Posts Tagged 'reading'

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

Three creative ways to get your kids reading this summer

Three ways to get kids reading this summer

Summer officially started yesterday. The best way to keep your kids engaged with books over the next few months is to have a plan. Be prepared to make it fun, meaningful, and to include the entire family. Here’s how:

  1. Make it fun

There are a number of ways to make reading fun this summer.

  • How about having your child track their reading with a BINGO board? Here’s a fun printable to explore and download.
  • Another way of making reading adventurous is to go on a scavenger hunt at your local library. Last summer, we checked off one of these items each week we went to the library and couldn’t wait to continue on our search for unique titles. My first grader loved it!
  1. Make it a family event

Include the entire family in on reading this summer by hosting a few family dinner book nights. You read a book, make a craft, cook a themed dinner, and discuss the book over a meal with the entire family. There are also suggestions to extend the activity with a service project (hooray for incorporating kindness into your summer activities). My friend Jodi from Growing Book by Book has hosted these book clubs monthly for the last two years. Here are a list of ideas you can adapt for your own family fun.

  1. Make it meaningful

If you’re going to give children access to books this summer — whether they are books from the library, garage sales, thrift stores, bookstores, or Amazon — choose books carefully.

The first rule of thumb is to include some books with strong moral messages. My friend Laura, who is an elementary school teacher, created a movement called #TakingCareThursday. It asks families and teachers to be intentional in reading at least one book a week (it doesn’t have to be on Thursdays) that teaches children about character traits such as kindness, empathy and compassion.

The second thing to keep in mind when bringing books into your home this summer is to choose books that are of interest to your child. Do they love trucks, animals or cooking? Search for these books to get into their hands as well. Here is a list of book suggestions for #TakingCareThursday.

The most important take-away from today’s blog post is to be sure your children have access to books this summer. If they have books but don’t want to read them, add in books with topics they are interested in and the element of fun. You are sure to get them reading then!

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

Creative ways to celebrate literacy during National Reading Month

A photo sample of creative ways to celebrate literacy

National Reading Month takes place in March every year. Here are 10 creative ways to bring literacy to life within the walls of your home! Not only will you have fun as a family, but you will be increasing your children’s interest in literature and adding to their developing reading and writing skills.

  1. Board games. Dust off some of your board games that infuse literacy elements such as Hedbanz, Scrabble or Zingo.
  1. Movie night. Read a chapter book as a family every night, then celebrate the end of the book by watching the accompanying movie. There are a lot of books turned movies; be sure to look into which would be age appropriate for your children. We started off with Disney books and movies like “Cinderella” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Our local children’s theater is offering the musical Snow White right now and that could be another option.
  1. Read a series. Spend the month reading an exciting series of books. For very young children, you can read Arthur or Biscuit books. “My Father’s Dragon” is a great beginning chapter book series and for preschool and elementary aged children. The Imaginary Veterinary series is a lot of fun! Reading a series of books really gets children excited and engaged. My husband once told my four year old he loved Arthur books, so now each time we go to the library, she gets excited to pick a new Arthur book our for her Papa to read to her.
  1. Start a family journal. Purchase a notebook (one from the dollar store works) and write letters back and forth to your children. We have a rule: When it’s my turn to write in the journal, my daughter leaves the notebook for me on my nightstand. We write about anything and everything. Young children can participate, too, by adding pictures and inventive spelling or even letter strings (when a young child mimics writing with scribbles).
  1. Old-school word games. You can find old-school word games as apps now or find one online to print out and enjoy. Show your children how to do a word search (they make them for all learning levels and you can personalize them, too), hangman, and crossword puzzles. I like to print a special puzzle out for my girls to work on before breakfast in the morning. They are still waking up but enjoy having a special activity to work on while I cook breakfast and make their lunches.
  1. Mad Libs. Complete a Mad Libs story to read aloud as a family this month. It’s sure to bring giggles to all!
  1. YouTube. Did you know there are books available as videos? There are authors and volunteers who read books aloud on YouTube. Search for your favorite stories as a kid and share them on this platform with your children. I used to love “Bedtime for Frances” and can remember my Grandma reading it to me each time we stayed over at her house.
  1. Share your story. Tell stories before bed about memories you had as a child. Use inventive dialogue and be sure to describe the setting. Storytelling is wonderful for children to use their imaginations and sharing stories from your past will help your child make a connection with you.
  1. Audiobooks. You can check out audiobooks at the library or use online platforms such as Audible. Listen to a chapter of a book you are reading together in the car, then read the next chapter aloud that night to your children. It’s a different way for children to hear stories and a great use of your commute time in the car.
  1. Update your family library. Go to the library on the weekend or while your children are at school. Ask them what kind of books they would like you to get them if they are not going with you. Pick out a bunch of books and add them to a basket in your family room. Replenish the books every two or three weeks when they are due. Be sure to add a variety of genres like non-fiction, holiday books, and high interest stories related to what your child is into.

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

Do the language dance

Dad reading to a little boy

Unaltered image. Jinglejammer, Flickr. CC license.

Wouldn’t it be reassuring if we could see into our child’s future? To see them as a well-adjusted, content, healthy teenager who is making the most of their academic and social opportunities in high school, could make our parenting job just a little easier.

But there isn’t a crystal ball for that, just some significant research.

Which of these factors contribute most to the future school achievement of our children: income, IQ, school, where we live, genetic code? Actually, none of them. Instead, our children’s achievement in school is determined by the number of words parents say to them between birth and 3 years of age.

Research shows that by the age 3, some children heard a total of 13 million words while others heard a total of 45 million words. (Words from a TV, computer or iPad don’t count.) The more communication our babies have with us, even before they can talk, the better their language development will be. Language development is the beginning of literacy (reading, writing and communicating). A strong literacy foundation is the key to school success.

Children who heard 45 million words didn’t only hear directions such as “Eat your peas,” or “Don’t stand on the furniture.” Their parents also talked to them when they didn’t have to; this is called the language dance.

More talk is good, but not just any talk will make your child smarter. To positively impact our children’s language development, we must engage them in the language dance. One way to do this is with books. Yes, this includes reading them, but it is mostly by talking with our children about the books we are reading.

Language dance tips

Going beyond the text is one of the best ways to engage in the language dance. When reading books with your child, pay attention to what he is pointing to or looking at, then say something about it. Some ideas for comments are:

  • Name a character or item: “The little boy’s name is Jack.”
  • Describe the character: “Jack looks excited,” or “Jack’s mommy is working really hard.”
  • Describe the item: “That ball is round and rolls on the ground,” or “The white clouds in the sky are fluffy.”
  • Connect to your child’s life: “You have a colorful ball too. Look, here’s your ball.”

Remember, the language dance supports language development and, ultimately, literacy. So while we may not actually be able to see into our children’s future, one sure way to create a good one is by building the components of a solid literacy foundation. Your children will thank you.

– Stacey Sharpe Mollison, Simply Smart Kids, Co-Founder

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.

Visit www.mariadismondy.com/resources and join our Private Facebook Group where parents and educators are collaborating to empower children with skills and strengthen their character and esteem.

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


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