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My favorite day in November

Christmas decorations in mall

For most people, Thanksgiving is about family, food and tradition. That’s true for my family too, to some extent. But for us that’s even more the case for the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the day that I celebrate my mom and pass on some of things that were important to her to my kids. We embrace her traditions, and we have started some of our own.

Mom passed away almost 22 years ago. We lost her 14 months before my oldest child was born, so my kids never got to meet her. They do know her though as I’ve made sure that she is still a part of their lives.

One day when we especially do this is Black Friday. My Mom loved shopping. She was a master of it. In some ways it was her faith – so much so that when Somerset North opened, she called it “the cathedral.” Where shoppers go to worship. Clearly then Black Friday was a favorite day of hers.

Understand that this was before Black Friday leaked into Thanksgiving (she would not have approved). My mom would get up at the crack of dawn (she usually did that anyway) to be there when the stores opened to take advantage of all the great deals. She taught me to appreciate the value of a good sale, and it was something we did together. The year we lost her, she was too sick to shop on Black Friday, but she made a list and sent me off with my best friend to practice what she had preached. From that Black Friday forward, I’ve continued to shop with my best friend and we started taking my daughter when she was old enough. That kid is now 20 and she is her grandmother’s girl – a shopping superstar practicing her faith on the biggest shopping day of the year.

When we finish shopping, it’s time for breakfast. Yes, I said breakfast. Mom used to say that you had to get done early before the “amateurs” came out. That is when we indulge in a tradition all our own:  Cinnabon. Some years my husband would wake our kids up and bring them to meet me at the mall, but now we pick up a pack of the calorie-laden treats and bring them home to our non-shoppers. Those of us who have been raking in the deals since dawn need a boost, and the others will need their energy for what comes next: decorating!

Another of my mother’s favorite things in the world was Christmas. I think that may be because of the child-like wonder with which Mom always viewed the world. With a sparkle in her eye, even in her 50s, she delighted in the joy the world had to offer. But never so much as at Christmas.

The official start of the Christmas season at my house is Black Friday. Christmas music isn’t allowed on the radio before that day, but starting that Friday we embrace the joyous Noel. We put up seven (yes, seven) Christmas trees, yards of garland, thousands of twinkling lights, and some of my other favorite decorations. My mom’s “Christmas in the City” collection goes on the mantle. We talk about how her favorite pieces were the cathedral and Hollydale’s Department Store. Then there’s my crèche – the one my Mom and Dad got (the very last one!) for me on the day after Christmas, 27 years ago for half-off because I fell in love with its peaceful simplicity. And the only ornament I place on our living room tree: the little green and white angel who represents my mom watching over my family.

After all that hard work, we need some sustenance. And that brings me to my final favorite of my mom’s for the day: good food. Mom was an amazing cook. Every day was a feast and holidays were even more glorious. But she never really ate much at Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t understand that until I took over the family meal when I got married. After spending all day making all that food – I guess neither of us really wanted to eat it. That wore off by the next day, however. Is there anything better than Thanksgiving leftovers?! Our special tradition for the day after Thanksgiving is my Mom’s creation: Mush-Mush. Yes, I know how it sounds, but trust me, it’s delicious. Mom would take the leftover mashed potatoes and leftover broccoli and mash it together in a frying pan with a ton of butter. Frying it up until it was golden brown; it was and still is my favorite thing to eat from the Thanksgiving feast. Now my husband is the one who makes Mush-Mush as he honors the woman who never used the term “in-law” when she called him her son.

It’s almost Black Friday now. As I type this, I’m smiling and my eyes are a little shiny with unshed tears. I love that I have a day that has such strong happy memories of my beautiful Mom. Ones that I can share with the grandchildren she would have spoiled rotten, but who still feel her love. I hope that your holidays are filled with beautiful memories, and traditions – new and old!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

Meet the author: AnnieMarie Chiaverilla

anniemarie ciaverilla

Like many families across America, my family enjoys special days trips that we try to do at least once a year, including an annual adventure in Frankenmuth. Yes, in a little over an hour away, we savor the world-famous chicken dinner, wine tasting and cruising the Cass River on the riverboat. However, this trip was a little different as I discovered a different little part of Michigan.

