At the Beginning of a New Year, Start a Children’s Book Club to Promote Reading

Book clubs are usually regarded as reserved only for parents.  A typical scene is adults gathered in the living room, sipping on a beverage, and talking about that exciting scene in their last read.  However, book clubs can be much more than that, especially for children.  These clubs give their members the opportunity to encourage each other in reading (and  all the benefits that come along with it); collectively immerse themselves into their book’s reality, leaving their own behind if only for a moment; and make new friends along with strengthen existing friendships.

Children already have such vivid imaginations and what better way to develop creativity than through books.  The idea of a club may not initially seem exciting to them, but gear your ‘pitch’ toward one of their favorite things.  For example, if they love robots, suggest some futuristic novels about artificial intelligence.

Filling the club with your children’s friends is a surefire way of making it more enjoyable.  There are several issues that need to be taken into consideration in planning, such as book genres to read and discuss, as well as convenient schedules and locations.  Be flexible as book clubs are not obligated to center around one theme.  At the start of a new club, have your children choose one or two books of their liking and then discuss with the other members of the group and their parents what types of books they would like to read.

Hosting the club once every two weeks or more makes scheduling easier and gives the children the opportunity to make reasonable headway on their reading assignment. Remember - it is unlikely that this is the club members’ only extramural activity, so discuss their existing schedules with their parents to come up with the best schedule and time for the meetings. When there actually are meetings, have a plan as to what should be accomplished in each session. They can discuss their favorite characters, make chapter/book predictions, relate the novel to an aspect of their lives, or act out their favorite scene.  The possibilities are endless!  Be prepared and organized so that the sessions run smoothly and children are encouraged to return.

It is critical that you find a good location for the meetings. Club meetings should be hosted in a convenient location and have enough space to seat everyone comfortably, including parents who may want to sit at a distance and listen. Perhaps rotating among members’ homes would be acceptable.

A further encouragement for your children’s participation would be having another “fun” activity planned afterwards that they can all look forward to.  For example, they can participate in the book club meeting and then go to the movies together. 

Reading is fundamental and book clubs can make it fun, too! You can find many of suggestions on PBS.org and SheKnows.com.

How to Choose a Bible for Your Children

Do you have a Bible for your children?  Many parents buy story books for their children with stories out of the Bible because they do not believe that their children will be able to understand the Bible.  I continue to encourage parents to buy an actual Bible for their children so that they can begin to read God’s Word for themselves.

In the online article Choosing a Child’s Bible, writer T. Capps provides some excellent guidance in selecting the right Bible for your children.  Important considerations are:

1. Make sure that you purchase a Bible that is the right reading level for your child.

2. Buy a Bible that is the complete Bible, and not just one part.  That way, your children learn from young about the Old and New Testaments.

3.  If the Bible has pictures, ensure that they are accurate and not cartoon characters or scary.  The Bible is not a cartoon book, and children should not think of it as such.

4. Purchase a Bible that has maps and other information to help your children learn more about the time periods.  Maps, timelines, etc., offer assistance to children and make the Bible more understandable.

5. Make sure that the Bible is durable and further consider a cover for it so that it can last many years.

The author makes many more helpful suggestions.  Spend time considering what Bible to purchase as it will be a prized possession for your children for many years. To read the entire article, click here.

Former President Obama is a Wonderful Role Model for Many Things, Including Being a Reader Who Enjoys Books

Former President Barrack Obama is a true role model.  He is a loving husband and father.  He enjoys continuing to learn and grow.  And, he especially loves to read.  During his presidency, he often promoted the importance of reading to students, and would actually take some of his precious time to read to them.

In an interview with the New York Times just days before he stepped down from office, President Obama made it clear that “books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.”  He especially found enlightening and helpful books by such great men as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  In fact, he told the reporter that he would often leave his office so that he could read.

Not only is he a reader, but he is also a well-known author.  His love of books led him to write in order to encourage others.  I truly hope that he continues to promote literacy, especially among our African American and Hispanic young men.  If President Obama loves to read, it should be cool for young men to read too.  What an impactful message he sends!

To read the entire article, please CLICK HERE.

Teaching Our Children About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 16, is a federal holiday in honor of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  What do you plan to do that day with your children?  Is it just another day off for you to spend time doing chores at home or shopping?  I strongly suggest that you take the time to plan celebrating this holiday and teaching your children about all the accomplishments of this American hero and his tremendous impact on us, and of course, incorporate reading into all your activities.

