Three ways to prepare for your summer read-aloud challenge


Perhaps you’ve reflected on the amazing benefits of regular read-alouds and are ready to consider tangible ways to prepare so once we turn the calendar to July, your read aloud routine will easily slip into your summer days and the magic can begin.

Let’s think about three important aspects…When are you going to read aloud?  What are you going to read-aloud and Where are you going to read aloud? Only you know the schedule and structure of your family.  Consider some optimal times that work for you. For example, first thing in the morning, serve up breakfast and while the kids are at the table, start the day with an article, a poem or a few pages from a novel that all of you are enjoying. Maybe, you go to the swim club or beach several days a week. Can you find some shade, gather your water-logged kiddos around you and read? How about late afternoon, when everyone is ready to chill out and relax? The main “rule” is to keep it simple and flexible. When you read aloud to your kids, you are the magician weaving a spell and holding the power to effect change. Relax and set a realistic goal-even once a week is better than nothing, then give thought to when this will fit into your schedule.

What will you read?  The answer, anything that entices your children. Many of you will be reading aloud to multiple-age youngsters. Don’t let that deter you. Remember that a child’s listening level is higher than a child’s reading level. Listening to intricate language patterns and rich vocabulary will benefit all ages. Also, keep in mind that older children often enjoy revisiting cherished picture books that remind them of when they “were little”.  Rely on my July blog posts to offer a host of suggestions and check out other appropriate resources for ideas. Sometime soon, take yourself (and your kids) to the library and choose a variety of picture books (fiction and non-fiction) and also a few children’s novels to consider.

Where will you read?  Of course, there’s some overlap between the where and when, but some folks may have success setting up a special haven in their home for read-alouds. Do you have a cozy corner in the family room, a big shade tree out back, or a wonderful deck or porch? What special spots in your everyday environment invite closeness, confidences, and congeniality? How about read-alouds in the car using audiobooks? For many, this is a win/win, cutting down on commotion and keeping the kids entertained while on the road. Look for more about audiobooks in a future post.

So for the next few days, devote yourself to a little preparation and set yourself up for a successful read-aloud challenge.

FootprintONE SMALL STEP:  Talk to your children and jot down their favorite authors, genres, and books they want to read then borrow some of them from the library so you can see if they would be appropriate read-alouds for your youngsters.




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Motivation Magic

I don’t know about you, but before I undertake a new project or challenge, I definitely need to psych myself up. For example, if I’m going to take the time, trouble and money to redo a room, I visualize the end product and think about how good I’ll feel when the room is re-organized, repainted and renewed. That usually motivates me enough to choose a paint color and get started. For me, motivation is magic. Considering the perks spurs me to action and infuses me with enthusiasm.

So before you commit to reading aloud regularly this summer, let’s try a little motivation magic to get you pumped up.  If you’re reading this blog, you probably are looking for ways to support your fourth through eighth graders literacy development. If you have kids in this age range, you are probably already aware of the research correlating time kids spend reading with gains in reading comprehension and vocabulary. In terms of setting your children up for academic success, reading aloud/reading together is the magic, proven to positively impact academic success. Powerful stuff! But for now, let’s focus on some of the long-term effects of reading aloud in addition to those that are academic.

We all know that once kids reach the Intermediate grades, things begin to change. They have a slew of distractions that intrude on family time. Friends, activities, new hobbies and responsibilities begin to pull them away.  That’s natural and yet, most parents want to slow down time once in a while and share enjoyable and meaningful experiences that will last a lifetime. For the child, it’s a time of questioning, figuring things out, developing a value system. Most parents want to have an active role in their child’s emotional development, guiding them as they grow into knowledgeable, compassionate, well-rounded people. Simply put, reading aloud on a regular basis is one of the best ways to do just that.

Modern life often finds family members going in different directions. The family dinner is becoming a thing of the past, the Internet keeps us glued to our screens, sometimes to the exclusion of one another and often both parents hold down full-time jobs. Additionally, kids are exposed to conflict and crisis everyday as they watch the news and witness violence and divisiveness. How is a loving parent going to combat these pressures?  May I suggest that choosing appropriate, appealing and well-written texts opens children’s minds and hearts. Sharing time on a regular basis, not only to read-aloud, but to laugh, enjoy a common experience and share reactions can create amazing positive changes in the life of your family and your child.