During our stroll through the stores, something magical happened in the Michigan Shoppe. There in front of me was an amazing display of children’s books, all written by Michigan authors.

close up of The Twelve Months of Michigan bookAmong all of the books on the table, a particular one caught my eye with its characters and watercolor illustrations: “The Twelve Months of Michigan.” I knew immediately that this book could be sung to the holiday song with almost the same name and I was so captivated that I couldn’t put it down until I had read it through. The story is about a family of mice, including Pirate Paul and Ana Mae, and their adventures across Michigan.

After I read the story, I wanted to meet this author and share all I could about her and her writing. I came home, called her and she graciously accepted to meet with me.

Let me introduce AnnieMarie Chiaverilla, an author, illustrator, publicist, marketer and songwriter. Growing up in West Bloomfield (when it was a blooming field), she and her siblings had lots of room to run, play and experience the outdoors. Her parents taught their children about our great state by exploring fun and unique places, especially in upper Michigan (in particular Mackinac Island and Drummond Island).

As a right-brained learner, AnnieMarie’s interest lay in the creative parts of the school day. Believe it or not, this now-writer received additional support in reading to keep up with her peers. But it was a life-changing 11th grade teacher who took the time to teach AnnieMarie strategies to become an independent and successful student.

AnnieMarie went to nursing school, and after a few years, she realized that her heart wasn’t in it, but rather in art.

She shares, “I was studying for a pathology exam early on a Saturday (about 5:30 a.m.) when an animation, The Selfish Giant, was playing. It was so beautiful and moving. The animation was stunning and the story so lovely. I was pouring myself into my studies to be a nurse but, in reality, I always wanted to be an artist.” She ran upstairs and announced to her parents, “I don’t want to be a nurse, I want to be an artist.” Her dad, still half asleep, replied, “It’s about time,” and went back to bed.

With her parents’ support, AnnieMarie finished an associates degree in respiratory therapy so she could work as a therapist while going back to school for art. She eventually entered Michigan State University’s art school, gaining access to computers and state-of-the-art programs. She later worked at a local television station, where technology and art programs were her playground. Each of these laid the foundation and lead her to the place she is today.

Inspired by “The Nutcracker,” AnnieMarie uses mice as her characters in her book. In fact, the characters and illustrations are ones she began drawing many years ago at 7 years old. In addition to Pirate Paul and Ana Mae, you’ll find the author throughout the book. Since “The Twelve Months of Michigan” is set in Michigan, there are a multitude of fun Michigan symbols throughout the book and I guarantee that, even as an adult, you’ll learn a few things. The book won the Children’s Picture Book: All Ages category for the 2015 USA Regional Excellence Awards and was nominated for “Children’s Book of the Year” in Creative Child Magazine.

I asked AnnieMarie for advice she would give to young writers. She offered these tips whether your child is a reluctant writer a typical writer for their age or an aspiring writer:

  • Start your writing on paper not the computer.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Write every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two.
  • Learn to be an effective communicator and speaker.
  • Color outside the lines.
  • Free yourself from being perfect.
  • Keep stumbling.

AnneMarie’s books are sold at over 80 stores across Michigan. She is currently working on a new book, “The Twelve Months of America” and a CD to go along with it. As you search for books to read with your children or purchase for special occasions, remember that our Michigan authors have unparalleled talent.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Nine reasons to cook with your children

little girl in kitchen with pot, spoon and chef hat

With the cool, crisp air of fall, now is the perfect time to take to the kitchen with your child. The bursting flavors of fall are unlike any other. Apples, cider, pumpkins, and spice are seasonal flavors we crave, making this a great time of the year to help the most finicky of eaters try new foods and develop his/her palate. Taking time to cook with your child may be the most valuable time that you spend together.

1. Cooking is an essential life skill.

When children learn to cook at an early age, they see how individual ingredients are mixed together and transformed into a delicious dish enjoyed or shared with the family. Cooking teaches children that it is a process involving planning, shopping, prepping, the actual cooking, and clean up. This also gives parents and children the opportunity to shop together for the freshest ingredients to enjoy healthy foods.

