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How Do Our Routines Impact Children’s Reading

No one would argue that reading is one of the most important things we can teach our children. When a child learns to read, it opens up a whole new world to them. When a person can read, they will be able to do more, learn more, and become more than they otherwise would. Our routines can impact our children’s reading, and here are some ideas on how your routines can encourage your child to become an avid and effortless reader.

Routines Make Time for Reading

In a busy world where we often feel like we are flying from one activity to the next, routines give us a solid schedule where we can make time for what is important to us and our families. Maintaining routines ensures that there will always be time for our children to read. Having a certain time set aside daily to read is one of the best things we can schedule and make time for.

Routines Allow Us to Be Involved in the Process

Routines also allow us to be able to commit to helping a child read. It is frustrating for a child who has a desire to learn something when their parent has too many other things on the go to assist them when needed. Putting reading into one’s schedule allows us to be available and to plan ahead so that we can be there when necessary.

Routines Allow Our Children to Look Forward to Reading

Children thrive on routines, and they crave predictability in their schedules. When your child knows what to expect at each given moment, they will anticipate what comes next. Although it seems counter-intuitive, our children will be more likely to look forward to reading when they know it is going to happen at a certain time, and on a daily basis.

Routines Give Children the Structure to Think Creatively

When a child doesn’t have to wonder what is going to happen at the next moment, all day long, they can channel their creativity into more worthwhile things. Routines free up a child and their imagination and give your child room to expand their creative pursuits. Children who think creatively are more likely to enjoy reading because their imagination fills in the blanks as they read, and brings the text to life.

Routines Free Your Child’s Mind to Learn

Daily routines help everyone function at their best, from the youngest to the oldest of the family. Routines help us feel stable and let us get into a rhythm. We function at our best when our bodies have a predictable pattern and know what to expect next. Your child will feel less scattered and be able to focus and concentrate on reading when they feel safe and secure. This is what routines do for us.

Routines are beneficial to families in every way. They give time to parents, creative energy to children, and the opportunity to make it all happen. Embrace routines in your life and see what a difference it can make in your child’s ability and love for reading.

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Helping Your Child Remember What They Read

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you spend the required 15 daily minutes with your child reading, and once the book is closed, there is little to no recollection of what was read. They can’t remember the elephant’s name was Horton, they don’t recall what kind of website Katie Kazoo and her friend were trying to make, or they don’t have a clue as to how Peter’s pet dog, ‘Turtle,’ got his name.

Comprehension. It is the next step in learning to read. Your child can be so focused on the act of reading words and how they work together, that they overlook what is going on in the story. This is common when they are beginning to learn to read. Once they have the vocabulary aspect of reading down, you can move on to retaining what is being read. As you move through this process, there are a few things you can do to help your child remember what they read.

Turn Words into Pictures

One lesson I learned about five years ago was about bringing words to life. This involves converting words to mental pictures. For instance, if your child is reading a story about floating in a boat down a river, it helps to mentally picture the boat and feeling yourself coasting down the river. Descriptive words the author uses assist with these pictures. However, sometimes the author can leave some of these details out. What you are left with is bland reading. In that case help your child be creative. Have them add their own sights, smells, feelings, and other descriptive content.

Creating pictures doesn’t have to end with nouns and verbs. You can take any aspect of prose and create a mental picture of the words on the page. When you mentally see a word or phrase, you trigger something within the memory that makes it easier to recall.  This works especially if your child is a visual learner. If you run across a dull book with few details, stop and ask questions of your child. As in our boat example, ask them what color they think it is, how wide the river is, or what is the temperature like.

Thais takes us to our second point:


Ask Plenty of Questions

Not only can you ask questions due to ambiguity, but you can also ask questions to help comprehension. If your story is about a black cat named Whiskers chasing a mouse through the kitchen, you can test their understanding by asking questions like, “What was the name of the cat?” or “What room are they running through?” A question about any of the details will help them see the cat and mouse in their mind, once again further engraining the experience into their long-term memory.

This form of learning is especially useful for those children whose minds tend to wander. My oldest son had this issue. We had to help his mind stay focused on the task of reading. This required pauses in the middle of the story and questions being asked: What just happened? Who did it happen to? Who said what? All questions are pointing to what was currently going on in the passage we just read. Sometimes he could remember, and sometimes we had to backtrack and reread a section. And that is okay. Repetitive reading also helps comprehension.


