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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

10 Best Children’s Books That Make Great Gifts

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Excellent stories ideal for reading together.

Still looking for a present for your little one? We’ve rounded up some of the best children’s books of 2018 that’ll get them excited for story time and make amazing gifts. From new tales about mermaids and dinosaurs to library staples like Harry Potter and Mary Poppins, there’s something for every type of reader on this list.

Baby Loves Science Board Box Set by Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan

Four books from the popular Baby Loves Science series are now available in an adorable boxed set. Aerospace engineering, coding, gravity and thermodynamics are all presented in a baby’s-world context with bright illustrations. Ages Baby on up ($22, amazon.com).

Pearl by Molly Idle


Pearl by Molly Idle

A lovely tale about the importance of patience and determination.

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Mermaids are growing in popularity again, and Pearl, a gorgeous picture book about a little mermaid, is a delight for little ones. Radiant, expressive illustrations help tell a story of persistence, and the impact of even small actions, that will resonate with children. Ages 3-6 ($13, amazon.com).

Mary Poppins (Illustrated Gift Edition) by P.L. Travers and Júlia Sardà


Mary Poppins (Illustrated Gift Edition) by P.L. Travers and Júlia Sardà

Relive this timeless classic complete with illustrations.

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With a new blockbuster movie coming to the big screen, it’s the perfect year to give the gift of Mary Poppins. This edition is beautifully illustrated in full color and the story can be enjoyed by multiple children or as a family read. Ages 10-12 ($19, amazon.com).

The Bad Guys Box Set: Books 1-5 by Aaron Blabey


The Bad Guys Box Set: Books 1-5 by Aaron Blabey

Read about The Bad Guys trying to be heroes in this hilarious collection.

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A chapter book series that turns traditional villainy on its head, The Bad Guys’ new box set will keep eager readers—and reluctant ones too—burning through the pages. Ages 7-10 ($20, amazon.com).

Made for Me by Zach Bush and Gregorio De Lauretis


Made for Me by Zach Bush and Gregorio De Lauretis

A tender story about the joy of fatherhood.

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The perfect gift for a baby’s first holiday, this remarkably sweet and reassuring picture book about a child and their dad, the unconditional love of parent for child, and all the milestones ahead, is a gift parents will adore sharing with their little one. Ages 1-3 ($13, amazon.com).

Harry Potter: The Illustrated Collection (Books 1-3 Boxed Set) by J. K. Rowling and Jim Kay


Harry Potter: The Illustrated Collection (Books 1-3 Boxed Set) by J. K. Rowling and Jim Kay

Relive the magic of Hogwarts with these beautifully illustrated editions of the first three books.

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It’s a beautiful gift for kids clamoring to read Harry Potter. These fully illustrated editions are sure to live on a child’s bookshelf for years to come, and they work well for children who want to start Rowling’s books but might benefit from the addition of illustrations and larger format. Ages 8 and up ($72, amazon.com).

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids


The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America's Test Kitchen Kids

Have a budding cook in your home? Encourage their passion with this cookbook.

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One of the most trusted culinary resources, America’s Test Kitchen, created their first cookbook for kids and it’s a winner. The 100+ recipes are a good mix of difficulty levels, and the text doesn’t talk down to the audience. Ages 8-12 ($13, amazon.com).

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins


We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Prepare for a lot of laughs with the latest picture book by Ryan T. Higgins.

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A picture book that works on multiple levels, the story of a little dinosaur who keeps eating her classmates is a book that will have kids laughing out loud and asking to read it again. Ages 5-6 ($15, amazon.com).

Strong Girls Gift Set (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos


Strong Girls Gift Set (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos

It’s never too early to teach your kids about these amazing women.

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Inspire young women this holiday season with the true stories of four female pioneers: Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, Sacagawea and Amelia Earhart. Ages 5-8 ($22, amazon.com).

Hello Hello by Brendan Wetzel


Hello Hello by Brendan Wetzel

Read about connections in nature—some expected, some not—in this story about diversity.

