Posts Tagged ‘reading’

A preschool summer reading list

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
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School has started and it is time for book reports to start rolling in.

I loved summer reading when I was in school, though I did have to rush through it in August after procrastinating all summer. Thanks to my teachers, I was introduced to Denise Giardina, Leon Uris and more beautiful authors. Now that I have a child, I’m still reading over the summer, but the font is slightly larger, the pictures are more colorful, and the plot is simpler.

Here are some of the favorite books in our house this summer:

Pete the Cat — A series written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. Pete the Cat and His Brand-New White Shoes was introduced to us by my son’s great-aunt. We absolutely love the laid-back musical cat and his constantly changing shoes. The moral of the story is “no matter what happens, keep walking along and singing your song… because it’s all good.” Seriously, that’s the moral. It’s also the last line in the grooviest book to hit our shelves recently. The book, and the two Pete titles that follow, come with a free downloadable song. It’s a catchy tune that is easy to remember and sing when it’s story time. My son, at 2, had the book memorized thanks to the song. The book is a Scholastic title, so look for it in book fairs near you.

Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen — a library find, we learned about Sally, a resourceful girl that grew up riding a bike, and has to get creative when she outgrows her trusty two-wheeler. Despite some struggles, this 8-year-old takes matters into her own hands, with some help from her junk-dealing neighbor, and creates a new bike that is totally unique and her own. It’s a wonderful read for all ages.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! — This Dr. Suess classic came back into our lives this summer when my boyfriend was asked to read it at a friend’s wedding. He used nightly story time as an opportunity to familiarize himself with the words, so he wouldn’t stumble and mumble over the tongue-twisting lines.

I could go on and on with titles, but I’ll leave you to let your Kindle do all the work. However, try to check out Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant, Elephant and Piggie books, and our all-time favorite, the classic Curious George.

What are some new titles you ran across this summer?

Taurus the Bull and her Gemini Twin

Monday, November 14, 2011
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Content...or contrary?

My daughter Ava was born on June 10 under the zodiac sign of Gemini.  A Gemini child is one who likes to explore and hates to be confined. Always on the move, Gemini children are easily bored and constantly seeking entertainment.  In addition, Gemini babies are reported to talk earlier than other boys and girls under different signs, a chattiness that is never outgrown.

Where did Ava come from?  She is nothing like little Gemini.  She’s not interested in leaving the front or back yard, she is the first one to buckle her seatbelt, and we thought for a while that she suffered from Selective Mutism. The child smiles a lot, but that’s about all you’re going to get from her.  Ava is not the extroverted Gemini by any stretch of the galaxy.  Ava is just like her mother: Taurus the Bull.

Yes, meet stubborn, bull-headed Taurus, born on a date only a few weeks before little Gemini.  Mother Taurus is a bull who’s happy to be by herself to graze, until she’s annoyed by another bull.  At such time, Mother Taurus turns on her terrible temper, often brought on by a change in her once peaceful surroundings.  When Taurus the Bull works, she works harder than anyone — a dependable, steady effort — but Taurus is hesitant to step beyond the capable line.

My Ava, wrongfully born under the sign of Gemini, does not want to participate in anything — not dance, not soccer and not even Accelerated Reader, a literacy program supported by her elementary school.  Quiet and reserved, shy and guarded, independent reading should be the one thing that attracts Ava.  But it doesn’t.  She hates the thought of competitive reading and she really hates the idea of taking comprehension tests a few times a week.  It had become such an issue in our house that I was concerned her attitude toward the program would kill her interest in reading altogether…and no child in the third grade should give up books.

If you aren’t familiar with Accelerated Reader (or Aggravated Reader as I call it), “AR”  is an assessment that primarily determines whether or not a child has read a book. AR’s creator, Renaissance Learning, does not require or advocate the use of incentives with the assessment, although most schools use them to generate involvement.

There are three steps to using Accelerated Reader. First, students choose and read a fiction or non-fiction book, textbook or magazine. Second, students take a quiz. Third, the teacher receives information that is intended to assist, motivate reading, monitor progress and target instruction.  Finally, reports regarding reading level and comprehension skills are generated for parent review.

The program — an outcome of the “No Child Left Behind” Act — is voluntary in elementary schools.  When Ava heard this, she opted not to participate despite being told by her father that “Yes, you will do A.R.”   Of course, she got upset and cried, which set off a domino effect of stressors to read enough books to take enough tests to earn enough points by the rapidly approaching deadline.

