ll have a whole lot less trouble pealing him away from the video game console. Go ahead, test it out. I can't wait until you see the results!

Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let me know how it goes. 

Creating nooks for tablets, books and kids cozying up to reading

Look around your home. Go ahead - take a stroll through each room and ask yourself as you wander around, “Does my home invite my child to read?” As you do this, be sure to change your lens for the moment. Instead of a parent lens, the one that measures every area for its tidiness, efficiency, and decorative style, view your home instead through the eyes of a child, particularly one that avoids reading.

Now, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my home have areas that are cozy and that a child can curl up and be comfortable?
  • Does my home have quiet places, away from the sounds of a TV, loud conversations, or other noisy distractions?
  • Are there areas my child can read where there are no electronic gadgets? (TV, computer, etc.)
  • Are there cozy areas that include spaces for books and other reading materials to be displayed?
  • Do we keep reading materials out and available for my child to access readily (instead of always
    tidying up” and moving reading materials out of sight).
  • Do we include words, letters, comics, poems, and other fun sources of writing around in our home?
  • Do we make distractions like video games hard to access while making reading materials easy to reach?
  • Is my child’s bedroom a no TV zone?

If you answered “Yes!” to any of the above questions, you are on your way to creating a reader-friendly environment. Kudos to you – I bet your child is benefitting from this effort by feeling an invitation to read and interact with words.

After the assessment, did you determine that you need to take it up a few reader-friendly notches? Don’t worry! Follow these quick tips on how you can alter just a few things fast and rearrange with ease to get your child wrestling with words and loving it! Use  my free essential checklist to keep track of your progress. Get it below!

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Print it and hang it on the fridge, reminding you to work on a cozy corner or book nook when you have the time. Before you know it, you’ll have several spots calling out to your child to come read.

Top 10 tips to creating cozy nooks and book havens right at home without spending lots of time or money:

  1. Look for spaces you already have that just need a little tweaking to improve. Is there already a child-sized chair in the corner? Be sure to surround it with books and toss a throw on the arm to up the inviting-ness.
  2. Have an empty basket sitting around? Fill it with books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, printed items off the web and anything else you find that is readable. Put that basket out for your child trip over (err, I mean find) so it’s super easy to access.
  3. No perfect child chair right now? No problem! Throw some brightly colored pillows on the grown-up easy chair to size it down for kids. If your kids are really little, position a step stool to the side for easy climbing.
  4. Where are the video games and other distracting devices? If they are within easy arms’ reach of your child, get them out of there and into someplace harder to reach. Use a closet, a storage bin, an armoire or anyplace that will take just a little more effort to play them and insist they are returned after each (time-limited) session. Think to yourself what you’d choose if the cookies were always easier to grab than the carrots…
  5. Make your child’s room a TV free zone. Be sure there is a bookcase instead, or at least a stack of books/magazines/readable stuff someplace in view. If your child is younger, decorate the walls with letters and use an alphabet bedspread.  For older children, consider decal words on the wall, a chalkboard paint wall, posters of popular books (and those turned into movies) and a bedspread with words. Bonus points: Every child should have access to magnetic poetry someplace at home!
  6. Be sure that there is a place in the home where your child can read and relax free from too much noise (think TVs, running appliances, etc.). If that is a challenge due to space, try to carve out some minimal noise times when quietness is preserved and your child can associate reading with relaxing and destressing.
  7. Good lighting in a reading area is essential! Invest in a fluorescent lamp or put some bright LED bulbs into a big table lamp and keep it in the reading zone. The more light, the easier it is on everyone’s eyes (and the longer your child will be able to read as well).
  8. Involve your child in decorating the area. Ask him to pick out some posters or artwork he created to hang in the special spot so it is a meaningful place he associates with positivity.
  9. Vary the text collection and keep it interesting. Be sure to rotate the books and magazines regularly so there is always something fresh and new to read. Also make sure that the choices align to your child’s interests so she’ll gravitate to the topics naturally.
  10. If your child prefers devices, keep a Kindle, Nook or other tablet available with reading material at the ready. This is a perfectly acceptable substitute to paper books and for some kids who are tech-inclined, a preferable option.

Try some or all of these ideas today and see how your child adjusts to his new surroundings! You may include him in the entire process to get his buy-in, or do it on the down-low as a surprise and make him feel special. Either way, let me know how it goes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Be sure to print out my essential checklist on how to make your home more reader-friendly!

 While the weather is warm and the days are long, we all want to get outside and frolick in nature. Parents and kids alike need this time to unplug, unwind, and breathe in some fresh air before we have to think about all the to-dos that September brings. If you are a parent of a child who doesn't like to read (or has trouble with reading), the following are a few ways you can use the excitement of an upcoming outdoor adventure to encourage your child to do read both before and during your summer fun.

Maybe you already know this truth... 

Excitement breeds interest in reading!