Talk About the Story

Not only do questions help with retention, but discussion about the subject matter can lead a child to remembering a book into their adulthood. This method goes deeper than what is going on in the story. It extends into feelings and motives that are behind the characters’ actions: Why do you think they acted this way? What other options could they have taken? Also questions about what they would have done if they were faced with a similar situation. Get their minds to think, instead of plowing through the story in an effort to complete it.

Discussion about a book can also help teach life lessons that may not necessarily in the pages of the book you are reading. An author usually as a purpose for writing what he or she writes. Talking with your child about the book can shine light on subject matter that is between the lines.

If a character in a story is dealing with the consequences of a bad decision, they may get themselves out of the situation, but the writer may not tell you straight out that the character should have listened to their parents from the beginning. This can be brought out with asking questions like, “What could have helped the character not get into trouble?” Then when faced with a similar situation, they may remember what happened in the book and chose to make a wiser decision.


Final Thoughts

Whether it is a story about a mouse and a cookie, an elephant with a flower, or a biography on sea turtles you can help your child retain what they read. When done right, they won’t even realize that they are learning. The key is to have patience. Some of these skills don’t work on all kids, or sometimes it takes a while for them to be adapted into habits. Either way, do not give up on your child. Repetition is the key.

Use their imagination to your advantage. Turn words into pictures, ask plenty of questions, and discuss their stories.  The more you access the creative portion of their minds, the more they will remember what they read. This will not only help them with the books they read now; it helps them with reading in future grades and into adulthood.

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How to Succeed with Our Childrens Reading

We, as parents, all struggle in one way or another when it comes to our children. We often find ourselves clueless as to how to get them to do the things that they need to do. Reading is no exception. We struggle to find the line between pushing them too much or not enough. More times than not we thrust the job off on the child’s teacher, after all educating our kids is what they get paid to do. However, it is not solely their responsibility, we have our part in the process.

Here are a few pointers when we find ourselves frustratingly grasping at straws:


Don’t Push them Too Hard

Again, the struggle to find that line between too much and not enough can be daunting. We can fail our children when we fall on either side of this line. And that line is thin. A few things we should avoid are:

Expecting Them to be Like Oher Children- Your oldest son will not learn like the youngest. Your daughter will not learn at the same pace as their brother or sister. Your child will not learn as quickly as the neighbor’s kid. It is unfair to compare your kids to any other kid, especially within their earshot. This is not only harmful to the learning process it can be detrimental to your child’s self-esteem. Don’t do it. Ever.

Moving to a New Reading Level Before They are Ready- Just because your child’s entire class is on Reading Level O and your child is still on Level N is no reason to force them into Level O. Yes, there is a time to do so, but if they are struggling to master Level N, then they will struggle even more with the next level. You will know when they are ready. This is something that you should work on with your child’s teacher. They can often see what they are having trouble with that you may not.

If laziness is an issue and not comprehension, then that needs to be addressed as well. Again, working with your child’s teacher is your best bet to come up with a solution that both of you can use with your child.

Punishing for Missing the Mark- There is no benefit to punish a child for not reaching certain levels. Even if a child is lazy, making reading a chore is not going to help the issue. Rather than punishing them, reward them for every effort. Even if the goal reached is small. If they read only ten more words than before or get 2 points higher than the last time, then that must be rewarded. Rewarded and praised. There is nothing more motivating than verbally communicating praise for any accomplishment.

Make Sure You Push Them Enough

In contrast to pushing too hard, there are times when we fail to push enough. Today, everyone is afraid of offending anyone. This has now, unfortunately, carried over into how we deal with our kids. We are nervous about hurting their feelings. We are afraid they won’t be our friend. We are scared they may give up altogether. First, sometimes feelings must be hurt to make a change. Second, you are NOT their friend; you are their parent. And third, we cannot fear the unknown. If they do want to give up, you can cross that bridge when you come to it. But for now, their success is worth the risk.

Don’t Give in Too Easy- When your child says, “It’s too hard,” don’t give in and tell them they can stop. First, discover why they find it too hard. What do they not understand? Is it because their favorite show is coming on in twenty minutes or is there a real issue that is keeping them from comprehending what is before them.