A few days ago I shared a post entitled, Reconnect Through Reading  In it, I alluded to several news articles citing the depression, isolation, addiction and other deep emotional maladies affecting college kids today.  My experience and research shows that reading aloud can be a powerful way to fight these problems. When parents share themselves, along with good literature, it builds a bond that deepen the lines of communication, provide authentic teaching moments, and let a child know they are worth the time and energy to reconnect through reading.

As you may sense, I am passionate about fostering this activity in homes. Won’t you consider the many positive effects of reading aloud to your  kids this summer? Remember that reading aloud is just as necessary and powerful for our intermediate-age children as for little ones. Thing about it, get psyched, and I’ll be back with a post on some tangible preparations  to set yourself up for success. I’d love to hear your comments and questions.

Footprint  One Small Step: Think about a book or story that impacted you when you were young. Wouldn’t you like to share it with your own children? 

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Summer Read-Aloud Challenge

sunHappy First Day of Summer!  It’s finally arrived and no doubt you and your family have high expectations for the days ahead. The end of school signals a change in the family routine and as the song says, “the living is easy”. Like magic, blocks of time to relax and enjoy one another appear. Summer is the perfect time to share experiences and build memories.

In his famous book, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey encourages us to “Begin with the end in mind.” Wise parents will give thought to the hopes, dreams and goals they have for their family as summer begins. If your hope includes fostering a closer relationship with your kids, enhancing your children’s            self-esteem, spending quality time together, fostering a love of reading and enhancing reading comprehension, enjoying common experiences, increasing meaningful conversation and creating wonderful memories, the Summer Read-Aloud Challenge is for you.

Wait…don’t run away yet. This is not complicated project that will become just another task on your plate. The Summer Reading Challenge is simply a personal commitment to read aloud to your kids on a regular basis. YOU decide what that “regular basis” is for your family and I’ll support you by sharing the many perks of reading aloud, hints that will prepare you for success and great reading resources to keep you dedicated to the challenge. Additionally, I invite all of you to comment and share your ideas so we can all benefit from each others knowledge and experiences.

From now until the end of June, my blog posts will focus on motivation and preparation so that when July begins, regular read-alouds will easily become part of your family’s summer activities. See the “One Small Step” below to get you started.

Footprint  ONE SMALL STEP:  Come up with three special picture books you would  like to read or reread to your children and remember you are invited to share your idea with others by posting in the comments section.

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Reconnect Through Reading

Of late, I’ve not been able to blog because of yet another broken wrist. Hard to believe that I could break a wrist last July and again in May when we went to Arizona. Both times, it happened on a golf course. This time, the good news was that I broke my left wrist (I’m right-handed) but the bad news is that I broke both bones, required surgery and had to get a plate in my wrist. Several weeks of physical therapy have finally paid off and I’m able to type once again.

One of the perks of a broken wrist was more time to read and research. I’ve been reading a great deal about the benefits of reading aloud to youngsters of any age (yes, even teens). This literature was so convincing, that I determined I would devote most of my summer blogs to encouraging you, my reader, to seriously commit to reading aloud to your kids on a regular basis.

Furthermore, there were two articles in the Sunday Inquirer this week that caught my eye and touched my heart. “Our Deeper Despair” by Will Bunch, in which he makes a case that the “greatest moral crisis facing America doesn’t even have a name. Or arguably, it has too many names. Despair, Alienation, Depression, Isolation. Hopelessness.” Bunch discusses the drug crisis, spike in suicides, loss of church and community organizations replaced by hours of isolated screen time, as just a few of the reasons for what he terms “deaths of despair.”

In the same section of the Inquirer, Tom McAllister, a professor at Temple University, reflects on the past academic year riddled with student deaths resulting from overdoses, murders, and suicides in his article, “A Teacher’s Greatest Challenge”. His point is that a college campus today is often a “pretty desperate place” due to the many stresses college students face.

My first question after finishing these articles was “Can reading aloud be part of a solution to the despair and isolation experienced by so many of our youth. My heart says “yes”. To that end, I will be sharing with you not only the academic benefits of reading aloud, but also examining the far-reaching emotional effects of quality time spent reading to our youngsters and providing plenty of tips and book suggestions to make it happen.

Can this be the summer you reconnect with your kids on a deeper level? Can books be the vehicle that helps you do that? Do you yearn for more quality time with your kids and often feel as though your family is spinning off in a million different directions? If so, please join me as I share how you can “reconnect through reading” over these fleeting summer months. This important series will begin on Thursday, June 21st.   Follow this blog and join in a conversation that may just make this your family’s most meaningful summer.


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6 Important Read-Aloud Reminders

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Dad and two kids reading

 As you gear up to read to your child and hopefully integrate this practice in your home on a regular basis, here are a few reminders to optimize the experience.

  1. Choose a text you enjoy                                                                                                Obviously, you’ll need to keep your child’s age and interests in mind, but your enthusiasm will come through if you also choose texts that pique your interest or touch your heart.

  2. Choose texts a few levels highter than listener’s reading level       A youngster’s listening level is higher than their reading level. This is one of the reasons that regular read alouds are so important. Via read alouds, you have the opportunity to share literature and other texts that your child would be unable to understand on his own. 

  3. Vary the type of text                                                                                 Read alouds are a great way to expose kids to poetry, informational texts, wonderful picture books, along with classic and popular titles.  Feed your child varied texts and you will be surprised at the impact it will make on his confidence, vocabulary and general knowledge base. 4. 

  4. Plan your stopping points                                                                            If you are reading a text that will take more than one sitting, plan ahead for where you will stop.  Stop at a place that will have your child begging for more.

  5. Enbed opportunities to stop and think, or stop and talk             This is how you show kids that “reading is thinking”. Rather than rushing through and devouring a reading, stop to allow time to reflect, ask questions, clarify or discuss. Again, if you do this on a regular basis, your child will begin to do this on his own. Any reading teacher can tell you that lack of thinking and active reading is often at the root of a comprehension problem.     

  6. Remember no one is TOO OLD for a read-aloud                                                           You can make read-aloud time equally as enjoyable as it was when your child was small. You just have to go about it in a different way. If your youngster is in fifth to eighth grade, you may have to be a bit more clever to entice them to listen, but it’s worth the effort. Start with short texts that hook them in, read aloud interesting news articles, hunt done funny poetry and let the fun begin. You’ll be so glad you did!

Hopefully, you will celebrate by reading aloud to a loved one today. Hopefully, it will jumpstart a regular routine of reading aloud in your home. Truthfully, I believe this is one of the very best things parents can do to support their child’s literacy development.

Will you help?  Can you recommend a great read-aloud that we can all enjoy?

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Here’s a few of my favorite read-alouds…

WW 2                      The Hundred Dresseson-my-honor

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What Do We Celebrate Tomorrow?


Do you know what is celebrated around the world tomorrow, February 1st?  It’s not the birthday of a famous person, it’s not the anniversary of a special event, but it is a day that honors a wonderful practice that I’m sure all of us have enjoyed throughout our lives.

On February 1st, World Read Aloud Day is celebrated. Maybe you knew that or maybe you just learned something new. In any case, let’s take a minute to consider the power of read alouds. Can you remember someone who read to you?  Can you remember a read-aloud that touched your heart or changed your thinking? Can you remember anticipating storytime when you were young? I’m going to bet you anwered “yes” to one or more of those questions. In my opinion, that’s the point of Read Aloud Day–to remember the positive effects of reading aloud and to replicate them for our youth.

Do you want your young reader to experience the power and possibility inherent in a read-aloud?

Do you want to instill a love of reading in your child?

Do you want to bond with your youngster in a unique way and open the door to rich discussions and meaningful conversations?

Do you want to enhance your child’s comprehension skills, vocabulary and fluency in an authentic and enjoyable manner?

Do you have a treasure trove of favorite books, poetry, short stories or articles you long to share?

I could go on and on highlighting the power of read-alouds. There is no downside to this practice and there is no one too old to enjoy it. So what are you waiting for? Today, choose a text you love and want to read aloud to your child (or whole family). You’ll be all set to celebrate World Read Aloud Day. What a great reason to begin reading together on a regular basis.

Will you help?  Please share a favorite text or read-aloud experience to encourage and support other people. Here’s mine…

For Ages 8 to 10:  Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson: Readers get to see a different side of Jackie Robinson in this picture book written by his daughter. Be sure to discuss the literal and figurative ways that Jackie Robinson “tested the ice” after reading the  story.

Testing the Ice

For Ages 11-14:  The Last Days of Mrs. Bixby by John David Anderson:  Full disclosure – I’m only on page 51, but I can already see that the voice and humor in this book about a special teacher, would be very enjoyable to kids this age and I’m sure it will have a poignant ending that I’ll long remember. I’m recommending this in the hopes that if you read the first chapter aloud, your kids will grab the book and keep on going.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day

Check back tomorrow when I’ll celebrate World Read Aloud Day by offering a few tips to remember about reading aloud.

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Five Easy Ways to Boost Background Knowledge

My husband is a huge football fan. As soon as August begins, those fantasy football magazines start popping up around the house. One day, I decided to delve into one and learn a little about football. I could easily read all the words. I could not easily understand what I read. The reason was simple–I had very little background knowledge. Lacking any genuine interest, I had rarely watched and never really learned to understand much about football. Consequently, even though I could decode all the words, I could not comprehend what I read. I share this as an example of the importance of background knowledge. Researchers agree that background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension. It certainly makes sense that the more you know about a topic, the easier it is to understand a text dealing with that topic.

As a parent, you are in a strong position to build your child’s background knowledge. Making a conscious effort to build background knowledge is like putting money in the bank. Your youngster will be able to make a “withdrawal” when trying to make sense of text. Try these suggestions and start making deposits in your child’s bank of knowledge that will translate to his improved ability to comprehend text:

  1. Share your interests, hobbies, experiences with your child.                                  Talking to your child is one of the best ways to build his knowledge of the world around him.
  2. Visit new places. You don’t need to take a vacation to take your child somewhere he’s never been. Communities are filled with museums, parks, and events that offer new information and experience for your child to enjoy. Seek them out.
  3. Encourage wide reading and visit the library often. Since there is no charge, youngsters are free to take home a variety of book. Easy, informational books are a great way for your child to become acquainted with many topics.
  4. Use games to make learning fun. Play games that encourage kids to categorize, compare and contrast, answer tricky questions, make analogies and learn about famous people, places and events.
  5. Use multimedia. Although personal experience is ideal, technology today offers an accessible and enjoyable way to learn. Encourage your child’s curiosity and learn together by exploring the many ways technology can advance learning.
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Picture Books: Building Blocks of Background Knowledge & Confidence


Over the years, I’ve worked with students of all ages, from primary grade kids right up to graduate students. Picture books were a common element in everyone one of my classes. Why?  Because I believe picture books have power.  A well-written picture books offers rich vocabulary, meaningful content, beautiful art and background knowledge in a short format.  Along with all these (and many more) perks, picture books build confidence.

When the ability to read and comprehend doesn’t come easily, students often doubt their intelligence and ability to learn. Parents and teachers need to join forces and find ways to head off waning confidence and motivation. The accessible format of a picture book can become a powerful tool in your quest to help a struggling child.

The previous post discussed how background knowledge positively affects comprehension. There are fictional and non-fictional picture books available on every possible topic. Explore the possibilities and begin to expose your child to the wealth of information available. No one is too old to appreciate and learn from a picture book. If you know your child will be studying a certain period of history, scientific concept, famous person or event, head to library and bring home picture books on that topic. Read them together if possible and discuss their content.  Building familiarity with the topic will enable your child to feel more confident (and probably much more interested) when this topic comes up in the classroom.

Worried about the lastest “project” assigned? Again, picture books can ease the process. Don’t let your child rely solely on information from the Internet, but show him that picture books deliver information in a concise and interesting manner that is often easier to comprehend than dense text. Remember the power of picture books and watch your child’s confidence soar.

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Three Essential Steps to Seeking Reading Intervention for your Child