What are some of the things that you can do?  In her online article on Scholastic.com, Teach Kids About Martin Luther King, Jr., author Denene Millner makes some good suggestions.  First, she says to be honest when talking with your children, even though it may be painful.  Explain to your children that there were days when “Colored People” had their own drinking water fountains.  Tell them about being forced to sit in the back of a bus or to attend separate schools just because of the color of your skin.  Show them pictures of the past so that they can see for themselves what actually happened.

Second, discuss what Dr. King did that directly affects us today and how he promoted nonviolence.

Third, attend and volunteer at events that honor him.  Do some research in your community to find out what are the best activities for your family.

In addition to what Ms. Millner recommends, I would like to recommend that parents discuss who Dr. King was.  Let your children find out all about his interesting background, including that he was a brilliant man who started college when he was 15 years old!  I’m certain that he did a lot of reading as he grew up.  Importantly, he was not only a brave leader, but he was also a husband, father, and minister.

There are many wonderful books about Dr. King for every age group.  Visit your local library or bookstore.  He should not be just a memory in history.  Make this hero come alive for your children because there is so much that they can learn from him.

To read Ms. Millner’s entire article, click here.

What is One of the Most Important New Year’s Resolutions That You Can Make For Your Children? Read more!

    I came across this post by an unknown author about reading to your children.  As you may know, my blog centers on improving the lives of children, primarily through literacy.  It should be no surprise that I would continue to inspire adults to read more to and with children.  As we begin a new year, I encourage you to add that as a New Year’s resolution as it keeps reading on your most important things “to do” list each day.  

    As the unknown author writes, it only can take 20 minutes a day.  That is 20 minutes out of 1,440 minutes that we have each and every day.  Surely you can squeeze in the time!  But, if there is one day that you just have 10 minutes, still do it.  Don’t put reading off to a time in the future when you believe you will have “enough time” because often, that time does not happen.   Make procrastinating a thing of the past and just do it!

    What about where and when to read?  The author again gives you some suggestions.  Think about all the things that you do each day that require some sort of waiting time, and then add reading.  While you do laundry … while dinner cooks – these are just a few of those times.   Moreover, read during any time of the day – especially on weekends and holidays.  Search for opportunities to read. 

    I love it when the author suggests to “Hide the remote; let the computer games cool.”  We all know that these electronic devices steal reading time away from us.  So, in other words, don’t even turn on the television.  If you have it on, turn it off and then don’t let anyone else turn it on while reading is going on.  With computer games, you may have to pull your children away from them, but pull, pull, pull!  Those games won’t go anywhere and when you give the approval for your children to return to them, they will still be there.

    While reading, have your children snuggle close to you.  This is a wonderful time to bond and love on them.  They hear your voice.  They feel your warm touch.  They know that they are truly loved!  And, as the author says “Hey, don’t quit.”  Tomorrow is another day to read, and read, and read some more.

How Much Time Do You Spend Each Day Listening to Your Children?

During these busy holiday times, it is especially difficult for us to take our time as parents, slow down, and listen to our children when they speak.  Active listening skills can be developed - it just takes your desire to want to do it.  I love this quote from Catherine M. Wallace on today’s blog because I believe it is so true.  Listen to your children today and show them you love them so that when they grow up, you will always be considered as a parent to talk to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some very important information on their website about parenting and developing the skills of active listening with your children.

Active listening is one of the most important ways to build a close and loving relationship. Here are some of the active learning skills that the CDC recommends:

  1. Stop what you are doing and focus your attention exclusively on your child.
  2. Engage in eye contact when speaking.
  3. Get down to your child’s level physically.  If your child is sitting down, sit down too.
  4. Reflect or repeat back what you understand your child to be saying to make sure that you completely understand it.  
  5. Don’t worry about getting things wrong.  It is more important that you are listening and trying to understand.

On this website, the CDC gives examples of active listening skills so you can read for yourself and get suggestions.  Please visit it to learn more: CLICK HERE.

For the Month of September – Inspirational Back to School Quotes for Your Children – Stress Their Uniqueness

You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.

Psalm 139:13-14

    Since the month of September involves our children going back to school, I would like to give parents some inspirational, back to school quotes for their children in my blog posts for this month.  This week’s blog focuses on encouraging your children to stand out in their classrooms and among their friends.

In other words, they should strive to be the special, unique persons they were created to be, and not try to blend in with the crowd.  Build up their self-confidence.  Talk to them about their God given gifts and talents.  Speak blessings over them in the mornings and pray with them before they head out to school.  Read Bible verses that refer to how special they are.  Don’t let this be just another start of an ordinary school year, but seek to make this school year exceptionally different and special.  It’s up to parents to set the stage for their children’s success. 