2. Cooking helps build and maintain relationships.

First, taking the time to cook with your child means plenty of time to engage in conversation about his day and what’s on her mind. Second, you can show the value of teamwork behind a delicious recipe. Give your child a spoon to mix the ingredients while you chop the vegetables. Building and maintaining relationships can happen at any age and what a better place than in the kitchen together.

3. Cooking together increases reading skills.

Children spend most of their reading time either being read to or reading fiction books. Reading a cookbook or recipe provides a valuable skill in learning to follow step-by-step directions. I suggest reading through the recipe together first, allowing your child to ask questions and make sure he understands the process. This will also show you the level of assistance she may need as you move through the cooking process together.

4. Cooking strengthens math skills.

I can’t think of a more natural place to bolster math skills than in the kitchen. Real-life opportunities are provided in counting, addition, temperature, and especially understanding and applying fraction skills. This is the a perfect time to learn that a fraction is part of a whole! Through my years in education, I saw that children who spend time in the kitchen may be more proficient in math in the classroom.

5. Cooking improves language skills.

Cooking introduces new vocabulary words. Whether you are reading the recipe to your child or if he’s reading it independently, the recipe can introduce real-life vocabulary in a real-life experience. Homonyms—words that are spelled differently, sound alike and have different meanings—are a perfect example. I found the following list of cooking homonyms at lifeskillet.com.

  • Pear, pair, pare
  • Mousse, moose
  • Steak, stake
  • Cereal, serial
  • Whey, way
  • Meat, meet
  • Leek, leak
  • Thyme, time
  • Peaks, peeks
  • Flour, flower
  • Lean, lean (a true homonym)
  • Pea, pee
  • Grate, great
  • Two, too, to
  • Fowl, foul
  • Piece, peace

This list shows that it’s easy to understand how children must be provided opportunities and learn the words to be proficient in the kitchen. Children’s language skills grow exponentially when given opportunities to cook with you.

6. Cooking together fosters healthy eating.

Children given the opportunity to cook have a sense of ownership and pride with the finished product. This makes a great time to introduce new and healthy food choices. Research shows that healthy eating habits developed at an early age will last a lifetime.

7. Cooking teaches children about the world.

When cooking, you use ingredients from around your state, our country and the world. Visiting a local farmers market or orchard shows children first-hand that many fresh food products are available locally. Living in southeastern Michigan, we used to travel to Traverse City in the summer to attend the Cherry Festival, where my children learned that many products available in our state are sent around the globe for others to enjoy. If you are making a dish with rice, talk with your child about where the rice is from and how far it had to come to get to your local market.

8. Cooking together creates memories and helps keep family traditions alive.

In our family, nothing is more important than keeping our family kitchen traditions alive. I learned them from my mother and grandmother and I’ve shared them with my children. Inviting your child into the kitchen while talking about the past creates memories of people and time spent together. In addition, following well-loved recipes from family members is fun for children, as well as the anticipation of a holiday and the foods that we associate with it.

9. Cooking with children increases their confidence.

Many people who don’t know their way around the kitchen proclaim to be poor cooks. Providing cooking experiences for children at an early age and continuing this together into the teen years may alleviate that, providing the confidence to prepare food for themselves and others as they grow. When others provide positive feedback on what we cook, we are likely going to cook more and try new things. When people we cook for give the “thumbs up,” children feel proud and look forward for the opportunity to cook again.

You may be wondering, “When is a good time to start cooking with my child?” I say the earlier the better. Read the recipe to your child and model the action you’d like him to do. Avoid giving  a knife or sharp object to cut ingredients to your child until you know that she can handle it safely. Please keep young children away from heat sources, such as stove burners or ovens, until you know they can handle them safely as well.

As a parent, you know that your child may ask you to read a book to him multiple times. The same is true with cooking. If she has success with a recipe, she may want to make it several times. That is OK. Like reading a book, once your child feels that he has mastered it, you will move on to a new recipe.

Cookbook suggestions

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Suicide awareness starts with you

backs of adults with arms around each other as support

I was just at a family wedding, and my aunt told me about a 9-year-old who died by suicide.

Nine.

It’s easy to judge that circumstance. Why didn’t the parents know? Who told the child about killing yourself? What pushed the child to the point of suicide?

