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Monday, 15 August 2016 01:40

In All Seriousness, Humor Works!

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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. 

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 07:16

Easy Ways to Create a Reader-Friendly Home for Your Child

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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!

Access Now

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!

Friday, 08 July 2016 06:09

Beat Bedtime Story Blues with These Tips!

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 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!

Access Now >>

 

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!

Access Now >>

Thursday, 30 April 2015 00:00

Your Child's Magical 'A-ha!' Moment While Reading

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Hello Parents!

Let’s talk about the a-ha! moment. You know, that awesome feeling a child gets when she comprehends what she is reading. I am sure you agree, having an a-ha moment while engaged with text is one of the most satisfying experiences a child can have every single day if we help her to recognize it. After all, children should be reading every day, so this is a great way to give them a successful feeling about their accomplishments.

What does an a-ha! moment look like? Here are a few tell-tale signs that the light bulb went on for comprehension when your child reads:

  • A big smile
  • Child wants to read further
  • Child has many questions about the story due to interest or curiosity (vs. confusion)
  • Child can retell or summarize what she has read without trouble
  • Child can sit for a while and read without being easily distracted
  • Child wants to read the book again, or more books that are similar in story, length, illustrations, etc

Look for these signs while your child has a book in her hands! Then, ask her to tell you about why she is engaged, and what she thinks about the story. Get her talking about reading, and that light bulb will stay on!

Want to know more about how to work with your child on comprehension? Check out my eBook, Reading Success: From Chaos to Comprehension here.

You can help your child be a happy, confident reader and I am here to help. Let’s do this!

All the best,

Dr. Colleen Carroll
5 Strategies, 10 minutes a Night! Your Child Can be a Happy, Confident Reader!

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