Incentives do not impress Ava. She is not interested in more time to play outside, being able to bring her Nintendo DS to school, or getting a goodie bag filled with trinkets and toys.  She’s content — like Ferdinand the Bull — sitting under a tree watching the world go by.

“There’s no reason why she shouldn’t do this,” my husband countered when I suggested we leave the situation alone.  “She’s an excellent reader and a bright student.  She just doesn’t want to and that’s not acceptable.”

This is when Taurus charged Virgo in the kitchen.

“But she doesn’t want to do it! It’s an option! We shouldn’t push her! If we do, she’ll just pull out of it completely! This is not a battle worth fighting right now!” I protested, nostrils flaring and hooves digging into the hardwood floor.

Sensitive, individualistic kids tend to be more creative, but they’re also less likely to perform in front of others, which is why they’re often referred to as “The Diminishers.” And most of the rewards aren’t persuasive enough to bring them out of their shells.

Experts warn that introverted children will not perform well under timed pressure, and measuring their speed is a mistake. So what motivates an introvert to get moving?

Introverts, like our famous Bulls,  couldn’t care less about money, candy or a new pony. They respond to intrinsic rewards — feelings of accomplishment and a sense of pride. Ava was comfortable with her situation: She could read well and well above her grade level, and she had recorded A’s in all of her classes. What more did she have to do?

Please her parents.

“I’m going to be disappointed if you don’t participate in A.R.,” Mike told her.  “I want you to do this because you can, and you’ll be so proud of yourself when it’s over.”

One of Taurus’ weaknesses is accepting less than she can achieve.  Slow, methodical, practical and reserved, this type of person is incredibly loyal — particularly to those people who provide her with security.  Knowing Ava as well as I know myself, I sensed that she would do anything for her dad.

Fair or not, Mike asked Ava to “do it for me.” After days of protest and a few tears, she completed the Accelerated Reader requirements and met her goal just before Halloween. She bounced out of school announcing “I DID IT!” and showed me the books she had checked out of the library, which she hoped to read over the weekend.

Zodiac theorists believe that it is best not to try to force children to do things. The danger is that the child will turn stubborn and Taureans can hold their ground for a long time. It is best to avoid harsh commands because affection and empathy are the most effective ways to end resistance.  But once this type of child learns something – the easy way or the hard way — it will not be forgotten.

Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns.

Some Mindless Reading

Saturday, November 12, 2011
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Since I went back to work in September I’ve felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I think most moms (and dads too, for that matter) can relate. I get up, cook breakfast and rush out the door for work. I am one of a thousand ants marching east on I-64, snaking toward Kanawha City each morning. My days at the office are hectic, trying to make up for a year of missed work. As soon as I walk through the door at night, everyone is hungry and I often can’t tell who is crying louder for food- my son, husband or dog. After dinner I have dishes, housework and bath time to get through. I find myself falling asleep every night as I put Henry to bed.

Needless to say, I haven’t had much time to myself lately, especially for things as time consuming as reading for pleasure. In my world it is important to differentiate between the monotony of reading for professional or relaxation purposes. I do plenty of reading at work- daily news briefs about the latest fad diet and the most recent journal articles about Vitamin D, for example. But making time to read something for fun- forget about it.

When I start a book, I’m like an addict. I can’t stop. I find myself staying up late and making excuses to sneak off alone to get my next fix- another chapter. I daydream about the characters and I think about what happens after the story ends. So, who could blame me for not taking the time to start a new book lately? My days are just too jam packed with life! But in reality, I need something to help lull me into blissful dreamland at night. Therefore, I’ve been spending a few minutes before bead reading magazines instead. They’re quick and simple and require very little commitment. My current favorite is Good Housekeeping.

I think Good Housekeeping is perfect for a working mom. The articles are relatively short and written about things to which I can really relate- crock pot meals, etiquette advice and the perfect under eye cream. Although I wouldn’t call it mindless reading, it’s pretty darn close. Just perfect for a quick 15 minutes before bed- or so I thought until the October issue.

Last month featured an article about why the food supply in America isn’t safe. Don’t get me wrong- I’m no food safety novice. I studied microbiology as an undergraduate and have taught food safety and food borne illness at the college level for years. But this particular piece was very disturbing. Just what somebody like me, who is already hypervigilant about preventing the spread of deadly microbes, needed to be extra paranoid. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest buying stock in Clorox wipes. The Gannons are doing our part to make sure everyone who buys some shares can retire early.