It’s not our business, but it’s everyone’s business.

The stigma of mental illness is costing lives. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has some sad statistics:

  • More than 44,000 people die by suicide each year
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States
  • For every suicide, 25 attempt it.

Twenty-five.

Do the math. In one year alone, that’s 1.1 million people who truly believe in their hearts that the world would be a better place without them. That no one cares. That the pain of living is too much.

One million, one hundred thousand.

I’ve called the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. I thought someone I loved was in trouble and I needed someone to tell me I wasn’t overreacting, that I was reading the signs correctly, that even if I was jumping to conclusions, it’s better to be safe than going to a funeral.

One day, I met a nurse manager on the mental health floor of a hospital. She explained to me that stigma is what is killing people. That even the common phrases, “he killed himself,” and “he committed suicide,” insinuate the person who was suffering perpetrated a crime. Killing is a crime. You commit a robbery. You are a committed felon. All negative words.

I hope I never have to, but if I do, I plan to teach my kids that suicide is the result of an illness. It is not shameful nor is it selfish. It is sad. We don’t whisper about it. We talk about it, respectfully.

Imagine what could happen to the people who are suffering if we had open, honest and respectful conversations about mental health. Think about how important those conversations would be to the 123 people who die by suicide every day.

One hundred twenty-three.

Enough.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Children and racism

group of diverse kids

Cropped image. Hepingting, Flickr. CC license.

The Oxford dictionary defines racism as “prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

Racism today seems to be as prevalent as it was 60 years ago during Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. Just a few months ago, a high school student in my hometown was shot at for merely knocking on a door and asking directions to his school. As a society we acknowledge racism, witness it, and many of us have been targets. So why hasn’t it changed in that 60 years?

Recently I was asked to lead a six-week community series on racism. With a topic so broad and timely, I hardly knew where to begin but I knew I had to do research. As an avid reader, I jumped into the latest literature, read Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and read “America’s Original Sin” by Jim Wallis. I watched podcasts, videos, and spoke to as many people as I could.

At the group’s first meeting, I wanted to hear stories from the participants around the topic; most of the stories shared revolved around their childhoods, how they were treated, or biases in the home. During our six weeks together, we visited a predominantly African-American church, after which we had honest and sometimes difficult discussions about racism. Our trip to a mosque was enlightening as we learned how our Muslim neighbors helped shape the history of early America. Our six-week series was so successful that it will continue in the fall as we delve deeper into this topic.

Since most of our group’s stories revolved around childhood experiences, I felt compelled to explore the topic more, hence, I wrote this blog article. As parents, we should acknowledge racism and its implications. We need to do what we can to raise children to be accepting of others as equal members of our society.

One of my go-to references is “Parenting” magazine. From that, I was surprised to learn that children as young as 2 years old recognize differences among people; they notice skin color, hair differences, and the way people dress. At this point in their lives, there are no feelings regarding the differences, only that they exist. However, by the time a child is 5 years old, if the child is raised in a home that displays intolerance of others, he or she will start to feel superior and treat others differently. Fortunately, there are several strategies available to help raise children to be accepting and kind to all people.

  • One of the most effective strategies to stifle racial bias is when parents and role models have friends of different races. When parents have friends that cross racial lines, children learn acceptance and grow to see this as normal.
  • Allow friendships across racial lines to develop. Having deep and lasting friendships across racial lines helps decrease stereotyping and prejudices. In neighborhoods across America, people from different races and ethnicities are living and raising their families. The more opportunities for children to interact with other races, the less likely they are to treat others differently.
  • Simply talking to our children is another way to eliminate racial bias. Since 2014, statistics show that hate crimes have risen by 20 percent. As parents, we have the ability to foster acceptance of all people with our children. However, racism is a broad topic and parents often feel inadequate or uncomfortable talking about it. I recently read that parents are more comfortable talking about “the birds and the bees” than they are about this important topic. Believe it or not, I’ve read that not talking about it sends a stronger message to our children. When we neglect to have frank and open discussions, our children may feel that the topic is taboo. My research highlighted that white parents tend to talk less about racism, while black parents talk about it on a more consistent basis with their children.

