Making memories through reading

dad reading to boy and girl

Cropped image. Paul Hamilton, Flickr. CC license.

I’ve been speaking about play and reading to parent groups for many years. I’m not a teacher or reading expert by any means, but it’s been very easy and fun to be an advocate for the importance of reading to (and with) children.

Many of us already know the value of reading and I always ask my groups, “Why should we read to our babies?” The answers are plentiful: brain growth, cognitive connections, vocabulary development, language skills, bonding, fun, etc.

Then I ask another question: “Do you remember being read to as a child?”

Not everyone has such a memory, but those who do often remember the books as well, such as Berenstain Bears, Golden Books, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, etc.

And there is always an obscure title mentioned with a smile and a brief nostalgic nod.

Looking deeper, these memories come from time spent together as child and parent with books at the center. Memories that incorporate books and reading are there for the making! Some fun ideas include:

  • Family trips to the library.
  • Gathering books to donate.
  • Saving an allowance to buy a book.
  • A special book that only grandma reads with them.
  • Planned reading time together, taking turns reading to each other (especially good for older children).
  • Talking about favorite books at dinnertime.
  • A book exchange with neighbors and friends.

It’s hard to predict what memories will linger as we grow into adulthood, but these activities are valuable even if long forgotten.

– Betsy Clancy is a group coordinator for the Beaumont Parenting Program.

My favorite children’s book is …

Little girl reading to her teddy bears

Many of us can remember a favorite book from our childhood. Perhaps it’s one you read again and again. Maybe you’ve even shared it with your own child.

So what is it about a children’s book that sticks with us even as we get older? Sometimes it’s a character who makes us care about him, like Curious George, or one that the reader can relate to for some reason. It could be the illustrations that help bring a story to life. Books can even teach us lessons or concepts; how many of us remember reading “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” by Dr. Seuss? And of course, there are a good number of adults who enjoy reading children’s and young adult literature for the pure enjoyment of the story!

From bedtime books to chapter books for older kids, here are some favorites of our Parenting Program staff and their children.

Bedtime always was time to snuggle in and enjoy a few books together when my kids were little. There were several great ones in the rotation but we always ended with those two. Book stories are melodic and perfectly lulled my littles to sleep. Just hearing the titles conjures wonderful, warm feelings. – Nichole Enerson

This is a very fun book to read with young children. I love the repetition in the words that the children can pick up on and repeat. A beautiful story of exploring the world and making new friends, with a fun surprise at the end, when the cricket actually chirps. – Kelly Ryan

A few years ago I watched my friend’s son, a new dad, read this to his son who wasn’t even a year old. It was a gentle read but with all the appropriate “arrrghs” and expressions. I was touched by the moment and quickly added it to my recommended book list for parents. – Betsy Clancy

This was a favorite book kept at my grandparents’ house. I loved the silly expressions of the two dogs, Fred and Ted, who always did everything opposite of the other. – Becky Bibbs

My kids loved reading these! The books highlight everyday events that children can relate to easily. My kids’ favorite part was turning each page and looking for the carefully hidden critters in the illustrations (e.g., spider, cricket, mouse, frog). For me though, the very best part was the snuggle time. – Deanna Robb

This was a popular favorite for my now 36 and 34 year olds. They still remember the last line, always said with drawn out expression, “and it was stiiiiiilllllll hot!” This was also a favorite of Dad, who was thrilled when I bought him the set of Wild Things figures for his office. He’s just a big kid at heart. – Betsy Clancy

This book tells the tale of a young boy (Max) who after being sent to his room for causing a ruckus, visits an imaginary world filled with wild things that are enamored by his wildness and make him King. He leads them in wild rumpus fun. After becoming lonely, he returns to his home where he eats his dinner. My 3.5-year-old son (King Grayson) absolutely loves this book because it shows that wild energy is what makes you who you are (and can make you a king). It also teaches about a time for fun and a time for family. Every night before Gray goes to bed, he says to me the infamous line from the book, “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.” – Stephanie Babcock

My son and I love reading these books together. Tacky is a penguin that believes in being different from the rest of the colony: Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect. In each book, he saves the day by staying true to who he is and in the end, all the penguins agree that “Tacky is an odd bird, but a very nice bird to have around.” – Becky Bibbs

Before my kids could read on their own, they all loved the silliness of the “Duck” books. They were well illustrated, silly, and fun to read. – Nicole Capozello

