Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to School

Many parents are sending their children back to school this week. And undoubtedly many kids will come home with leveled books to read as part of their homework each evening. This is wonderful because practice is so important.
BUT, that does NOT mean parents should stop reading to their kids. In fact, Jim Trelease reports on studies that have found a child's enjoyment in reading goes down at the same time the are no longer read to. Until fourth grade, kids listening comprehension is much higher than their reading comprehension. So, kids can enjoy listening to a more complex and interesting story that won't be able to read by themselves for several years.

So please listen with joy as they building reading skills by reading their levelled books. And then let them listen with joy as you read to them.
Happy Back to School!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Reading

This post comes a little late since summer is coming to a close and school starts for my kids in just 3 weeks. BUT, I just learned this when I heard Jim Trelease speak and it is very shocking.

Like it or not, there is a HUGE achievement gap between rich, middle class, and poor kids. (Obviously, this isn't always every case and love of reading makes a huge difference in those instances, but statistically speaking it is true.) Mr. Trelease said that kindergarten teachers are miracle workers because although poor kids enter school a year behind academically, by the end of kindergarten they catch up. Sadly, though most of what they gain is lost over the summer.

WHY? Because they are not read to and/or required to read during the summer.

Eventually, by the time they reach fourth grade, the poor kids are two full grades behind in reading. And it is all due to reading loss over the summer.

You can see the startling chart on Mr. Trelease's website:

So READ, READ, READ to those kids for the next 3 weeks. If they can read themselves have them read to you! Because kids who read 20 min./day have been known to go up to 2 reading levels over the summer. If they seem like they've lost a little, that is fine... just start where they are now and work back up.

Summertime is not the time for a vacation from reading!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Let's Party!!

I spent the last week in Oklahoma celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Usborne Books and More at our National Convention. It was amazing!! Some of the highlights (in no particular order):

1. Being whisked away from the airport in a limo. Here are me, Bobbi, and up-up-upline supervisor Deb Casey in the limo.2. Enjoying a delicious steak dinner and a live, outdoor presentation of one of my all-time favorite musicals Oklahoma! as a reward for making the President's Club.

3. JIM TRELEASE!!! Have you read the Read Aloud Handbook? It is amazing and will make you a better parent. He signed my copy.

4. Not having to think about, prepare, or clean up meals and having my bed made everyday.

5. The Hawaii Celebration luncheon, team parties, late night "Name Game" sessions, and being with my wonderful friends (some that I only see 1-2 times each year).6. Flying First Class from Atlanta to Salt Lake. Let's just say... I could get used to that! I did pretty much deserve it after Delta kept ruining my day and I spent 12 hours in airports due to their incompetence. They screwed up my flight from Rome too. Let's just say we aren't impressed with Delta at our house. First Class though... was great!

7. It is always fun to be recognized for your efforts. The awards I received were: Supervisor of the Year Honorable Mention, #3 Central Group Recruiting, #4 Group Promotions, #4 Personal Recruiting, #11 Central Group Sales, and #15 Home Show Sales.

8. Coming home to my family. The kids had cleaned up the house (in their way) and Katie had laid out my pjs and the stuff in the picture below. What great kids!! Now back to reality...

Let's Get Jim Trelease on Oprah!

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Jim Trelease (and to have him sign my copy of his book, The Read Aloud Handbook). One of his messages was that we have to get the word out. The simple act of reading aloud to children can make such a huge difference in children's lives!!

Please join a campaign to get the word out!! One of the best ways is through Oprah. A gal that moms listen too. Please click the link below and scroll down to the bottom.

I'll post more on Jim's information later.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Happy Father's Day!!

In honor of the day I just want to remind everyone about the importance of dads reading to their little ones. NUMEROUS studies have linked a father reading to their child with positive academic outcomes, bonding, etc. (These are studies that specifically focused on fathers.)

Reading aloud is NOT just a job for my moms!!! In fact, at my house we ALL prefer dad to be the reader. He makes such great voices. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I recently read an interesting book, Freakonomics, where an economist studied all sorts of things like how much money drug dealers really make, how to track teacher misconduct on standardized testing, baby naming trends, and parenting practices that make a statistical difference in the academic and professional success of their offspring.

You probably guessed that the last one had something to do with reading. You got it!

The number of books in the home was one of the top 5 factors in kids' later academic and professional achievement. The more books the family had, the more successful the kids were.

The authors didn't really hypothesize on why this is the case, they just presented the facts :), but my theory is that homes with lots books are homes were reading and learning are valued. The kids have so many good things available to read that they grow up thinking reading is fun. They learn so many fascinating things from their books that they think learning is fun too. They know their parents value reading and learning because there are lots of books in the house. Kids who think reading and learning are fun and know their parents believe it is important are bound to better in school.

So there is another reason to buy and read books for children from an unexpected, but interesting, source.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reading to Kids of Different Ages

A couple of weeks ago I read something in the Read Aloud Handbook that I thought was interesting. Jim Trelease said that if you have children who are more than three years apart you need to read to them seperately.

This was a light-bulb moment for me. When we read aloud at night to our children we are usually reading scripture and then something like the Chronicles of Narnia, Fablehaven, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, etc. And while our two oldest will sit there totally engrossed in the story begging for another page, or two littlest usually play trucks, talk to each other, and sometimes cause disruptions.
Anyway, when I read that I realized that because those two little kids could just not "get" the story the same way the big kids werethey weren't actively participating. Thus, they were not getting the same benefits that the other kids were. I'm sure it was better than not reading at all... at least they got the positive association with books, realized my husband and I value reading, etc.... but it was definitely not the best experience they could have.
Since, that day I've tried to make a conscious effort to read to these little ones during the day by themselves (or the two little ones together). The first time I asked my almost 5 year old to bring me some stories to read to him I was shocked at what he chose: touchy-feely, lift the flap board books, books that I thought he had outgrown. Then, I realized that just because his older brother wanted me to read him Harry Potter and Nancy Drew at that age, didn't mean this little guy was ready for that yet.
I am so glad I read that passage in the Read Aloud Handbook. I've really enjoyed re-discovering the joy of reading with my two little guys.
p.s. If you are interested in getting your own copy of the Read Aloud Handbook please let me know. I can get some through Usborne Books and More at a great deal right now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Turn off the Television Week!

In celebration of National "Turn of the Television" Week, I've been reading up on TV viewing and it's influence on literacy and education. It was shocking and enlightening. Our home doesn't get any TV channels and recently my husband I learned we could start getting TV for very little cost. We've been considering it over the last couple of weeks. After, what I learned this week, however, we ARE NOT getting TV.
Let me start with a little analogy Jim Trealese suggests in his book The Read Aloud Handbook. He says TV is like the medicines in a medicine cabinet. It definitely has a purpose... very important and useful purposes, but you shouldn't let children be in charge of the dosing.
Here are some startling statistics he shares in his book:
  • Researchers at Seattle's Children Hospital studied 2,500 children and concluded that for each hour of daily TV viewing by children under three, increased the the risk of the child devloping attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is the most common behavior disorder, by 10 percent!
  • By age 6, 43% of all children have a television as a permanent fixture in their bedroom. By age 8, 60% of children have a TV in their bedroom. More on TVs in the bedroom later
  • "In homes with children age 6 and younger the TV in on at least 50% of the time."
  • Long-term studies (like a twenty-six year study published in 2005) show a negative impact on the hours viewing the TV to academic achievement and level of education achieved. Even when researchers controlled for IQ, socioeconomic status, and behavioral problems, how much TV kids watched directly related to how much education they achieved. Forty percent of children who watched less than 1 hour/day earned a bachelor's degree, while only 10% of children that watched 3 hours/day did. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 2 hours or less of TV each day. Only 19% of kids who watched 2-3 hours of TV earned a bachelor's degree.

Okay, back to TV in the bedroom. Kid's who have a TV in their bedroom (regardless of ethnicity) have lower math, reading, and language arts scores. (Experts found an average of 10 point difference in math scores and 9 points in reading among kids who did and did not have TVs in their bedroom.) Experts believe this is because they watch more TV than kids who don't. Sleep researches have also found that kids with TVs in their bedroom have more difficulty falling asleep and wake more frequently at night. Thus, they are more likely to be sleepy at school.

Is there a safe level of TV viewing? A very large international study found some positive and no negative effects on learning in kids who watched 1-10 hours of TV/week. After that however, scores declined. Sadly, the average American child is watching 28 hours of TV/week instead of playing, reading or being read to, using their imagination, being creative, using their hands, developing relationships, and other things important for healthy child development.

Clearly, as parents and grandparents we need to be vigilent about monitoring children's TV viewing. Which will be the subject of another post.

By the way, since we've turned off the TV (which at our house means no DVDs) this week, homework has been done earlier, we've gone to the park, we've had more time for bedtime baths, the kids have spent a lot of time riding their bikes, we've played games, there has been more time for chores, there has been less snacking. It has been a productive week!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Be Back Soon!

I'm off to Italy for a week, but I'll be taking Reading Magic and The Read Aloud Handbook with me for airport reading, so I'm sure I'll have some fun things to share when I return.

In the meantime, this blog is getting a facelift by Tiffini at

Happy Reading!

Playing Games with Books

In addition to their parents reading to them, children enjoy and learn LOTS when their parents use books to PLAY games with them.

Here are some examples of games you can play while reading with your child.
  • Rhyming. Example: "Hmmm... Fox Lox. Those rhyme! They end the same. What else rhymes with goose... how about socks. Can you think of one?"

  • Letter spotting. Example: "See this line with a dot on top... that is the letter 'i.' Can you find another 'i.' Here's one! Let's count all the 'i's on this page."

  • Comprehension games. Example: "What do you think is going to happen next?"

  • Empathy building. "Oh... look at that little girl's face. I think she is sad, happy, surprised, etc." OR "How do you think she is feeling? Why do you think she feels like that? Let's read and see if we can find out."

  • Silly games. Example: When reading a book about trucks... "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess."

While the story is important to your child following a fun (and/or educational) tangent can actually enhance reading time. This works especially well with familiar favorites.

If you have any fun games, traditions, or ideas please share by posting a comment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

1000 Stories

No... this post has nothing to do with Scherhazade and 1000 Arabian nights. It is has to do with learning to read.

In Reading Magic, Mem Fox reports that recent studies have shown that children need to be read 1000 stories before they are ready to learn to read. At first, that may seem quite daunting, but really, it is VERY doable. If you read one story each day, 1000 stories takes less than 3 years. If you are starting to panic because you have a four year old that you haven't read to much, there is no need to fret. You can do it in one year if you read 3 stories each day.

Why? Because when children are read to consistently they eventually discover that those black shapes on the page represent the words their parents are saying. Then, they discover those words are made up of letters. They can start to recognize words and individual letters. They understand that they need to interpret these letters and words to be able to read and they develop a desire to read.

But, again... it isn't only about desire. The more familiar they are with printed text, how stories work, etc. the EASIER it is for them to learn to read.

Mem Fox suggests that parents ALWAYS read three stories to their children: One favorite, one familiar, and one new. What great advice.

I've been thoroughly enjoying Reading Magic and will share more information from this excellent book. For more on Mem Fox, visit To see my children's favorite book by Mem Fox, click here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nursery Rhymes and the 3 "Rs"

It is super important for kids to be exposed to (and to memorize) nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are also often frequently called "Mother Goose Rhymes." This is because nursery rhymes contain the three "rs" and no it isn't reading, writing, and 'rithmitic.
  • Rhyme
  • Rhythm
  • Repition

Those "Rs" lay the foundation for a child to be able to learn phonics. If you have a new baby, a toddler or preschooler, or even a kindergartner or first grader NOW is the time to teach your child some nursery rhymes.

I'll share more on nursery rhymes later.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Reading and the Youngest of Kids

Literacy Development for Infants-- The following recommendations come from the Utah Department of Health (as well as child development experts everywhere):
  • Have frequent one-on-one conversations with your baby.
  • Talk to your baby during necessary routines like diaper changes, baths, etc.
  • Listen to your baby's sounds and repeat the sounds back to them.
  • Read board, cloth or vinyl books you baby cold help hold.
  • Point to pictures and name familiar objects while you look at books.
  • Sing often to your baby.
  • Say nursery rhymes to spark your baby's awareness of language and sounds.

Why Read to An Infant?

  • It builds a positive association with books. People (even babies) are hedonistic we like activities that bring us pleasure. Cuddling with a loved adult, listening to their voice is something babies love... and if they associate that time with books they will learn to love reading.
  • Baby's learn MANY new vocabulary words from books. The typical children's story book has more unique vocabulary words than a conversation among PhDs. (source: Dr. Robert Titzer) Books that have familiar objects that you can point to and name are really great for young babies.

Helpful Hints for Reading to Infant?

  • Choose a time when they are happy and relaxed. Not right before a feeding when they may be getting cranky.
  • Follow their cues. If they are done before the book is over that is fine.
  • It's okay to read the same story over and over. Repetition is SO good for babies!
  • Look for books with black and white and bright colors for babies. They also enjoy textures.
  • Look for books few words/page.
  • Look for books with lots of repeated words or phrases.

So cuddle up with that little one and read!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why I Started This Blog

When I encounter parents teachers, and grandparents through my Usborne Books business I meet many nurturers who have spent a little time each day instilling a love of reading and learning in the kids in their lives.

What a great gift they are giving those children!! They understand what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, "A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others." Or, as Dr. Seuss so eloquently put it, "The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

However, I meet other people and I am often surprised by their misinformation and attitude towards books. For example, I can't tell you how many times I've been told (usually by a dad or a grandma, sometimes by a mom) "Oh, he is only six months old. He's too young for books." Guess what... he was ready to be introduced to books six months ago.

Thankfully, for me, I did have a mother who read to me and did instill in me a love for the written word. My love of books created an insatiable curiosity about the world around me, a source of comfort and diversion, and an opportunity to experience places and events I could never actually be.
So, I started this blog to share my thoughts and pass on information about reading, literacy, help for struggling readers, appropriate practices for gifted readers, reaching reluctant readers, and instilling in kids a love of reading and learning that will bless their lives... whether they are a newborn or a teenager. I'll take professional articles, studies, and reports and make it accessible to all parents.

If you have a topic you'd like me to research or any information you'd like to share, please let me know. Thank you for reading.