Tips for talking about racism with your children

  • When talking with your children, talk about racism at their developmental levels.
  • Keep the conversations simple and be mindful and not tell stories that may be frightening. For example, a young child may only need to know that Rosa Parks had to sit at the back of the bus or stand up to ride if a white person needed a seat.
  • Conversations need to be ongoing, not only occurring when an incident happens and we hear about something in the media.
  • During these conversations, your child may bring up something embarrassing or make comments that appear insensitive to others. It is imperative that we take the time to listen to our children, ask them what they are thinking, and guide them into acceptance and understanding.
  • Three good resources for parents are:

Using books

As always, books can be an effective tool to start conversations or to end an important discussion. Here are a handful of books you may find helpful although there are numerous other books available.

Grades Pre-K through 2

Grades 1 through 4

Grades 4 through 6

Middle School

As you can see, there are many books available to read with your child on this topic. Check out your local or school library to find specific books; bookstores also have large selections. Remember that reading books with your older child encourages dialogue, so regardless of your child’s age, tackle this topic together. You’ll help raise happy children who are accepting and kind to all people.

Happy reading!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Always read together

grandma reading to two young boys

Yesterday, knee-deep in boxes in my basement and feeling like a mole underground while the beautiful summer sunshine was calling to me, I happened upon old reading/reflection and gratitude journals that I had completely forgotten about. As an avid reader, I make notes about my reading; I jot down titles, feelings, thoughts and questions that I have while reading. To my surprise, I also made notes of books that my children loved. There were many titles that I read to them, they read to me or that we read together. I had written notes about their thoughts and feelings. Did the book make them laugh or cry? There were notes and tally marks on how often I read the same book to them in a day or week. To me, nothing in the world could be more precious and satisfying than to find that after 30 years.

It’s that discovery that inspired me to write this blog post — notes from the past and what I read to my children. Those journals and my log that I keep today are quite similar, yet quite different.

Reading to and with my children was truly one of the most satisfying experiences as a mom. However, reading with them didn’t stop once they were able to read the words on the page or an entire book. Fast forward 30 years and imagine reading to and with your child. No, we don’t cuddle together as we once did (my children live about 1,000 miles away in opposite directions). Instead we all keep our own reading reflection journals and sometimes we’ll share what we’ve written. Reading together now is definitely not the same as in the past, but nonetheless, it is just as satisfying.

In the beginning

As a young mom, I worked hard to create a culture of reading in our home. Books were everywhere! There was a basket in the bathroom, a shelf in their bedrooms, a pile on the mantle, and frequently scattered wherever a child dropped a book, ready to be picked up again soon. We created journals together where my kids often drew their favorite characters or parts of the book. Until they could read, I read everything to them: cereal boxes, financial reports, store names as we drove by and of course, the newspaper.

In looking back, I can’t believe how quickly my kids grew and were able to read on their own. But that didn’t stop us from reading together. Class books that were taken home to read became our precious time together after a busy day at work and then running them to sports. Why not share that time doing what we all enjoyed best in the evening? Together, we took on the dialog of a specific character, practiced reading with expression, and created mental pictures of scenes from the book. But most importantly, it gave us a time to talk deeply with each other about the books. We asked each other questions such as, “Why do you think he did that?” Or, “How would the story be different if this or that happened?” We talked about what the characters were thinking and feeling. We made quick notes or pictures in the journals.

Reading together as adults

The more you read with your child, you learn to know what genres of books they love and gravitate toward. As an adult, you also know what you love. But something magical happens when your children grow and you enjoy the same types of books as they do. My daughter loves to read and we often read the same book together. Last fall, we both read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. When we shared our journals, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that our thoughts and feelings were similar. The questions that we both wondered about mirrored each other. How fun was that!

My son and I discovered Dan Brown when he wrote “The Da Vinci Code” in 2003. At that time, my son lived in a small, one-room apartment in Miami’s South Beach and was starting his adult life as a photographer. Within the first few minutes my visit, he shared his new book with anticipation. He read his favorite parts of the first chapter and had the excitement in his eyes that a new book can bring. After he left for work the following morning, I did what any avid reader (and mom who still loves to read to and with their child) would do: I went to the local bookstore and purchased the book. That night we read, talked about the book and jotted in our journals until our red eyes could no longer stay open. I believe that for the entire time I was there, we looked forward to reading, questioning and sharing our favorite parts of the book. Together, yet far away, we have read each of the Dan Brown books. There is nothing that makes my heart happier than to share the adventures that we have discovered in a book.

Don’t stop reading together

So parents, please don’t let your child’s age stop that precious time reading together. Whether it’s Esphyr Slobodkina’s “Caps for Sale” in first grade, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s “Shiloh” in fourth grade or “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee in high school, read together. Talk about the books. But most importantly, enjoy every moment with your child, no matter their age. The days go by slowly, but the years go by quickly.

Happy reading!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Perspective in reading

bookstore window "The Day the Crayons Quit"

Cropped image. Walter Baxter, Geograph.org. CC license.

Close your eyes and imagine a world in which your child can look at the world and problems in multiple ways. One where your child considers other peoples’ perspectives and sees things from a point of view besides their own. Your child would act on the best interest of all and not strictly on their own. Now open your eyes and see the world in reality; a world where many people are inconsiderate, rude or self-centered. But parents can help children understand perspective before they enter school through reading together and developing a child’s language skills.

Teaching children about perspective

Toddler-age children

Research shows that children as young as two or three years old can be taught perspective. At this age, a child might help another child who is upset or crying, by offering a hug or a toy as comfort.

Young children may still confuse their perspective with others’ perspectives. They may believe that how they see things in the world is the way that others do, too. For example, if a child really dislikes something like a chocolate chip cookie, he feels that other people do as well.

Preschool-age children

Each day, a parent deals with many emotions. Maybe you had a disagreement with a friend or family member. Perhaps a family member is old, sick and having difficulty. Or you’re very excited because you won a trip. Good or bad, emotions are part of our daily life.

It is important to talk about the feelings and emotions that you are experiencing.

  • Label the emotion or feeling and talk to your child about it. If it is a negative emotion, talk about what helps you feel better.
  • When you see someone upset, talk with your child about it and problem solve what could help the upset person feel better. If possible, do what you can to help. Label the emotion again.

Lower elementary-age children

Continue to talk about perspective as it aids significantly in reading comprehension and success in school.

Reading as a tool for teaching perspective

Literarydevices.net says, “While reading a fiction or non-fiction book, readers see and experience the events and feelings about the characters through a certain point of view, which is called ‘perspective’. A perspective is a literary tool, which serves as a lens through which readers observe the characters, events and happenings.” In other words, point of view (or perspective) shows the opinions and feelings of those involved in the story. If a parent and child talk about this as part of their reading time together, the child will grasp the concept much more easily in the classroom.

In fiction books, we see four points of view.

  1. First person. The work uses “I” or “we” throughout. For example, “I love it when you cuddle up and read me a book.”
  2. Second person. The work uses the pronoun “you.” An example of this is, “Often you feel angry when the dog won’t stop barking.”
  3. Third person. Authors use pronouns like “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” or someone’s name. For example, “Miss Linda is a disciplined woman. She always eats her vegetables like her mother told her to do.”
  4. The author uses “he” and “she” but the narrator has full access to the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story. Shel Silverstein used in the book “The Giving Tree” that I wrote about in May.

Putting this into action

When reading with a preschool-age child, talk about the story then discuss the characters in the book and how they feel. Give the feelings a label. This process helps children understand not only the stories read to them, but also their feelings and how a character’s feelings may be different than their own.

With older children (lower-elementary age), read together then stop and talk about the reaction to situations that may be happy or sad. Discuss why the character is feeling that way.

Book recommendations

There are several picture books that consider multiple perspectives. I read most of these books with children of different ages. While reading these books with your child, it’s fun to consider perspective from another character.

Other good books that help children understand perspective are:

Upper elementary-age children can enjoy exploring perspective with these books:

So get a book with multiple points of view (picture book or not) and read it with your child. Talk with your child at their level and consider multiple perspectives of the characters. Over the years, watch your child’s language and reading skills grow. However, I feel the best gift from your reading together is a well-rounded child who can look at the world and view the things that happen in many ways. Happy reading!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.


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