Start A New Tradition

Thanksgiving, 2021 is officially “in the books” and it’s time to move on and prepare for whatever winter holiday you celebrate. As the mother of five, I remember how hectic life could be during this time of year, but incorporating a family story time weekly or even daily, offers a wonderful way to slow down and reflect. Most traditional holiday tales offer beautiful language and opportunity for discussion. The longer stories can be shared a bite at a time and shorter ones read and digested in one sitting. Classic stories offer an opportunity to sooth frayed nerves and provide the closeness that is the true gift of the holiday season. A simple tradition this season, like family story time, offers rich dividends for everyone. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

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Set a Place at the Table for Literacy

No doubt, many of your Thanksgiving celebrations will include younger children. Why not arrive with a special story to share with them? The market abounds with a plethora of Thanksgiving picture books that delight the eye and ear, as well as evoking a generous dose of humor, compassion, friendship or love. Here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving texts for kids from three and beyond. Enjoy!

Part of the “How to Catch” series, written by Adam Wallace, How to Catch a Turkey is sure to provoke giggles from kids as well as adults. Turkey, himself, narrates this hilarious rhyming tale. Turkey is set to appear in the school play, but when he develops a bad case of stage fright, things get out of hand as teachers and students try to catch him. Enjoy this unique picture book, along with your turkey.

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson unites Bear with his forest friends who want to have a party. Everyone contributes, but Bear has nothing to give. This sweet, rhymed picture book features lovable characters, and highlights the theme of friendship and the various gifts we all have to share.

I Spy Happy Thanksgiving Book by Heather Laine is the perfect after-dinner activity. Let the little ones gather together and enjoy using the clues to figure out each puzzle. In addition to the activities, children will be delighted with the beautiful fall colors and cute illustrations.

The Story of the Pilgrims brings to life the first Thanksgiving feast. This historical fiction text will appeal to a children of any age. Author Carolyn Chock has crafted a book full of delightful illustrations and interesting facts making it the kind of text that may just slip into your holiday traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

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Deck the Halls with Literacy

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Hi, Everyone!

To past faithful followers of this blog along with any new people who are just discovering it, I say, “Welcome”. Since I began blogging several years ago, this is longest I’ve ever gone without reaching out via a post. Today, I am renewing my commitment and hope to craft informative, motivating and entertaining posts that encourage you in your journey to nurture the literacy development of your children, students or grandchildren. As always, I would love to hear from you. Many voices enrich the experience and provide support for all. Additionally, if you have an interest or expertise in Reading or any of the Language Arts and would like to write a guest post, please contact me at reada50@gmail.com

Thanksgiving week is upon us and the hustle and bustle will begin. Amidst the holiday activities, it takes a conscious effort to find ways to embed literacy learning and support in our daily round. From now until the end of December, my posts will focus on offering gift ideas (books, journals, games and the like) that are related to literacy, as well as practical suggestions to keep kids engaged and entertained while advancing their literacy skills.

I’m lucky enough to have eleven grandchildren ranging in age from two to sixteen. Frequently, gifts from Mimi include a book. Over the next few weeks, I’ll suggest several books for each age group. Today, I’ll begin with the little ones. This is a magical time for children in the two to four age group. Seasonal books add to the magic and fun. At this age, it’s smart to be very selective when you purchase these books. A special holiday book, can become a cherished text that returns years after year and becomes a familiar friend.

Last year, stymied as to what to give our two youngest grands, I decided to purchase an attractive box for each of them, labeling it “Holiday Books”. Each week, I purchased one or two books related to the holiday season and took time to write a personal note inside each one. The boys loved receiving them, enjoyed them repeatedly with their parents and when the season ended, their Mom tucked them away in the special box. This year, I will repeat the process. My hope is to create a library of these seasonal books that they will enjoy, save and eventually pass on to their children.

Do you have any ideas for holiday gift giving, activities or games that give literacy a lift? Please share any and all good suggestions. Look for my next post where I’ll review a few favorite holiday titles for the little people in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Book Club Anyone?

Image result for book clubs

Hi, Everyone. Sorry I’ve been inactive over the last few weeks. Sometimes, life simply gets in the way. I’m hoping you are enjoying your summer in spite of Covid. This virus is like watching a scary movie. Just when you think the worst is over, the bad guy pops up again with more vengeance than ever. Like most people, we’ve relaxed the reins just a bit over the last month or so. When I came home from my annual check-up, hubby and I discussed the doctor’s recommendations and realized that we must keep our guard up and not open ourselves (and others) to this virus. Sadly, we all must make sacrifices and it’s not easy. In my heart, I do  believe it’s worth it. Like my husband says, if you roll the dice enough times, your luck will run out. Please be cautious and stay well. Okay. Enough for my PSA for the day.

Recently, I listened to two teacher/authors discussing the social aspect of reading. Reading is a social act. No doubt, kids are struggling as much as adults as they try interact with each other appropriately during this challenging time. These teachers brought up the idea of book clubs as a way to allow youngsters to enjoy the social aspects of reading. Obviously, kids could easily participate in book clubs virtually, which would be ideal right now. In addition to Covid, many people are away for periods of time during the summer, and a virtual book club could be the perfect way to motivate kids to read and enable them to stay connected at the same time.

If you and your youngsters want to organize a virtual book club, here are a few suggestions. Feel free to throw out any questions or ideas you may want to add:

  1. Limit the size of the group. Four to a maximum of eight would probably work best.
  2. Offer three possible book choices and let the youngsters vote on the one they want to read.
  3. Help the kids divide the book into appropriate sections to be read within the week or whenever they decide to meet again.  50 to 100 pages a week should be doable for most children in grades 4 to 8. The expectation is that each participate will read those pages prior to the next meeting so that they can discuss them.
  4. Choose a day and time that the club will meet.
  5. One adult should be the moderator and help set up the technology and get each meeting started.
  6. Start the process all over again for each book that the kids choose to read.
  7. Have fun with it!

This year, summer reading is more important than ever. When school opens, it will almost definitely be a combination of distance and in-person learning. Therefore, it’s imperative that students avoid the deadly “summer slide” and don’t start the school year behind. Regular reading is the best way to insure that reading skills remain sharp. Consider the benefits of starting a book club for your kids and their buddies.

BOOK SUGGESTIONS:

Image result for shouting at the rain lynda mullaly hunt  Heartwarming and beautifully crafted tale of a young girls wrestling with changing friendships and questions of family. Perfect summer read for girls ages 9 to 14.

Image result for Everything KIds Football BookRecommended by my ten-year old grandson, this book explains the nuts and bolts of every aspect of football. It includes tips for both playing and understanding the game. A gem for any young (or old) football fan or even for grand mom’s like me who want to learn more about the game.

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Did You Know?

 

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Let’s keep talking and learning about reading aloud and it’s importance. After writing Tuesday’s blog, I decided to search out some recent statistics. Some were encouraging and others thought provoking. Although I’m not a “numbers girl”, I find statistics fascinating. Sometimes I find statistics a powerful motivator and other times a powerful source of shame. Today, I’ll share some of the statistics I found, simply to give you something to gnaw on. What’s your reaction? How do these statistics impact you personally?

According to the “2019 Kids & Family Reading Report” from Scholastic:

“Reading aloud is important, and it’s on the rise since the study started looking for it in 2014.”

“But reading aloud peaks at age 5 and falls off precipitously after ages 6 to 8. Parents say they stop or decrease reading aloud because children can read on their own.”

In 2016, a survey conducted by YouGov for the non-profit Read Aloud 15 Minutes found that, “fewer than half of parents read aloud to their children every day, and only 34% do so for at least 15 minutes. Fewer than one in 10 parents reported reading aloud daily for 15 minutes from birth, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Additionally this survey determined that “fewer than half of parents read aloud to their children every day, and only 34% do so for at least 15 minutes. Fewer than one in 10 parents reported reading aloud daily for 15 minutes from birth, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

An article in Science News, April 4, 2019, provided this summary of research conducted by Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at Ohio State University:

“Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a new study found. This ‘million word gap’ could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development.”

Your thoughts? Let’s have a conversation about reading aloud. I welcome your comments and will pick up this discussion in my next post. Stay well!