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This stunning picture book introduces little ones to a great variety of the world’s creatures while showing the connection between them, and the diversity of our world. The illustrations are bright and rich with detail, perfect for repeated viewing. Ages 3-6 ($11, amazon.com).

 

This article was written by Seira Wilson of Amazon.com from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The 10 Best Children’s Books of 2018

When it comes to excellent reads for kids of all ages, these books truly stand out.

Every year, there’s a new crop of amazing books for children that truly leave an impact on young readers. Though 2018 was filled with many of those types of reads, we’ve narrowed down the 10 best, for children ages 1 to 12, that you’ll surely want to add to your kid’s library. These stories are fun, beautiful and full of valuable messages about empathy, diversity and respect for others.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Our top pick for the year is a middle grade novel that reads like a modern classic. The Season of Styx Malone follows two brothers in a small Indiana town who become friends with the new kid—a very worldly young man named Styx Malone. What follows is a heartwarming story of friendship, trust and possibility. Ages 8-12 ($12, amazon.com).

8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie and Lizzy Doyle


8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie

Teach youngsters all about the solar system with this fun and fact-filled story.

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Illustrations of bright, happy planets paired with fun verse and facts made 8 Little Planets stand out from the crowd in 2018. A great way to start the youngest readers on a discovery of how fun nonfiction can be. Ages Baby-3 ($9, amazon.com).

Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan and Eric Fan


Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

Join Finn on his journey to honor his grandfather in this story of love and loss.

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The picture book we couldn’t stop looking at this year is Ocean Meets Sky. The rich colors and detail on every page make this a book you can experience in a new way every time you read it. The message of family and connection are also timeless and important. Ages 4-8 ($15, amazon.com).

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafaél Lopez


The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafaél Lopez

A wonderful tale about being yourself even when you feel like an outsider.

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Perfect for young elementary-school readers who can easily see themselves in her characters, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson’s story of bravery and acceptance is beautifully rendered in Rafael López’s imaginative illustrations. Ages 5-8 ($15, amazon.com).

National Parks of the USA by Kate Siber and Chris Turnham


National Parks of the USA by Kate Siber

Learn all about the wonders of America’s fascinating wildlife.

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A glorious homage to the natural wonders around us, National Parks of the U.S.A. takes readers on a journey across the country to visit some of America’s most iconic locations. Great fun to read and even more fun to share with the whole family. Ages 5 and up ($19, amazon.com).

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes


Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman

Learn to spot all the spirals in your world with this storybook, which perfectly blends poetry with beautiful illustrations.

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Gorgeous scratchboard illustrations and charming verse show little ones all the places spirals can be found in our world and even our universe. The board book edition is the perfect companion or inspiration for spotting spirals in our own neighborhoods. Ages 2-5 ($8, amazon.com).

Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat


Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat

Share this story about how art overcomes all barriers and connects us.

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A grandfather and his grandson speak different languages and struggle to communicate, until they discover a shared love of art and stories. From there the two express themselves with great creativity and joy. A wonderful look at multigenerational relationships and an unexpected bond. Ages 4-7 ($11, amazon.com).

Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas by Dav Pilkey


Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas by Dav Pilkey

If your child isn’t a Dav Pilkey fan, they will be once they read this graphic novel.

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Even the most reluctant readers cannot resist the siren song of author Dav Pilkey. Pilkey’s Dog Man series is wildly popular with early and established chapter book readers, and his fifth book, Lord of the Fleas, is not only funny but also has great messages about kindness and reading. Ages 7 and up ($7, amazon.com).

Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty


Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty

This fantasy story about identity, nature and finding the strength to speak up for what’s right is so good you’ll want to read it yourself.

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This is the first book in a new series by the author of the bestselling Serafina and the Black Cloak books. Set in 1900 in the Great Smoky Mountains, Beatty blends history and fantasy in a story about an orphaned girl born of the forest, ancient ways and a changing world. Ages 8 and up ($8, amazon.com).

Big Kid Bed by Leslie Patricelli


Big Kid Bed by Leslie Patricelli

Another lovely tale by Leslie Patricelli that makes the change in your child’s life exciting and fun.