I was young. A fat man in a cape and underwear was the epitome of humor. – Hannah Schuele (daughter of Lori Polakowski)

With their mixture of adventure, fantasy and history, these books set the stage for my kids’ love of the fantasy genre, and passion for history. – Nicole Capozello

I loved the adventure Roald Dahl takes the reader on traveling through an enormous peach! I read the book over and over and over again; it filled my imagination with wonderful adventures and helped develop a love for reading. – Anna Paterson

This chapter book had clever word play. Lesson: Stop and smell the roses. – Hailee Schuele (daughter of Lori Polakowski)

This is a funny story of a boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp in the desert, where he is told to dig holes. This was one of my favorite childhood books — not only for the curiosity and interestingly twisty plotline of the main character Stanley Yelnats IV (all the men in their family are named Stanley Yelnats because their last name is Stanley spelled backwards) — but because it helped show that sometimes the tough times we experience in life have a funny way of working out in the end. – Stephanie Babcock

Maniac Magee was a young kid who was constantly handed the worst in life but he always came out on top. That and his ability to treat every human, regardless of their background, simply as a human was/is a really great concept to me. – Hannah Schuele

It is a book about the power of love which celebrates the beautiful individuality of kids. – Nicole Capozello

We read these books out loud together as a family, and then individually as well. The memories we made as a family didn’t end when the books’ closed, but continued as we traveled to Universal Studios Orlando, and as we play the “Harry Potter Alphabet” game to pass time standing in lines or on car rides. To say that these characters were among my kids’ best friends is not an exaggeration. And the lessons they learned about love and loyalty will last their whole lives. – Nicole Capozello

Choosing the perfect chapter book

Covers of chapter books for younger readers

As a parent, choosing chapter books can seem foreign when it comes to our beginning readers. In this blog post, I want to help open your eyes to the wonderful world of chapter books and give you a simple system to choosing the perfect book for your child.

The importance of chapter books

Chapter books give children stories that are filled with elements such as character development, plot, problem, solution and more. Because of the length of chapter books, they help build a child’s reading stamina. Children also develop new vocabulary from reading more challenging books.

The most difficult part for children reading chapter books is either the fluency (pace and ease of their reading) or the comprehension (ability to recall the details and events in the story.) This is one reason why finding the perfect book is so important for your children. If you choose a book that’s too hard for their reading level, they may not enjoy reading because they have to work so hard to read the words on the page. This can be detrimental to the love of reading they’ve come to understand. Also, a book that’s too difficult could have situations in the storyline and language that’s too mature for your child.

As my daughter is reading more and more and I am having a hard time “previewing” her chapter books, I am reading reviews on them on either Shelfari or Good Reads to check the appropriateness of the content.

Read-to books

This is the first set of chapter books your child should be introduced to. These are chapter books that you read to your child. Your child gets to enjoy the story and talk about what’s happening (story elements: problem, solution, sequence of events, etc.) The reading level doesn’t matter since you are reading these books, but the content does. For example, I wouldn’t read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my preschooler. It would be difficult for her to follow and stay engaged. Some good ideas are:

Early readers

This is the first set of chapter books your child will be able to read and comprehend. The shelves at local stores like Target and Walmart are stocked with this genre of Early and sometimes called Easy Readers.

Beginning chapter books for independent readers

Now your child is reading fluently, can read for longer periods of time, and is comprehending the stories they are reading. They are ready to read chapter books on their own. Remember to consider the length and content of the books they choose. You wouldn’t want Harry Potter to be a first pick! Here are some titles to start with:

I hope this helps you in choosing the perfect books for your children. Don’t forget to use the resources out there in helping you find new titles. Pinterest is great for finding a group of titles like “Chapter Books with Mystery.” Happy Reading!

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

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Use Books for Play

Little girl stacking books

Cropped image. Mliu92, Flickr. CC license.

For a over a year now I’ve been writing for Beaumont’s Parenting Program blog on ways to encourage reading and writing through the use of books in your home. But have you ever thought of using books simply for play? Here’s how!