Include Attending Book Festivals as Fun, Family Activities

    There are so many book festivals throughout the year.  These festivals celebrate authors and books – for all ages – often at no entry cost whatsoever.  Many festivals are just for children’s books or have sections dedicated for children, with children’s authors and their books featured and available for sale.  A variety of fun children’s activities also are held, such as face painting, children’s crafts, musical performances and exhibitions geared for children. 

    Not only will your children learn about new books, but they will also have the opportunity to actually meet and speak with children’s authors.  Have the authors autograph their books for your children.  This will make the books more personal and special.   Some festivals have “Read to Me Corners” where authors read their books and speak about their love for reading and writing.  

    Search the internet for book festivals near you.  What a wonderful way to spend a day with your children!   They are sure never to forget their experiences. 

    Please join me on September 3 and 4, 2016 in Decatur, Georgia at the Decatur Book Festival.  I’ll be at booth #629 in the children’s area.  I’ll also be at the Miami Book Festival on November 19, 2016.  I would love to meet you and your children and autograph books.

Reading Bedtime Stories with Your Older Children

    When was the last time that you read a bedtime story with your older children?  When they were young, you took the time to read and cuddle before going to bed.  But, now that they are older and can read by themselves, you should not stop reading with them bedtime stories.

    According to Scholastic.com, there are many benefits to reading bedtime stories with your older children.  Here are a few:

1.  Your children are spending precious time with you and you with your children.   You are doing something together, which builds memories. 
2. You get to know their opinions.  When reading, ask questions.  Since they are older, they can give their opinions on subjects.  Have them think outside the box, rather than just giving rote answers.  This will give you important insight into what and how they are thinking. And, remember – no question is a dumb question.  
3. Children are learning good writing skills and sentence structure when they listen to well written books.  Then, when they are in school, they will be able to remember these skills and replicate them.  This is much different than with their younger siblings who are not at that stage of development yet.  

    Be sure to select a time that is convenient for you and your children.  Don’t rush through a book just to say that you read with them.  Plan and take the time that both you and they need to make this an enjoyable occasion.

    For more information, read the online article by CLICKING HERE.

Throw a Fun Book Swap Party for Your Children and Friends

    Book swap parties have become popular events for children and promote reading at the same time.  They are simple to organize and fun to participate in.  And, they are a wonderful way to add new books to your children’s collection without having to pay the cost.

    If you’ve never been to a book swap party, here’s how they usually go.  Pick a date that will work for you, your children, and others.  Have your children select the books that they have already read and would like to swap with other children.  Be sure to explain to them that once the book is swapped, it no longer belongs to them but to the other child.  That way they understand that the book will have a new home. 

    Encourage your children to write a couple of sentences on an index card or post-it note as to why they liked those books.  This will encourage other children to read the books too.

    The children who are invited should also bring their books to swap.  Plan refreshments and snacks, just as with a regular party.  During the party, the children look at all the books and swap for the ones they want.  For those books that are left over, donate them to your children’s school’s library or the public library.

More Summer Reading Programs for Children

    I can’t write enough about the importance of having your children read during the summer.   The diagram with this blog today illustrates how children can actually drastically lose reading skills during the summer months if they do not have access to books.  For children in high and low income households who read during the summer, their reading skills improved up to 25%.  For children in low income households who do not read, their reading skills actually dropped by almost 10%.

    On an online article, Liz Haskins lists 10 free summer reading programs.  She also explains how to access free books on a Kindle or E-Reader.  Read her article by CLICKING HERE.  There is no excuse for not having your children read, and read, and read this summer.  Your child’s performance in school during the coming year depends on it.  

Biographies are Wonderful Books for Children

I truly like this statement: “Every hero has a story”.   Who are your children’s heroes?  Have them read about their heroes’ stories.  If they don’t really have any yet, introduce them to heroes.  Your children will learn about the lives of different famous persons, the obstacles that they had to overcome, and what made them heroes.  They may even aspire to become like them!

Are your children interested in wars or major battles?  Have them read about famous generals and important battles.  Are they interested in famous writers?  Help them research about different authors and read their biographies.  Are they interested in sports figures?

There are many books about famous athletes.  Are they interested in the presidents of the United States?  Children’s books have shortened versions of these biographies.  I could go on and on.  If there is a person whom your child admires, try to find that person’s biography.  Inspire your children to learn and dream. 

Include Summer Reading Programs in Your Children’s Summer Plans

Please do not let the summer go by without having your children be a part of a summer reading program.  There are many everywhere at no cost whatsoever, so search for the best ones for your children.