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Patricelli’s familiar smiling baby is now a toddler celebrating an important milestone. The board book Big Kid Bed reassures toddlers about giving up the crib, and they can see for themselves how much fun a big bed can be. A milestone that can present unique challenges, Patricelli comes to the rescue with this one. Ages 1-3 ($8, amazon.com).

 

This article was written by Seira Wilson of Amazon.com from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Raise a Reader, According to Experts and Parents

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Want your child to fall in love with reading? We asked parents, teachers, and librarians for their tips for inspiring kids to read.

Everyone wants his or her kid to grow up to be a great reader. After all, childhood reading skills have even been shown to predict success not just in school, but also later in life. It isn’t too hard to get a child to read. But fostering a love of reading? That’s the hard part.

You can tip the scales in your little reader’s favor though. Learn how to raise a reader by following these expert tips.

Stock Up on Books

Having a home library—even a small one—is a big deal, especially when it comes to raising readers. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between the number of books in a household and kids’ overall educational outcomes. In other words, kids whose parents keep books in the house have a big advantage. This is because when kids are constantly exposed to books, they become a normal part of everyday life.

“I have always had books in the house,” says Jaime Herndon, a writer and parent. “I read to Micah when he was in utero, read to him as an infant, and he’s always reached for books. They’ve become part of the everyday for him, and he ‘reads’ at least 2-3 books a day, plus our nightly reading.”

Lead by Example

The best way to raise a reader is to read yourself. Don’t do it secretly. Read where your kids can see you. If your kids think that reading is something adults don’t do, they might be less inclined to do it as they get older.

“Modeling” what to do is one of the best ways to teach any behavior, because kids love to copy adults—especially their parents.

“Adults need to model reading for children,” advises Carol Ann Moon, reference and instructional outreach librarian at St. Leo University in Florida. “I read because I had many models in my family.”

Read to Your Kids

You can also model by reading aloud to your kids. Making reading a group activity has several benefits. Kids not only learn to love reading because it’s something they do with the people they love, but they also learn how to pronounce the words they see on the page and pick up reading fluency skills, too.

When they’re old enough, ask your kids to read books aloud to you. If they’re nervous, get them to read to the family pet instead. Dogs are fantastic listeners.

“I read to [my son] Prose and now he wants to read me the books,” says author and mom Fabienne Josaphat. “It’s amazing how he can’t read yet—he’s only 3—but he memorizes the lines, and he recites them. … I try to put down my phone more and show him that I am either paying attention to him or reading.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting to read out loud to your child at birth.

Engage Kids’ Natural Curiosity

If you’ve been raising a reader, they may already think of books as sources of fun. Still, they may not know the variety of books out there. So when you’re out and about and your child starts asking questions about the world around her, make note.

“When [my children and I] are doing other things and become curious, we make an effort to learn more by finding a book on the topic on our next trip to the library,” says Kelli Casey, a secondary reading and English language arts resource teacher. By doing this, Casey shows her kids that nonfiction books are great resources for learning new things.

Make Reading a Habit

Just like with many other healthy things, reading becomes second nature to kids when they make it a habit. As a parent, you can foster a reading habit early by setting out a time each day to share a book with your child. Habits are made and kept by repetition, so try your best not to skip a day, even when you’re busy.

“Some nights I’m just so tired, but I remember that I don’t want [my son] to lose interest in reading,” says Donna Ho, a mom and former language arts teacher. “So I suck it up and read to him. When he asks to read a second book, I do.”

 

This article was written by Rebecca Renner from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Science Says *This* Surprising Trait Will Help Your Kid Succeed in School

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We all know kids who started reading (as in full books) at 18 months. Others had the gross motor skills to ditch their training wheels at four. One friend’s son plays Mozart on the piano and devours Harry Potter books. (He’s six.) And while all of these achievements are amazing—and debatably innate as opposed to parent-directed—they’re not necessarily concrete predictors of academic success. Want to know what is? Curiosity.