One of the absolute best ways to get a reluctant readers' eyes on some words is to have those words be something he cares about, deeply. So if you are heading out to an activity that your child is seriously psyched about, then you have a perfect tool in your toolbox to encourage some reading to happen both before you go and while you're there. This is because it is natural for kids to want to learn about what they are interested in, and want more of that thing that gets them pumped up to begin with. So as a parent, give them more, and do it through the words of a great story or nonfiction book.

(Get my Quick Guide on top recommendations for summer reading based on your next adventure - below!)

Get the Quick Guide now!

Let's Break it Down:

Here's an example on how to do this. Your family is headed to the beach for the weekend. You're packing swimsuits and flipflops, sunblock and sunglasses, beach towels and...you are absolutely NOT going to forget the sand toys because your kid LOVES to build sandcastles more than anything else when he gets his toes on the white stuff. Sand castles are the bomb dot com in your house and boy is this kid ready to go!

Now, knowing that you have this kind of enthusiasm harnessed, you grab some books (see my Quick Guide) to read aloud BEFORE you go. You choose books that are all related to the topic your child is super passionate about right now. Drum roll...sandcastles! From stories to how-tos, you gave the librarian the list of picture books you wanted and she had your back. She also threw in a few shorter chapter books about kids on the beach for good measure. You read these books at bedtime together the week before you hit the beach, and you offer them to your child to read in the car, before bed and on the one rainy day. He takes to them with gusto. Books get read AND everyone learns something more to hone this castle-making ability. 

 Here's the thing: Kids who love to build sand castles (or anything else) but don't like to read will be:

  • MUCH more interested in listening to you read stories about the beach and sandcastles when their energy is high for the same subject
  • MUCH more willing to read a how-to book to perfect their sandcastle building skills (those turrets are HARD!) before they go and while there than just about any other book
  • MUCH more willing to read a chapter book on said subject because it all ties in and completes the beautiful picture

Of course this works with any topic and any adventure! What are you doing this summer? Check out my FREE Quick Guide to Summer Adventure Reading to get fabulous recommendations from all around the web. You'll be prepared for the rest of the summer!

Get the Quick Guide now!

 Parents may get a little bored of reading aloud (gasp!) once in a while since when we're on our game, we are doing it every night. So while it's good to shake it up a bit, we don't want to throw bedtime stories completely out the window when we can't take another read aloud on the edge of the bed. What can parents do then to keep them interesting? The following are ideas to ensure you keep the routine in your evenings while also keeping it fun (for everyone!).

1. Find a different spot. Is your usual seat on the couch in the den, or at the edge of your child’s bed after tucking him in? While routines are great to establish because they set up lifetime habits, sometimes it can be fun to do something unusual. Tonight, try reading to your child while she’s sudsing in a warm bath. This gets two tasks done at once and the warm water helps induce a sleepy effect. Or why not pitch a tent in the backyard, or a blanket-tent in the living room to read in with flashilghts? Be creative, and help your child see that reading can be playful.

2. Pick a theme and stick with it. If you’re randomly trying every book in the library, narrow down the options by choosing one topic and going with it for a while. This month, ask your librarian to pull some themed illustrated books off the shelf and put them aside for you to pick up. Then each night before bedtime, read from the stack until you reach the bottom. When you read books focused on one topic that is connected to something relevant (pumpkins, elves, rain or summer fun!) it makes the reading more appealing.

Download my FREE top 10 Wordless Book Recommendations for when you want imagination to take over!

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3. Pre-judge the book. You know the saying, never judge a book by its cover? Well, that old saying is just that, old. You can and should make pre-judgements about a book based on the cover and the title (and then go ahead and read it together to see if you were right). Take a guess if the story will be funny, happy, sad or silly. Predict with your child what will happen based on the cover. Use this sentence starter, “I think ____________ will happen because ___________” Then as you read, decide if one or both of you are right or if somewhere along the way you need to change your prediction.

4. Try a graphic novel. Yes, they are like comic books and YES, they make for awesome reading! Graphic novels are super popular today and even reluctant readers love them. It feels like you’re not even reading a book (but you are) and the stories can be entertaining. Not sure where to start? Disney has a line of graphic novels that you might like to try, with popular titles such as Figment and Space Mountain.  

 

5. Up-level your book choices. So Harry Potter might be too hard for your child to read on his own yet, but it could be the perfect story for you to read to him. Try choosing some high interest chapter books that your child will love but can’t access by himself and read aloud a chapter a night. If the chapters are long, even a half a chapter will do – you can stop at a cliffhanger somewhere in the middle. Your child will get to hear some of the great books that older kids are reading (every young’un loves that!) and can also pick-up some key vocabulary along the way. Don’t worry about the lack of pictures either. A riveting story is told in words. Suggest your child closes her eyes and imagines the pictures instead. She’ll get to make the characters her own and she might actually fall asleep a little faster too!

Bedtime stories are critical for your child’s reading growth so don’t let boredom have you opting out. Keep mixing it up to avoid excuses getting in the way of some quality read aloud time. Even just 10 minutes a night can have amazing benefits, and may even help everyone doze off a little easier.

Don't say goodbye without downloading my free Top 10 Wordless Picture Book Recommendations and make reading aloud a story-telling adventure!

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