Many internal issues can prevent a child from successful reading. Too many to get into this blog. I have addressed them in previous blogs. In summary, your child could have vision difficulties, attention struggles, or learning disabilities that have not been diagnosed yet. This is why it is good to probe to find out why your child finds reading too hard. Again, talk with a teacher to compare notes. And consult a doctor if necessary.

Keep Up with Reading Assignments- Speaking of communication with your child’s teacher, your child’s teacher will be one of the key people when it comes to your child learning to read. Your child has weekly assignments to complete, and they are most often written in a Homework Notebook that is with them. You know, the one item that at Meet the Teacher Night that you were wondering why they need $12? It’s for that notebook.

Every night it is crucial that you check that book and follow up to make sure your child is keeping up with the required assignments. Most often when a child is getting left behind, it is because a parent is not checking that book to make sure their child is completing assignments. Your child is not going to offer up information that they have homework, especially when that show is coming on soon. We need to ask.

Read with Our Children- If you are not reading to, or with, your child, not only are you hurting their progress, you are missing out on an incredible opportunity of quality time with your child. Reading time is bonding time. The books you read with your child today will be etched in their memories. They will draw back on them when they are older and have kids of their own.

I know your day is busy. Mine is too, and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day. Just because we as parents are busy, doesn’t mean that we can push that off on our kids. They are important and raising them is our primary job. Those fifteen minutes will be rewarding. Not only for their abilities but to your bond with your child. You can worry about bills, deadlines, and the car the other twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes of the day. Your child needs your time and attention.


Never Make Assumptions

It’s Not the Teachers Job- Your child’s teacher is just a part of the reading cycle. They are there to educate; your child is there to do, you are there to reinforce. If there is a breakdown in any one of these tenants, then your child will fall behind. Don’t assume your teacher will do all the work. Do not blame them when a child gets a poor grade or cannot get beyond a reading level if you are not doing your job of supporting them in what they are doing. The worst thing you can do is to contradict your child’s teacher or to tell them something is not important. Always support and reinforce. The two of you working together will ensure your child’s success.

They May Not Understand- It is also important to ask questions. Sometimes a child will be afraid to admit that they do not know something. Ask questions about what they read. Questions like: Who is the main character? What are they doing?  Not only can you ask direct questions, ask open-ended questions that will get them talking about the story. Why do you think the character did that? How would you feel in that situation? Open-ended questions get their minds working and helps them with communication.

They May Not Do What They Say- We all have gone through it. We ask if they read for the night and they tell us they have. You may find this hard to believe, but children are not always truthful, especially when that program starts in five minutes. Don’t assume. I’m not saying always to doubt their truthfulness. I am saying to trust them, but always verify it through seeing their homework notebook. OR you can ask questions about what they read. That will be the telltale sign of whether they did their work or not.


Final Thoughts

Your child can be successful at reading. However, we need to make sure we are doing our job as parents. It is not anyone’s fault when our child struggles. Blame only makes things worse, on everyone. It is best to get down to why there is a struggle. Make sure we are on the same page with our child’s teacher. Ensure we are walking that line between too much and not enough. It is okay to mess up. It is a learning experience for you, as well as your child. Find what works and stick with it. Rewards are a good thing, punishments only hinder. Don’t give in to complaints to quickly and push enough to get them motivated.

Finally, a good dose of prayer is always a good thing. I can honestly say that if you are not daily praying for your children, then you are missing out on a tremendous blessing. Not only for them but for yourself. When lifting someone up in prayer, you are creating a deeper bond with them in your heart. Pray for their abilities. Pray for the struggles they may be having. Most of all pray for your patience and understanding in how to work with your child on their road to reading success.

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The Werewolf of Bedburg

It sounds like the title of a bad eighties horror film about a sleepy little town, perhaps in Idaho. However, the Bedburg werewolf, Peter Stumpf, was tried and found guilty of werewolfism…uh, of werewolfercizing…uh, being a werewolf in 1589.

The trial took in Bedburg, Germany in the 16th century, long before CSI teams, and forensic evidence had been discovered, but there was evidence of Peter’s guilt. It was claimed that the left paw of the wolf had been cut off. Peter was found to be missing the same hand. Conclusion, Peter was a werewolf.