 

 

 

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The Secret Ingredients of a Successful Read Aloud

Sometimes, life hits you hard and it’s all you can do to get through the day (or week, as in this case). My beloved brother-in-law passed on June 6th. He fought through a multitude of health problems over the last ten years and due to his COPD, needed oxygen regularly for the last year. When he contracted Covid, again his fighting spirit allowed him to eventually test negative for the virus and leave the hospital to return the medical center of his care facility. That, in turn, allowed him to have several personal  visits with his wife and six children. We were lucky enough to “see” him on Zoom for a few minutes. By the time of his death, we were in the “yellow phase” and able to have a limited viewing, Mass and burial for Larry. We are so grateful that he did not pass alone in the hospital.

My sister is ten years older than me and I knew Larry since I was five years old. The relationship both my husband and I had with him, was close, influential and loving. Although we prepared for his death, it still rocked our world. Needless to say, blogging was the last thing on my mind last week. Now it’s time to return to normal, bask in our wonderful memories and live out the life lessons Larry modeled for us. 

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I hope everyone enjoyed the previous post by Andrea Denish. It certainly got me thinking about fostering literacy in our youngest children. Of one thing I’m certain…if you want to raise a reader, reading aloud is essential. With that thought in mind, I reached for my worn copy of Reading Magic, by Mem Fox. When it comes to promoting reading in very young children, Fox’s text is the most powerful book I know on this topic. That’s why I include a copy with every baby gift I give.

As I once again picked through the early chapters of this book, one of the concepts that stood out for me was the importance of attitude and emotion when we are reading aloud to children. Fox writes, “the fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading”. The blending of these three elements lifts the read-aloud to a new level, reeling the child in and creating a meaningful, pleasurable experience. And what happens when we experience pleasure? We want more!

Reading these words brought me back to the bedtime stories I often read to my own kids. Let me tell you, they weren’t usually the “rollicking good time” Fox mentions, complete with  discussion, laughter, appropriate pauses and noticings that Fox suggests. Although I enjoyed that time with my children, often I was tired, skipped pages if I could get away with it, and felt anxious to finish the book, kiss the little one, turn out the light and call it a day. Ever feel like that? Nevertheless, I am totally convinced (much more than I was as a young mother) of the life-changing benefits of reading aloud. Furthermore, I am convinced that kids are never too old for a read aloud. If I had it to do over again, here’s what I would do to improve the experience and eck the most out of the time I spent reading aloud:

  1. Learn more about reading aloud. Sometimes we only need to improve a little bit. A few ideas can spark confidence and transform our approach. If you have young children, Mem Fox’s book will hit the mark. If you have older children, find other blogs and books that encourage and support you.
  2. Make anytime reading time. It’s a joy to visit the home of my son and his wife. They have two boys, ages one and two. Books that the boys love are everywhere. A basket in the kitchen, more on shelves in the family room, more baskets in their bedrooms and even some in the closets upstairs. When the two- year-old shows curiosity about a subject, they find a book to quench his thirst for knowledge. Although they do read bedtime stories, reading is not relegated to bedtime. Books permeate their day. They talk about books, the boys hold up books they love when we Face Time, and even at this young age, their the kids delight in receiving a new book. My Reading teacher’s heart just knows that these boys are on the road to a lifelong love of reading.                                                                                                                  It’s summer, kids are home and “the livin is easy”. What books will you read today? How will you capitalize on the time you spend engaged in reading aloud? Psych yourself up, approach it with zest. The attitude and emotion with which you read a story will have a positive pay-off.

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Words & Music to Lift Your Spirit

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For several years, I’ve been a member of Ambler Station Singers. This beautiful group of people meet on Wednesday evenings from September through June to practice for their two major concerts at Christmas and at the end of the season. More importantly, this group also performs in nursing homes and other public venues throughout Montgomery County. Naturally, when the pandemic occurred, we had to cease public practices.

However, our director, Lisa VanHeldorf, is nothing if not relentless. Within weeks, she arranged for us to meet via zoom. Before long, she had the idea to create a virtual rendition of “Thankful”, by the prolific composer, John Rutter. Between the technology and my mediocre singing voice, I did not participate in this endeavor, but those who did have created an touching treat that I wanted to share with you.