Seriously, this article summed up the gaps in our food safety system and outlined the crazy bureaucratic nightmare of which government agency is in charge of making sure our foods are safe. It reminded me of all the unusual food suspects that have made people sick in recent years- everything from peanut butter to sprouts and spinach. The worst part of all was seeing the pictures of the victims, innocent people who died because the food they ate was tainted. Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to food poisoning. Their small and weakened bodies just can’t handle the virulent bacteria, which can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure.

Few people are aware of the most common culprits. According to the CDC, the number one food which makes people sick is poultry. This is followed by leafy greens, beef, dairy, fruit and nuts. And, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is worthwhile to make sure you are keeping your food safe on the biggest poultry day of the year. Here are five easy steps to follow to help keep your family healthy:

First, make sure you properly thaw your bird. Never, ever thaw poultry, or any other frozen meat on the countertop. This allows bacteria, present in all meat, to rapidly multiply at rates that can easily make you sick. Second, don’t wash your turkey before baking it. You might think you’re washing off the bacteria, but in reality you’re just spreading germs. Third, use a food thermometer. Cook your bird using a method that allows it to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in less than 4 hours. In addition, make sure a thermometer inserted into a thick part of the muscle (such as the thigh) reaches 180 degrees F. Fourth, don’t stuff the bird. I know the thought of moist delicious stuffing basted with roasted turkey juice is irresistible. However, stuffing the turkey’s cavity makes it difficult for hot air to circulate and reach a temperature hot enough to kill the bacteria. If you do choose to stuff the cavity, make sure you do so loosely, and again, use a food thermometer. The stuffing should reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. Fifth, play it safe and don’t cross contaminate. This sounds like common sense, but in the rush of trying to get everything prepared, it is easy to accidentally use the same cutting board for raw meat and veggies. Finally, remember to wash all surfaces which have come in contact with raw poultry in hot soapy water and air dry. In my world, a little bleach goes a long way to keeping countertops salmonella free.

Although these rules aren’t the only ones you need to know to keep your family free of food poisoning on this beautiful holiday, they’ll help you ensure you’re healthy and happy and ready to wake up at 3 A.M. the next day for some black Friday shopping.

Curious George having a party at Taylor Books

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
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Taylor Books in Charleston is inviting families to a Curious George party on Saturday, Sept. 17.

It’s 10 a.m. to noon at the bookstore on Capitol Street.

Bring the monkeys and join us for a special Curious George read-a-loud to celebrate author H.A. Rey’s birthday!!

Enter to win a special collection of the original Curious George stories! Make a monkey mask and enjoy some delicious homemade treats!

Please call 304-342-1461 with any questions.

Rediscovering a young love

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
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Katy Brown’s blog about reading aloud to your children got me thinking about my childhood. Some of my fondest memories are when my dad would read to me and my brother. He read the classics, Oliver Twist (my brother’s namesake), Huckleberry Finn, Aesop’s Fables, and the Sunday funnies.

I’m pretty sure my love of the comics led to my love of newspapers, then my desire to become a journalist.

As I grew older, my love of reading flourished. I was all over Beatrix Potter, Dr. Suess, Nancy Drew, the Boxcar Children, the Baby-Sitters Club, teenage mysteries, and the like. I read for enjoyment all the way until college, when I was forced to read thousands and thousands of pages a semester, and it became laborious, not fun.

When the Nicholas Spark craze hit the rest of my friends, one friend said, “Cara only reads real books.” Not by choice. The Notebook sounds much more romantic than Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. While my friends read the Twilight series, I was reading The Kite Runner (great book, but not one you can sink yourself into.)

Having my son (and a sister that works at Border’s) has allowed me the opportunity to dive back into reading for pleasure, as well as discover classics that I never read.

For example, I had no reason to pay much attention to Eric Carle until my son’s great-aunt gifted Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear. He loves it. He has two copies at home, and yet still pulls it off the bookshelf if he sees it at the store. He has to sit down and read it right then.

Another favorite is The Whole Night Through, by David Frampton. A lullaby with gorgeous woodcuts created by the author, the book is the perfect way to kick off bedtime. I learned new animals, such as the eland and the kinkajou, from reading that book.

To my surprise, I realized I had never read Where The Wild Things Are or The Polar Express, both Caldecott winners that were somehow overlooked in my school days. They are on our bookshelf now.

We’ve picked up a few new favorites in the past couple of months as well. My ceramics instructor suggested Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, an amazingly illustrated tale of one ornery boy who uses his body as a canvas, instead of the ceilings and the wall and the curtains and the door. The music teacher boyfriend picked out Do You Do A Didgeridoo? by Nick Page. The energetic and rhythmic book is great to read while bouncing a little one on your knee.

My mother kept all of our Dr. Suess books, so my son is reading the same Cat In The Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish that I used to flip through.

Since I’ve been reading to my little one, I’ve also found I want to read for myself again. I’m working through The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy now, and hope to move on to Water For Elephants and Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I’m a little behind on the most recent titles, but I’m getting there.

What are some of your favorites, past and present? What are you reading now? What do your kids like?

The Three R’s: Reading, Reporting and Relationships

Monday, June 20, 2011
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Parenting by the book.

I’ve been asked by a number of people how I became a blogger for the Daily Mail.  I was invited, yes, but I also auditioned for the role without realizing it.  Before The Mommyhood, I maintained my own site, “Wilbur & Charlotte“, a children’s literature blog.  I wrote about the themes in children’s books that applied to adult life…most of which covered issues in parenting.  A few friends posted my entries on Facebook (catching the attention of the newspaper’s managing editor), and well, there you have it.  Here I am.

Relationships and connections are what matter most.  As a former law firm marketer, I used to (literally) buy in to full-page, front-page advertisements and pull-out inserts that stamped the credos of  attorneys and their services.  I believed in the big splash — making a mountain out of a molehill — and hoarding every square inch of print real estate to tell the firm’s story. Since that time — nearly 10 years ago — I’ve changed my tune.  It is who you know…or better yet, who seems to know you.  Social media has delivered more business to my small writing and editing shop than any other form of marketing. And, I’m mighty grateful that it’s still free.

Once one blog led to another blog and readership and name recognition expanded, I was contacted about serving on the board of directors of Read Aloud, WV.  My career as a writer, life as a parent, and love of books made me a candidate to help spread the word about the organization, which was created to motivate children to want to read.  Read Aloud, WV encourages parents and other adults to read to children early in life, to build lifetime memories through interaction, and to encourage comprehension skills to strengthen academic and professional success.  During my pre-board involvement research, I discovered a new book that has become my own source of motivation — a book that became my daughters’ gift to their dad for Father’s Day.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, is lovingly written by Alice Ozma (named for two literary characters — “Alice” from Lewis Carroll and “Ozma” from L. Frank Baum). The daughter of a Philadelphia-area elementary school librarian, Ozma and her dad  embarked on a streak of reading-out-loud sessions every night as she was growing up. Originally, the father-daughter literary duo decided on 100 nights straight of reading before bed—a minimum 10 minutes, no excuses, but then it stretched to 1,000.

To keep the streak alive, there were some days when their reading date started at 12:00 midnight and some days when it began at dawn.  They would wake each other from deep sleep to read; to keep their commitment to one another.  “Once started,” Ozma’s father writes, “a reading streak can be a hard thing to stop.  The only thing that stopped us was when she moved away from home…almost nine years after we began.”

Ozma’s father goes on to stress that the greatest gift parents can bestow upon their children is time and undivided attention.  “No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was, ‘I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young’,” he writes.

Ozma approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her. Some of those titles included in the Streak were: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens,  Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Shakespeare’s plays, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, and those written by famed children’s author, Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing).

At the end of The Reading Promise, the author has included a contract that parents and their children can fill out, commiting themselves to a lifetime of reading: out loud for all to hear, silently for no one to hear, in a bedroom or on a couch, at the beach or in the park.  Readers will promise to laugh uncontrollably or to sob inconsolably, to look up unfamiliar words, and most importantly…to lose track of time.

Which I have done.  So, I’m going to stop typing and start reading.  My girls have new books to crack — Ava has a small stack of birthday books to dive into — and Maryn will be reading on her own this time next year.  But, I think I’ll take Mr. Ozma’s advice to read to them as long as I can; to make this the one thing they’ll never outgrow.

Kids book club at South Charleston Library

Friday, February 11, 2011
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The South Charleston Library is offering a book club each Thursday evening in March.
“Read and discuss great stories with Miss Brenna and enjoy story-related activities and refreshments.”
Children in grades 1 to 3 will be reading “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo and will meet from 5:30 to 6:20 p.m.
Children in grades 4 and 5 will be reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl and will meet from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
To register, call 304-7446561 or stop by the library. Registration starts Monday (Feb. 14) at 9 a.m.