Peter admitted, while being tortured, that he was, in fact, a werewolf. He claimed that the devil had given him a belt that could turn him into a massive, furry beast with huge teeth and claws. Of course, they were breaking his bones on the rack (a medieval torture device) so he probably would’ve admitted to being a demonic rubber ducky if they had asked him to.

I have used the story of Peter Stumpf several times when looking for inspiration. He will be in the next installment of the Ishmael series. But he is also a part of the lore for another story that I wrote, and you can read that here.

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Helping Your Child Understand the Meaning of Christmas

It happens every year. Even before the last slice of turkey is eaten, or the final pumpkin pie tin is tossed children everywhere eagerly anticipate Christmas. “What will I get this year?” “What is Santa going to bring me?” and “How many gifts will I find under the tree?” are all common questions. From a day spent giving thanks for the things they have, they slip into an attitude of greed for the things they do not have. As parents, it is our job to help our children understand that Christmas time is not about getting, it is about giving.

To help them gain a better perspective, it may be necessary to show them how truly blessed they are. Kids will only know what they see. Being so young, they have a limited view on life. They only see their little world. That world may have the influence of abundance, either because their parents have excess, or their parents live sacrificially so the kids can have an abundance. When our kids are blessed in this way, they need to understand that others do not have the same opportunities.

A few ways to teach your kids about this life lesson are as follows:

Donate to a Charity

This can be done through monetary giving or a donation of time. If monetary, it should accompany a visit to the place you are donating to. Even if it is a website, allow your child to view what the organization stands for and whom the funds go to help. If it is time, then find an organization that works in your local community. A soup kitchen, clothing donation station, or a meal on wheels type charity is ideal. Somewhere your child can meet those they are giving to.

When children get to meet those less fortunate, they can learn to appreciate the things they do have. And in turn, want to give to those who do not have. As they see us treat others equally and not look down on them it provides them with a good example for them to follow. Children will imitate what they see. What will they see in you? Will they see you with a giving Christmas spirit, or giving into society’s portrayal of getting all that you can?

Go to Church

If you do not regularly attend church, this is one area that I highly recommend for you and your family. Your children get inundated with influences all week at school. And with all the silly laws and rules in place, any religious teaching is strictly forbidden. There is too much all-acceptance in today’s society. Anything goes. Morals are set aside to usher in tolerance and acceptance of attitudes and beliefs that go against a firm moral standard. The church is a place to affirm a moral standard. A child will be taught that there is a standard to live by.

In society, Christmas is driven by the dollar. Television and radio tell you that your love for someone will determine how much you spend on them. Christmas has lost its true meaning. Even the word Christmas is not accepted anymore. It has gotten so bad that you cannot even say Christmas without someone getting offended. One misplaced sign can get a company sued very quickly. Terms like Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas are what is accepted. It is not surprising that a child without a church-going base may have never heard the true story of Christmas. For them, it can be a season of gifts, or of families getting together, never about the birth of Jesus.

Talk to Your Child

Remember, you are your child’s first teacher. Most of the things that they will learn in life, will be through observation. They see they do. So, what do they see you do? Are you giving into the retail hype and treating Christmas as “gimme that”? Or do they see you giving sacrificially to those less fortunate? Kids need to understand that life is not about the things that we can get. It is not about achievements and accolades. What status you attain means nothing if what was done does not benefit others; if it is not done with a spirit of compassion.

If a child has been taught that Christmas is about getting gifts, decorations, and Santa Claus, then it’s time to sit down and have a heart to heart. Use the methods above to show them all the things we do have is a blessing, not an entitlement. Teach them that a good heart gives. Admonish them over selfishness and putting others down. Most of all, teach them the real reason for Christmas. Teach them about Jesus, the manager, Mary and Joseph, the star. Show them that Jesus’ birth had a plan. God’s plan and his love for us.

Final Thoughts

If you do not teach your children, someone else will. If you want your child to know the truth, then you must assume the responsibility and be the one to guide them.

It is okay to want things; it is okay to receive Christmas gifts. It’s when the getting outweighs the giving that our children can get confused. Use the resources that are in front of you to help them understand. Volunteering is one of the great eye-openers to the less fortunate. TV and movies are either over dramatic or don’t portray the reality of being in need. Reading about it only gives the knowledge that it exists. Seeing it, putting a face on it, is the only real way to grasp what is out there.