For a new study conducted at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, pediatricians with expertise in developmental behavior analyzed data collected from 6,200 children over the course of their lives, from nine months old through kindergarten. They conclusively found that “greater curiosity was associated with greater kindergarten reading and math academic achievement.” Regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, added the researchers, “Curiosity may be an important, yet under-recognized contributor to academic achievement. Fostering curiosity may optimize academic achievement at kindergarten.”

Interestingly, the kids’ efforts and their ability to sit still and listen in class had less to do with academic success than you might guess. (PSA to the parents of kids who run around like crazy during circle time: Now is your cue to rejoice.) Explains Science Daily: “U-M researchers factored in another important known contributor to academic achievement known as ‘effortful control,’ or the ability to stay focused in class. They found that even independent of those skills, children who were identified as curious fared well in math and reading.” Clarifies lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah: “These findings suggest that even if a child manifests low effortful control [or in-classroom focus], they can still have more optimal academic achievement, if they have high curiosity.”

So the next time your kid fires off “why?” faster than you could possibly formulate answers (Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs sweat from their tongues? Why do I have two eyes instead of one? What are s’mores? Can I have one? Can I have 10? Why?), celebrate it like the sign of genius it surely is. Then take them to a museum or library to investigate, stat. Curiosity! It won’t kill cats. And it just may land your kid on the honor roll.

RELATED: The One Thing This Mom Does to Cross Items Off Her To-Do List

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

7 Nag-Free Ways to Get Your Kids to Sit Down and Do Homework

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Going back to school after a holiday break is always tough. Getting your kids to dive back into that pile of math worksheets and book reports when they’d rather be playing with their new toys or watching YouTube? Torture. To help ease everyone through the transition, we asked moms for their best tips on how to get the kids to focus on their homework—no screaming, pouting, or bribery involved.

Be a study buddy.

“Remember how much more fun it was to be in a study group in college or high school? You can be your child’s study buddy. Plan 30 minutes a day when you sit at the kitchen table and work together. Your child can do homework and you can catch up on work you brought home, write out shopping lists, or do whatever it is you can get done in a half hour. Your child can continue on if needed after you’ve finished, but getting started is always the hardest part.” —Tracey Hecht, a New York City mom of one

Let them run off their excess energy first.

“I make sure my kids have an hour or so of play time outside with their friends right when they get home. Another mom once told me that because they’re cooped up so long in a classroom each day, trying to obey all the classroom rules, kids need some time to let off steam when they get home. This is especially helpful for our son, who seems to be better able to focus on homework after he has run around with his buddies.” —Erin Myers, a Baltimore mom of two

Use fun props.

“On the days when my 7-year-old daughter is feeling less eager to get her homework done, I’ve found it helpful to incorporate fun bits of home life into homework. For example, learning subtraction with M&Ms or using her alphabet puzzle to help learn alphabetization makes it feel less frustrating and more fun.” —Larissa Pickens, a New York City mom of one

Get out of the house when you can.

“I alternate where my kids do their homework and I find it helps keep them motivated. For example, on certain days we go to the children’s section of the local library. The result: Inspiration from other children doing homework!” —Melva E. Pinn-Bingham, a Chesapeake, VA, mom of three

Create a kid-friendly workspace.

“A homework station is a low-tech solution that cuts down on clutter, time and waste. It’s a one-stop-shop to find what you need, when you need it. In our home, the kitchen table is our family hub. It’s the spot where my daughters do their homework each evening and we use magazine holders for activity books, library books and homework sorting and pencil cases to keep supplies separated but contained.” —Rachel Rosenthal, a Washington, D.C., mom of twins

Set a timer.

“When one of my kids starts complaining about how long their homework will take, I set a timer for 15 minutes, and tell that child to work as hard as he or she can until the timer goes off. More often than not, the dreaded homework assignment is finished in less than 15 minutes. Then I get to point out that they spent more time complaining about the homework than it took to just do their homework!” —Maureen Paschal, a Charlotte, NC, mom of four

 

This article was written by Lambeth Hochwald from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

17 Children’s Books To Read To Your Kids In Honor Of Women’s History Month

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Celebrate Women’s History Month during family reading time with the books below.