Once you suspect that your child needs some kind of reading intervention, it’s time to get the ball rolling.
Step #1 – Rule out any physical problems
Talk with your child’s doctor about your concerns. Physical problems can be at the root of academic problems. Let your doctor rule out vision, hearing, attention problems or any other physical concerns that may be interfering with his reading progress.
Step #2 – Make an Appointment with the Teacher
Once you know there is not a physical problem at the root, it’s time to make an appointment with your child’s teacher. Often waiting for conference times scheduled by the school through the course of the year is not a good idea because teachers are seeing parents one right after the other and there are tight time constraints. Call or email the teacher and ask her to block out thirty minutes or so to meet with you at a mutually convenient time. If possible, attend with your spouse and leave the kids at home so you can focus your full attention without being distracted or interrupted.
Step #3 – Collect Information and Come Prepared
A teacher worth her salt will be gathering data about your child to share with you. As a parent, you need to do the same. Think of this as a team effort and come prepared with data of your own. Here’s how:
  •  Bring a Written List of Important Information                                                                 Teachers are busy people.  When parents come in prepared, it helps the meeting move smoothly, address all the issues and establish a sense of teamwork. Spend time before the meeting carefully observing your child and making a list of behaviors that concern you regarding your child’s reading or academic habits. Use the list in the previous post to help you Does My Child Need Help? Ten Warning Signs of a Struggling Reader. Be prepared to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses, sleep or emotional issues, how he perceives himself and any insights you can provide. In addition to current behaviors, reflect on any information about your child’s early years that might be helpful. For example, issues with ear infections, delayed language development, difficulty learning letters and sounds, and so on.   Information that only you have may be very helpful in diagnosing the specific interventions that will help your child.
  • Bring a Written List of Questions                                                                                                 Jot down your questions so that you don’t leave the meeting and realize you have neglected to get answers.
  • Consider Your Expectations                                                                                                            It’s important to have a sense of what you would like to see happen and how the teacher will follow up on your concerns. Be specific and nail down a date and time to touch base again (this can be via an email or phone call) to check in on progress.
What to Expect                                                                                                                                    
Chances are if your child is in fourth grade or beyond and the school has never suggested evaluation for special education or mentioned a learning problem, your child will simply need some extra help from the teacher or reading specialist to boost progress and confidence.  Your concerns are valid and you should go into the meeting with an expectation of receiving support.  Typically, the teacher will create some kind of action plan, try it for a while, collect data and meet with you again after an appropriate period of time. At that point, if there has been no improvement, usually other staff (school psychologist, reading specialist, etc) are called on for support and planning.
It’s important to remember that you play an essential role in implementing support for your child. The school may suggests that you do certain things at home on a regular basis to reinforce their efforts with your child. Keeping open the avenues of communication and creating a positive working relationship with the school is one of the best ways to insure that your child receives the support and intervention that will move him forward.
Parents, most professionals realize you are worried and that it is not easy to take these steps. Keep in mind, however, that there are people committed to helping you and your child learn about the reading process and implement strategies that will boost not only your child’s academic progress, but also his confidence and ability to enjoy reading. I welcome your comments, questions and concerns. Good Luck!
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Does My Child Need Help? Ten Warning Signs of a Struggling Reader


As parents, we desperately want life to be joyful and problem-free for our children. It’s not always easy to address problems or uncomfortable situations. Obviously, the first step in helping your child become a more confident, proficient reader, is to recognize that he or she needs support. Many parents waiver when it comes to actually facing the fact that their child is not making adequate progress.  If you have the niggling feeling that additional reading support would boost your child’s progress, don’t wait. Like most problems, the sooner it is addressed, the easier it is to fix.
As many as forty percent of students experience reading problems at some point. Students can fall behind for a number of reasons and often a little extra support will get them back on track. It can be a fixable situation if you face it head-on and advocate for you child. Once students reach the intermediate grades, they become very adept at hiding their struggles so it’s important to look for red flags that indicate the need for intervention. If you recognize your child as you read this list of warning signs, take action.
1.  Your child doesn’t like to read.
2.   Your child “pretends” to read but can’t retell or remember details.
3.   Your child’s reading grades and standardized test scores are low.
4.   Your child is unable to read for a sustained period of time (20 minutes or more).
5.   Your child lacks expression when he/she reads and frequently miscues.
6.   Your child demonstrates or expresses a lack of confidence when reading.
7.   Your child struggles with written assignments.
8.   Your child always chooses short, easy books to read independently.
9.   Your child dislikes school and has a poor self-image when it comes to academics.
10.  You have to bribe, pressure or argue to get your child to read a book or complete a
       reading-related assignment.

Check out this article from Schlastic for additional information…/how-to-know-if-your-child-needs-reading-intervention and see Monday’s post for specific steps you can take if you think your child would benefit from reading intervention. A problem shared is a problem cut in half. Feel free to share your questions and concerns.  Take heart, because there’s help available and most children make rapid progress once their specific needs are addressed.

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