It goes without saying that Covid-19 and the recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd, have affected all of us. When I listened to these amazing voices and the message of this song, I knew I had to put this out to as many people as possible. Whatever your political leanings, I’m sure we can all agree that a positive attitude and spirit of gratitude can go a long way towards coming together to work on the many issues that plague our country and our world.

Click on this link and scroll down a bit to find “Thankful”. Please take a moment to be still and to listen with your heart. Please share this with your children and extended family and friends. Like these dedicated singers, let’s all send our talents and our voices out into the world in an effort to inspire, to heal and to love. Enjoy! amblerstationsingers.com

 

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Raise a Reader

Hi, Friends. Today, I’m excited to offer this guest post from a Andrea Denish, author of a newly published picture book. Andrea has put together some terrific ideas and resources, especially for younger readers. As a special treat, Andrea has included the a You Tube link, where you and your children can hear her read her book, Everyone Loves A Parade. Enjoy!DSCN2366.jpg

I am so onboard with the mission of this blog, Nurturing Literacy, and was delighted when Rita asked me to write a guest post. As a preschool teacher and library assistant, I have seen first hand how raising children with an interest in books changes and shapes a young mind. Among many other important benefits, reading to your child increases curiosity, promotes the ability to develop empathy and fosters language skills. This blog has offered so many great resources to parents to help young readers. I’d like to chime in with some additional suggestions to help your child reap the benefits of being a lifelong reader.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten – If you have not heard about this program, check out this website: https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/ As the name suggests, this program challenges parents to read 1,000 books by kindergarten. When you break down the number to roughly 250 books per year – that’s less than one per day. It’s definitely a can-do. The website offers incentives and book logs, but if that seems too overwhelming, try a goal of reading with your child at least a few minutes each day. Simple board books at first and perhaps early readers by Kindergarten. When you make reading a habit like brushing your teeth, you have done a wonderful thing for your child.

Visit the library and bookstore regularly – Sign your child up for a library card and find out where upcoming programs are posted. Taking advantage of story times and other exciting program offerings will change your life! Not only will your child benefit from making connections to literature, the social connections for your child and you as a parent will be worthwhile. Meeting children in the same age group in your town will often lead to playdates and friendships. Best of all, most of these programs are FREE.

Find the book connection – Maybe your child can’t get enough of the onscreen characters – Disney princesses, Paw Patrol or the Avengers. Double down on their obsession by finding books featuring their favorites. Some children are more constructive with building toys or science toys. Check out the non-fiction section of the library or bookstore. Yes, there are books about Legos and Minecraft.

What if???? – Maybe you would like your child to be a reader, but you do not feel confident in your own reading ability or maybe your native language is not English. There are audio books available for you and your child to listen to together. If you have access to the internet, there are many, many videos you can access to experience virtual storytime. Here’s a link to my book, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7J5aI2IUI4&t=115s Everyone Loves a Parade!* Find a comfy spot and allow yourself to be transported to the crowded streets of a noisy, festive parade – all from your own couch.

I hope you found something to help you and your child continue on your reading adventures. It’s never too early or too late to start. There are books available for every reason, every season, no matter your age or income – reading is for everyone.

Andrea Denish works in the children’s section of the Abington Free Library and teaches preschool science. She is the author of the recently released children’s picture book,

Everyone Loves a Parade!* (Boyds Mills & Kane). Find her at www.andreadenish.com.

Andrea’s book is available at online retailers – Amazon, B&N, Indiebound.

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Don’t Miss Out – Free Summer Reading Program

“Reading is a vacation for the mind.” Dave Barry

In my last blog post, I promised to explain the details of a summer reading plan I’ve designed to keep kids reading. In my opinion, summer reading programs should be enjoyable and simple. Hopefully, this plan meets that criteria. Basically, youngsters will choose a book to read, fill in the reading log at the beginning and end of the week and participate in a short zoom meeting with others in his/her group. Parents will provide support by helping kids set weekly goals, choose books, offer gentle reminders to read, and log youngsters into the weekly zoom meeting. Easy peasy!

This program will kick off with a zoom meeting on Monday, June 1st and continue through Monday, July 6th. Covid 19 has taken a toll and disrupted normal education. This is my way of helping out, so I am offering this to my followers at no cost.

Benefits

  • Goal setting provides motivation
  • Zoom meetings provide accountability and an opportunity to discuss books with kids their own age
  • Minimum parental support is required because a plan is in place

Parent Responsibilities

  • Help child set a realistic weekly goal
  • Help child find an appropriate book
  • Make sure child fills in the log each week
  • Help child log into the weekly zoom meeting, which will probably be on Monday morning

Participant’s Responsibilities

  • Choose an interesting, appropriate book
  • Set a weekly goal for the number of pages you want to read
  • Fill in the reading log at the beginning and end of the week
  • Participate in a short weekly zoom meeting

Materials

  • Reading Log
  • Independent reading book
  • Internet access

Criteria

  • Students must be entering fourth or fifth grade to be eligible for Group 1
  • Students must be entering sixth or seventh grade to be eligible for Group 2
  • Parents must follow this blog
  • Each group will be capped at eight students

To Enroll Your Child

  • If you are not already following this blog, please follow now to be eligible
  • Go to the Contact page on this blog and send me an email. Please include your name and your child’s name and grade.
  • If you are among the first eight responses I receive for each group, I will send you an email which will include the reading log and additional details.
  • Please respond as soon as possible but no later then noon on Sunday, May 31st.

Please note: My apologies, but my contact info is not showing up when I view this blog on my phone. Please use your computer or tablet to find it. Sorry about that!

I’m excited to work with your and your child!

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Keep Kids Reading This Summer

Teachers around the world are presenting their last round of lessons and packing up classrooms that haven’t seen students in months. One of the strangest school years in history is ending and Summer is almost here.

No doubt, most teachers will warn of the dreaded “summer slide”, which refers to the tendency for students to lose some of the gains they made academically over the school year. Educators often offer suggestions to help maintain learning in all areas, and almost always emphasis the need for kids to read regularly during the summer.

Over the last few months, educators have worked diligently to prepare and execute their lessons and serve students as well as possible in spite of distance learning. But, we all know, that for youngsters, nothing takes the place of the traditional classroom setting. I’m sure you agree that this summer it is more important than ever to ensure that your kids are reading on a regular basis so they don’t fall even further behind.

Bet you parents are shaking your heads yes, vowing that will happen for your kids this summer. It just makes sense and sounds so easy. How well I remember my own good intentions once summer rolled around. I had visions of our five kids, reading every morning before we went to the pool. When that didn’t happen, I would insist they read before dinner, before going out to play, before bedtime. Somehow, it never quite came off the way I expected. Sound familiar?

My teacher’s heart knows that summer reading is essential, but I still have the brain of a mom and must admit that too often, summer reading fell by the wayside. That was a long time ago. Since then, I became a Reading specialist and learned the facts about summer reading or lack thereof. Since then, I worked with children who had barely cracked a book all summer and saw first-hand the meaning of “summer slide”. Students that were reading on grade level in June, often returned several levels below. That gap took a long to regain and ate up valuable time meant for new learning. Most recently, Covid-19 reared its ugly head, stealing away the personal attention so many students desperately need.

Benefits of Regular Reading During Summer

In case you’re skeptical, here a just a few of the benefits of summer reading for students in every grade:

  • Enables students to maintain progress they have made
  • Increases vocabulary
  • Increases reading stamina
  • Enhances fluency
  • Builds background knowledge
  • Provides opportunity to practice decoding and comprehension skills & strategies
  • Provides opportunity to read in various genres
  • Introduces students to new authors
  • Instills competence and confidence

This summer, more than ever before, parents and youngsters deserve support for this vital endeavor. For this reason, I am creating a free virtual plan to guide parents in the challenging quest to have youngsters read regularly. This plan also offers a level of support to kids, enabling them to take control of their reading and share (virtually) with other youngsters.

There will be two groups, one for students entering grades four and five, and one for students entering grades six and seven. It will be open to children of anyone following this blog, but groups will be capped at eight students each. My goal is to simplify the process and motivate kids to read, while at the same time, reducing some of the stress on parents.

Interested? Don’t miss my post on Thursday, May 28, where I’ll provide more details. Here’s hoping it’s a happy and literate summer.

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