Penguin Random House/Little Brown Young Readers

March marks Women’s History Month, and if you’re looking for a way to celebrate the many accomplishments of women with your family (little ones included), children’s books can offer a fun and informative history lesson.

Of course, a month isn’t nearly enough time to celebrate all that women have done in science, sports, and other fields, so you’ll want to keep these titles handy all year. Here are 17 kids’ books inspired by trailblazing women. 

“Rad American Women A-Z”

City Lights

The title sums this book up. Following the alphabet, kids can learn about the many women, including Billie Jean King and Angela Davis, who made great contributions to American history. (By Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl)

“Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?”


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Square Fish Books/Macmillan

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. Author Tanya Lee Stone is also the mind behind Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? (Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman)

“Are You An Echo?”


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Chin Music Press

Are You An Echo? weaves the work of Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko with her life story in a bilingual book. (Illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, text and translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi) 

“Women In Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed The World”


Penguin Random House

Kids interested in STEM (and even those who aren’t) will love reading about the many women, including primatologist Jane Goodall and mathematician Katherine Johnson, who made their mark on several different scientific fields. (Written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky)

“Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story”


Abrams Books for Young Readers

In this picture book, author and illustrator S.D. Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas, shares with kids the story of Buffalo Bird Girl, a Hidatsa Indian who lived during the 1800s.

“Here Come the Girl Scouts!”


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Scholastic

Shana Corey shares the history of the Girl Scouts and the organization’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low. (Illustrated by Hadley Hooper)

“Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World”


HarperCollins

This book includes the stories of women who made their mark on the world early on. It features Ruby Bridges, the inspiring 6-year-old who helped desegregate an all-white school in the South, and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. The book, as noted on the cover, is “illustrated by 13 extraordinary women.” (By Susan Hood)

“Dolores Huerta: A Hero To Migrant Workers”


Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing

In this book by Sarah Warren, labor activist and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta takes the center stage. (Illustrated by Robert Casilla)

“The Youngest Marcher”


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Simon & Schuster

In The Youngest Marcher, kids will meet Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Civil Rights activist who taught the world you’re never too young to make a difference. (By Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton)

“Frida Kahlo”


Lincoln Children’s Books/Quarto Group

This book teaches kids about the life of artist Frida Kahlo, and is part of the “Little People, Big Dreams” series, which highlights extraordinary women. (By Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Gee Fan Eng)

“Shark Lady”


Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Shark Lady includes a title many kids will love as well as the story of Eugenie Clark, a famous marine biologist who adored sharks and their fellow friends under the sea. The title comes from the nickname Clark earned for her work. (By Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns)

“Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls”


Timbuktu Labs

Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls is a wildly popular book that started as a Kickstarter project and is filled with stories of trailblazing women paired with illustrations from women artists. Timbuktu Labs released the second volume last year.

“Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker”


Chronicle Books

Kids can learn about Josephine Baker, an African-American singer, dancer, and Civil Rights activist, in this picture book written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson.

“Malala’s Magic Pencil”


Little, Brown Young Readers

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for girls education and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, tells her own story in Malala’s Magic Pencil. (Illustrated by Kerascoët, a joint pen name for Sébastien Cosset and Marie Pommepuy)

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History”


Little, Brown Young Readers

Little Leaders informs kids about black history and the women who made it, including abolitionist Sojourner Truth and poet Maya Angelou. (Written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison)

“Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909”


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HarperCollins

Brave Girl tells the story of Clara Lemlich, a leader of the women’s labor movement who helped guide the Uprising of the 20,000 shirtwaist workers strike that began in 1909. (By Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet)

“Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows In The Bronx/La Juez Que Creció En El Bronx”


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Simon & Schuster

This bilingual book shows kids how Sonia Sotomayor persevered to become the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court justice. (By Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez)

 

 

This article was written by Taylor Pittman from Huffington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

National Reading Month

Encourage your child to read a little more at this time of year to celebrate National Reading Month. Children’s imaginations are stimulated by reading about fictitious characters and magical worlds. Whether your little learner is interested in cars and trains or wicked witches and goblins, you can find books about any topic; if you can’t find one, create your own.

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Another great way to celebrate this month is by writing your own story with your child and then reading it aloud with her. Here’s a template to help you and your little one get started creating her very own story. Talk with her about what each highlighted word means and watch her mind come up with a word to fill in the blank.

Once upon a time, there was a(n) ­­­­­animal named, boy’s name. He is number years old and lives in place. Same boy’s name and his friend Sam get together every day of the week and take a walk in the place. The two friends laugh and play fun activity together until it is time to go home. When the day is over, same boy’s name goes home to eat type of food for dinner, with his family. After dinner, he sits in his color chair and reads favorite bedtime story with his family. The End.

Encourage Outside-The-Box Thinking in Your Preschooler

A fantastic way to get your little one to think outside the box is with cooking.

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For example, you can make numerous different croissant dishes with a simple roll of the dough. Unfold each section from the packaged roll and form it into an individual triangle. Once it is face open, ask your child what to add to the middle. There are a ton of possibilities; following are three examples:

  1. Add a piece of ham and a piece of cheese, and then roll the dough for a delicious ham and cheese sandwich.
  2. Add pepperoni and cheese, and serve with a tomato sauce dip to create a mini-croissant pizza.
  3. Add shredded chicken and bacon and serve with ranch.

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Another way to encourage your child to think outside the box is with riddles.

  1. A man went on a trip riding his horse. He left on Friday, stayed in town for three days and came back on Friday. How did he do it?  Answer: His horse’s name is Friday
  2. What has three hands, but cannot clap? Answer: a clock

Language and Literacy Series: Reclaiming the Joy of Reading in the Age of Distraction

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog

My own love of reading was cultivated in an era with fewer distractions than today. At that time, all of our play was physical and concrete – we played with hands-on toys and games, we rode bicycles and played outside (which held opportunities for all sorts of mischief). I recall putting on plays, having visceral experiences with art supplies, some television, and boys readinglots of books. Reading offered both privacy and companionship, an opportunity to focus and contemplate, but also indulge the imagination.

I realize now that there was a special kind of innocence wrapped up in these memories. During my own childhood, distraction was the murmur of the radio or television, or the sight of something fleeting that simply “caught your eye.” Things are different today. Adults and children are caught in a blizzard of digital noise streaming from various devices that constantly compete for our attention, disrupting our focus. There is no doubt that this new reality has impacted the way we read and engage with books.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist best known for spotlighting emotional intelligence, has noted that the deluge of distractions can have far-reaching effects. Speaking to KQED’s Forum, he explained “because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, [and] we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention.”

According to Goleman, the neural circuitry that registers attention in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is identical to the circuits that govern executive functioning, which includes the ability to manage distressing emotions and to feel empathy.

Medical research has identified clinical conditions that may interfere with a child’s ability to focus, but to tackle real-world distractions, there are things we can do at home and in the classroom to minimize the noise and create an environment conducive to experiencing the magic of reading.

With this in mind, what can we do to foster a love of reading in our children that stems simply from the sheer pleasure and joy that a great story provides?

Here are five easy ways to create a distraction-free reading zone for kids.

  1. Create a Dedicated Reading Space: Create a reading environment free of clutter. The fewer objects that can capture your child’s attention, the better.
  2. Get Comfy: Have a comfortable chair or cushion for children and adult readers to sit on. The physical comfort helps kids relax their bodies, which in turn facilitates attention and focus.
  3. Start a Reading Ritual: Ritualize the opportunity to read. For very young children, the ritual of a bedtime story is the enchanting portico that leads to more reading. Consecrating the event early on acknowledges that reading time is special, even as children get older and read on their own. Having a special hat to wear or a pillow to sit on just for reading designates that reading time is distinct from other activities.
  4. Take Time to Share: Give your child ample opportunity to share what they have read. Remember, a joy shared is doubled! Ask some simple questions about your child’s reading experience to encourage engagement: Who was your favorite character? What did you like about the story? How did the book make you feel?
  5. Be a Reading Role Model: Model a love of reading. Whether you show your kids the stack of books on your night table, or point out how much you love to read the newspaper with your morning coffee, highlighting the ways that reading enriches your life will help them understand the importance and enjoyment of literacy.