Typically, children enroll in a reading program and then read a certain number of books.  If they reach the required reading goal, they are awarded some sort of a prize.  This helps children continue to improve their reading skills, set goals that are both short term and long term, actually accomplish goals, and then receive a reward.  

Usually, the public library where you live will have a good summer reading program.  Many companies now offer them as well – such as HEB, Barnes and Noble, Scholastic, Chuck E. Cheese, Pizza Hut and even Pottery Barn.  Again, research what programs are available.  Your children may be able to enroll and participate in more than one.  They’ll be surprised how fast the summer passes while reading good books.

Cook with Your Children and Promote Reading at the Same Time

What does cooking have to do with reading?  A whole lot because reading recipes is involved!  Encourage your children to help out in the kitchen with cooking and have them read from recipes and other items at the same time.  And, have a lot of fun while you are doing it too!

There are a variety of excellent cookbooks for children available.  Or, you may have family recipes that you have collected over the years and written down on index cards or typed out.  The goal is to have your children read.  Start with the ingredients.  Let them read and then collect the items that are needed.  After that, continue on to the instructions.  What is step 1?  Step 2? Ask them questions about what they have read to make sure they understand what is involved.

Above all, be patient and understanding.  If egg shells get in the bowl, show them how to remove them and what to do in the future.  Help them read the numbers and then set the temperature on the oven.  Then, set a timer on a clock for the correct cooking time.   I guarantee that if you involve your children in cooking, you will create life long memories!

The Importance of Speaking Blessings Every Day Over Your Children

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Proverbs 18:21

One of my favorite Bible verses is this Proverbs 18:21 verse.  It essentially means that the words we speak each and every day are critical forces in our lives and in our children’s lives.   The power of a parent giving a child a blessing can be seen early in the Bible in Genesis 27.  Isaac gave his son Jacob profound blessings of riches and power.   

The blessings set forth in Numbers 6:24-26 are an excellent example of blessings that you can speak over your children: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."  The blessings contained in this short verse are extremely powerful because they establish God’s love, protection, favor, grace, and peace upon your children.

Also, put your hands on your children when you bless them.  Make the times of blessings affectionate and loving times, ones that your children will always remember and pass down to the next generation. 

Teachers Play a Critical Role in Advancing Literacy

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

― Henry Adams

My blog centers around promoting literacy.  Most of my writing is geared toward what parents, grandparents and other adults can do in the home.  What about outside the home?  Teachers are the ones who spend approximately 7 hours a day, Monday through Friday, with our children.  They not only teach, but also are role models and motivators and as such, they are vital to our children’s ability to read and development of the love of reading.

When did you last speak to your children’s teachers about the importance of reading?  When was the last time that you visited your children’s classrooms? What type of books are in the classroom?  How often do the children visit the library?  What can you do to help these teachers to promote reading more?
    
Teachers often are overworked and have many different lessons to cover during a school day.  However, they understand the importance literacy plays in a child’s education and overall life.  Try volunteering at the school to assist.    Donate books to the classroom, especially books that your children have already read.  Then, they can be the ones to tell their friends about the books.  Helping your children’s teacher to be better teachers benefits your children and others. 

Using Toys to Promote Reading

Using Toys to Promote Reading

I’m certain that your children have a lot of different toys around the house.  Try incorporating those toys during their reading time to make the stories come to life and to further develop their creativity. My two sons loved to read about dinosaurs, and we must have had every type of dinosaur toy in our home...

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Make Reading Fun By Adding Hand Puppets

Make Reading Fun By Adding Hand Puppets

I know what you may be thinking after reading this heading for my blog today.  “Why should I add hand puppets to reading time?”  “Hand puppets – where do I buy those?”  “Help!! Can you give me some ideas?” If there is one thing that I know well about children- it is that they love to laugh...

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Reading Mystery Stories Can Also Teach Important Reading Skills

Reading Mystery Stories Can Also Teach Important Reading Skills

A good mystery story can keep you spellbound for a long time.  You do not want to put the book down until the mystery is solved and you know who has done it.  You read and try to pick out all the clues.  You try your best to figure out the ending.  Did you get it right after all?  If not, what clues did you miss? Children love mystery stories as much as adults...

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Creating Comfortable Space for Your Children to Enjoy Reading

Creating Comfortable Space for Your Children to Enjoy Reading

Having a plethora of books available at home is one way to encourage your children to read.  Another important way is to have a comfortable space in or around the home where your children can enjoy that quiet reading time.  If the space is there, they will certainly take advantage of it.

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