  • Book Doctor. Use tape to help your children help fix their broken books. A torn page can be recovered in just minutes using clear packaging tape. If you don’t have broken books pulled aside just yet, make a label for a basket that can be kept near your family library to collect broken books over the next few weeks.
  • Build a Book Tower. Stack books. Talk about which ones work best (hardcover) and challenge each other to see how high your tower can get!
  • Home Library. Set up a check-out system for your home library. You can make pretend library cards using index cards or print one off the internet like this one. Don’t forget that local libraries have story time. Your children can grab a book, a chair and some stuffed animal friends to play the role as children as they retell a favorite story to an audience!
  • Design a Bookstore. A few weeks ago my girls set up books in the playroom with signs labeling groups of books (books with animals, Disney books, etc.). Then they played bookstore with one of them working the register at the store and the other coming through with a shopping cart and collecting books.
  •  Go on a Book Scavenger Hunt. This can be done in your personal family library or the local library. Here is an awesome printable to guide this play activity!

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

Favorite Chapter Books for Children Ages 3 – 7

Photo of 5 juvenile chapter books

This year my family and I sat down and came up with goals/resolutions. I love to read. It brings me so much enjoyment but when I get busy, it’s the first thing I put on the back burner. So I made the resolution to read a book a month.

List of family goals

Then I started thinking about making a list of chapter books my girls would like to read (or classics I would like to read to them) with us this year. If we list them and post the list on the fridge, we’re more inclined to use this visual as a reminder and follow through!

Here are some of my all-time favorite chapter books for children ages 3 – 7. My 3 year-old is just starting to sit through longer books so I think one chapter per night is all we’ll do.

Remember it’s important to think aloud, ask questions, and retell what’s happening in the story. Encourage your children to do the same in order to increase their reading comprehension. Get conversations going about your books and it’ll not only be a family moment but a learning one too!

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  2. Stuart Little by E.B. White
  3. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  4. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  5. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  6. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  7. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  8. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet (This three book series is great for preschoolers. It could be a great way to introduce reading chapter books aloud to your children.)
  9. Any Cam Jansen book by David Adler
  10. The Littles by John Peterson

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan

Getting Back to the Basics with Reading Comprehension

Dad reading a bedtime story to his daughter.

Cropped image. Gracie and Viv, Flickr. CC License.

Did you know you can truly impact your child’s literacy development with just a few questions every evening before bed? It’s true.

Reading before bed for infants, toddlers and preschoolers is beneficial in developing several pre-reading skills. Below are just a few:

  • Recognizing and supplying rhyming words
  • Understanding the features of a picture book (page reads left to right, pictures match the words, written by someone called an author, pictures by an illustrator, etc.)
  • Identifying the difference between letters, words and sentences
  • Punctuation
  • Reading intonation

Let’s keep it simple with this month’s tip. Here’s a sure-fire way you can increase your child’s reading comprehension, which they will develop before they are reading words.

  • As you read the story or afterwards, ask your child to identify the story elements: characters, problem, solution, and setting.
  • Your child will get really good at listing the above elements. Once this happens, add in more challenging story elements: the author’s message/theme, and the sequence of events. For the sequence of events, have your child retell the story across their fingers (i.e., First the boy while holding up one finger. First, next, then, last.).

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

Books and More

Stuffed elephant and pig with matching book

Go ahead, admit it, you’ve had something to eat or drink recently that was flavored with pumpkin spice. It’s become a part of the fall weather tradition around here in Michigan. As I sit here and drink my pumpkin spice coffee, I wanted to share some creative ideas on how you can pair up books with other unique gifts for birthday or holiday celebrations.

  • Name Books. Search Amazon for books that include the child’s name in the title. Children love hearing their name mentioned over and over again in a book. I just did this for a first birthday gift. I picked out three or four books with the character name “Lucy” in them for a sweet little girl.
  • Book and Stuffed Animal. Put together a book with a stuffed animal of the main character. We received this gift recently and especially loved the Ladybug Girl book collection.
  • Book and Toy. One of my favorite titles that encourages childrento be themselvesis called The main character is an elephant and the book is a great fit for preschool and elementary-age children. Pair it up with a puzzle for a creative bundle!
  • Themed Baskets. Pick out two or three fall books. Add them to a basket (Home Goods has great canvas baskets) along with some candy corn, hot cocoa, marshmallows and a mini-sized pumpkin. This can be switched up for any season and for any holiday. When our son was born, a friend filled a navy blue and white canvas tote with nautical themed gifts and books. It was a really fun gift to receive and I hope to give some out in return!
  • Fall Books. Check out my blog post from last year with ideas on fall books.

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.