It is important for adults to find some quiet space amidst the distractions as well. I heard a story the other day that offered a vivid reminder of this concept: A four-year-old girl learned how to make the color green in school, mixing yellow and blue paints to create a series of green hues. With carbonated excitement, she couldn’t wait to show her father. But when he came home, he was concentrating on his cell phone. He finished a call and then began to text. The child’s efforts to capture his attention were futile until, with her art work in one hand, she gave a good, hard tug on the leg of his pants. Her father then looked down and said, “Sara, what are you doing down there?” To which she replied, “Daddy, I live down here.”

To create an environment that is conducive to concentration, young children need our undivided attention. By finding and nurturing those simple moments of focus, we can enjoy “living” in our children’s worlds and be present as they share in ours.

Language and Literacy Series: What Reading Looks Like Together

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

Reading TogetherOne of my favorite sayings is “If you take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”  I can think of no other moment more precious and invaluable to ensuring a strong foundation than reading with a child – whether in the classroom, at home or in the library.

Language and literacy is the foundation for all learning. It’s a major portal through which the other learning domains unfold including math, science, social studies, creative expression, proficiency with technology, social /emotional development, 21st century skills, executive functioning and healthy, physical development.

We know that children acquire early, emergent literacy skills through various verbal and non-verbal forms. Books, in both print and digital form, have a well-earned and beloved role to play in supporting early literacy. They offer a unique progression of experiences.

While digital content brings its own unique benefits in terms of interaction and engagement, exposing young children to real books —so they have a full tactile and sensory experience of books — is always a good idea. Letting young children spend time alone with books, turning the pages and having an “up close and personal” involvement with the pictures and the letters on the page can stimulate their imagination and set the stage for self-driven exploration.

Reading books to children is equally valuable and establishes an especially positive and meaningful relationship as you read together. That meaningful relationship is the seedbed upon which a child’s confidence can flourish.

Interactive reading takes this a step further. Though it sounds like a tech term, it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply a style of reading with children that uses all elements of the book as a springboard for fuller exploration. That exploration might lead you to an app, online or real-time activity. For example, a story about baking cookies could lead to actual cookie baking; a story about finding a treasure could lead to drawing a treasure map.

Editor and author Jason Boog, is a real champion of interactive reading. Here he shares a list of print books provided by the American Library Association that are rich with opportunities for interactive reading.

Below are just a few examples of some great interactive reading books that support important skill development for early learners to get you started:big-green-monster

Social Emotional Development:

  • “Go Away Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberly

This book helps children unpack their fear of the unknown by literally taking it apart one page at a time.

Executive Function:give-a-mouse-a-cookie

  • “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff

There is no better way to understand process, consequences, and cause and effect than these delightful books.

  • “Curious George Saves His Pennies” by H.A. Reycg-saves-pennies

Helping young children learn and understand self-regulation and judgment are essential skills for lifelong success. Curious George explores through playful  trial-and-error exploration.

21st Century Skills:

  • “Jumanji” by Chris Van Allsburgjumanji

Innovation, creative problem solving, and collaboration are demonstrated through this amazing adventure where the world changes all the time.

Social Studies:

  • “Ultimate Weird But True,” National Geographicultimate-weird-but-true

Packed with tons of really cool, wacky facts that get little kids totally excited and engaged about the real world.

Over the next several weeks I look forward to discussing the power of language and literacy from some unusual points of view. What does gesture, behavior modeling, sound and vocabulary have to do with learning critical skills? How do you foster a love of reading with so many distractions? How do you use ebooks and other digital media and tools effectively to inspire a love of language and words? I will also provide ideas, recommendations and tips on ways to engage young learners.

Enjoy!