When a child can see the true need for themselves and have an explanation given to them about what they are seeing, they can gain a better perspective on what their life is like; how blessed they truly are. Then they can grow up with an appreciation for what they do have, and not complain about the things that they do not. It will also instill a desire to give to those in need; even at a sacrifice to them. Just as the Lord has done for each of us.


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Keeping Your Child Reading Through the Summer Months

Just because it is Summertime, it does not mean that it is time to put the books away and have a three-month break from learning. Education is a year-round activity. Studies have shown that children can lose some of what they learned during the summer months. This is why the first few weeks of school is always review. This is taxing on teachers who want to get to the new stuff. It is also partially why many schools are choosing to have year-round schooling; to help children continue learning and not forget things from previous years.

During the summer, with family vacations, camps, and overall education burnout, it can become easy to neglect reading. Unless you have an established reading plan already in place, chances are the likelihood your child will pick up a book during the summer are slim to none. This is where we as parents need to be involved. But we don’t have to do it alone. There are many summer programs that your child can become engaged in that will encourage them in their reading and help keep their minds sharp through August.

Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

The first person to contact should be your child’s teacher. In fact, most of the time in the final weeks of school, your child may bring home a flyer for different reading recommendations that are available to you. From a guide to prepare your child for the next grade to a list of books or programs, the resources are available to give your child the ability to continue learning.

Most of the suggestions will be for websites that have information about Summer Reading programs. Many of these will be at a location like a library; your school may even have a program they offer. Online courses are also available. Some do charge a fee, however, if you shop around you can find one that will be in your price range.

Visit the Local Library

There is no better place to learn about reading programs than your local library. They host a variety of different events to boost your child’s interest in reading through the summer. They have days dedicated to certain topics, authors, or genres. Each grade level will have a different day, or time, that they will meet. Once there, they will engage in activities like learning games, story time, and of course lots of reading. If your child is lucky, they could even meet the author of a favorite children’s book.

Libraries have worked hard to make these events more like playtime than school time. Our local library has a weekly event that in addition to promoting reading, they will have a theme for that week. One week will be about Science, another week they will be about music, and yet another about magic and mystery. And that is just three weeks. Check out your library’s website for the options they have for your little one.

Develop Something on Your Own

If either of those is not available to you, you could develop something on your own. This is where a Book Fair can help. You can prepare for the summer months by stocking up on books for your child to read. These won’t be like textbooks; they chose these books themselves. You could also visit a library or bookstore to obtain a stash of books. Either way, the point is to keep your child engaged.

Another good option would be to purchase an eReader. This makes reading available with just the click of a button. If you have a library card then you can digitally check out books, then you would have an endless supply of material from which to choose. This will be beneficial if your child starts a book and doesn’t like it. It is much easier than going back to a physical library or store to make a return.

Those lists that come home at the end of the year could provide you with some ideas as well. Our child’s school sent us a flyer about reading programs, but in addition, that flier told us what to expect for our soon-to-be fourth grader. They tell us that fourth grade is somewhat of a transition year. They will be introduced to textbooks. In a couple of years, she will be in Jr. High and will have to draw on what she will learn next year. So, this summer we can begin to help her get prepared for what she will experience this fall.

Final Thoughts

I know, just because your kids get a Summer doesn’t mean that you receive the same three-month break. You still have to go to work, come home and cook dinner, and still have the mounds of laundry that need to be done. Come June, parents often take a breath and put school away with the backpacks until they get the Wal-Mart ad in August promoting Back-to-School sales. Only then do we start to look at what the next year holds.

Your child doesn’t have to go through the valleys of forgetting what happened last year. Reading keeps your child’s mind sharp. It helps them to grow. It will put them in a better position going into the next year than a child who spent their summer in front of the TV or with a controller in their hands.

It’s all about developing a hunger to read in them. This begins young, but when that hunger is established, it will be fun to read for your young reader. Katie DiCamillo, author of such books as Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux is quoted, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” Once that gift is acknowledged you will find yourself telling your son or daughter that it’s time to put the book down and get some sleep.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss