Let’s make EVERY child a reader

One week in the Spring and Fall Every Child A Reader celebrates Children’s Book Week. It’s an opportunity to remind people how important reading is, not just for children but for all. Being a proficient reader is important to succeed in life.

In my role as a speech therapist I work with adults who are having cognitive or language issues. A task we might do is make a list of items, say fruits, vegetables etc. To make that task more difficult I might ask, tell me all the things we can read. What came to your mind? Books, magazines, newspaper were probably first. Did you think about bills, road signs, recipes, food labels, medicine labels, directions, instructions, forms, information signage in stores, in hospitals, car dashboards, and more.

Reading is the key that unlocks the door into every child’s future. Let’s make every week Children’s Book Week, so that the future is bright, not just for the children but  also for the rest of us because the children are our future.

The family that reads together…

We know children learn by watching the adults in their lives. When they are small they mimic our behavior, good and bad. When they are older they may try to reject the behavior we model but that can prove difficult to do! Have you ever said or done something, good or bad, and thought I sound just like my mother or father.

So as National Family Literacy Month begins it we should consider how important it is to model reading for our children. I grew up in a house where reading was valued. Books were given as gifts, trips to the library were frequent, and those who could, read to those who were too young. My mother read fiction. I can still see her crying one evening as she read. And I still remember the book, Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn.  She showed me that it’s ok to get lost in a book, to respond viscerally to words, and to learn from them. My father was more a nonfiction guy. He read the paper and magazines. I still recall the stacks of National Geographics that he poured over and used to show us the world was a much bigger place than we could imagine.

This love of reading continued in the home I shared with my husband and our two children. Books were everywhere in our house, even in the bathroom. The Reader’s Digest Magazine lived in the bathroom too and was a source of jokes and information for all! We read together as a family at home, in the car, on vacation. Books were given and shared.

We still give books (all those gifts under the tree are books!) and talk about books even though we are all adults. And from Great Gramma (my mom) on down, we are sharing this love of books, modeling it for the next generations. May your family be so lucky as to pass a love of reading from generation to generation. The wealth of that inheritance is beyond measure.

Find additional resources for National Family Literacy month here.

Are you missing in-person events?

In the last year and a half authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, publishers and book sellers are missing in-person events. So I thought I’d share a post I wrote after I was at the ALA conference in Chicago in 2017. This is why in-person events are so special!

 I loved my elementary school librarian and her wonderful quiet space filled with books waiting to be explored. She always knew just what to recommend and, when she saw that my appetite for books exceeded my weekly check-out limit, she suggested that a friend and I pick our books together and trade halfway through the week. For me, librarians know where to find all the answers and all the good books, so it was an honor to be invited to sign copies of my new book, The Day I Ran Away, and my upcoming No More Noisy Nights at the American Library Association Conference in Chicago, where so many lovers of books and knowledge gather in one place.

Although I’d seen the list of exhibitors online, I was awestruck by the number of booths, their size and scope, and the variety of publishers and industry-related products represented. As my husband and I wandered the halls prior to my signing, I pointed out publishers with whom I’d had contact over the years (too many rejection letters to count!) and looked for books I’d seen reviewed. I noticed some LONG lines of excited attendees waiting for an author’s signature, and then other authors with no line at all. I grew a bit apprehensive, as my signing time got closer. Would people want copies of my books?

We found the booth and were met by the wonderful staff of Independent Publishers Group (IPG), who distribute for Flashlight Press and hundreds of other independent publishers. The author who was signing before me did have a line, and in fact, ran overtime into my slot to give away as many books as possible. When the IPG staff member announced that they’d run out of her books, I piped up and suggested that folks wait, because I’d be giving away books in a few minutes too. Librarians love books, especially free ones! They asked what my books were, so we handed out two samples which they looked at and passed down the line to share.

By the time I began signing, I had my own line of excited librarians who were thrilled that they didn’t have to choose between The Day I Ran Away and No More Noisy Nights, but could have one of each. Although I had less than a minute with each librarian, it was exciting to speak with people from all over the US and Canada. With the ALA conference in Chicago this year, many attendees were from the Midwest, but folks also came from California, Texas, Utah, New York, North Carolina, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, and more that I cannot recall. There were public and private school librarians, university librarians, and public librarians. Many were gifting their free books to family or friends, and others were donating to their schools. I loved hearing their enthusiasm not only for my books, but for their work in sharing books with children. 

Before I knew it, my time was up, and IPG cut me off! Several people then asked my husband if I could sign for them, so we moved to the corner of the booth and gave away a few more of the remaining books. In all, we gave away about 160 books!

One last highlight: the IPG booth was located near the Library of Congress booth, and it was heartening to see Carla Hayden, the new director, being treated like a rock star with interviews and people clamoring for a moment of her time! When my first picture book was released in 2004, my son was excited to point out that a copy would be forever kept in the Library of Congress. An amazing thing to think about! 

It was such an uplifting day! Librarians know that reading is essential to understanding ourselves, our world, and our place in it. When we learn how to “find friends” in books, we are never alone. It is my hope that these wonderful librarians will create lifelong readers, and lifelong readers will help make this world a better place.

Run away home?

Have you ever wanted to run away? Maybe you are thinking, YES, just yesterday when the work was crazy, the car needed an oil change and the refrigerator had somehow eaten all the food and was wanting to be filled AGAIN. 

Now you do remember wanting to run away when you were a child? I think most children do at some point.  The injustices of childhood loom large.  Everything happens above you. Decisions big (we’re having another baby) and small (blueberry yogurt instead of cherry) are made without you.  Just when you are in the middle of something important (the biggest block tower ever) it’s bedtime, and it seems the rules are constantly changing (don’t lie, unless the neighbor got an ugly haircut).

In Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells and A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban the main character feels ignored and replaced because a new sibling has arrived.  And Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has suffered the injustice of being sent to bed without any supper.  And so, they run away to escape. In my book, The Day I Ran Away, Grace feels she’s been wrongly banished to her room and packs up to run away only to be thwarted by the fact that she’s not allowed to cross the street. 

As a child I remember one time packing my little suitcase and heading down the road (I actually just went next door), but mostly when I needed to “escape” I picked up a book.  When the weather allowed, I took my book to swing under a willow tree.  Books allowed me to forget my problems big and small and they gave me examples of how others solve their problems.

Being a child or a grown up can be difficult.  Wanting to run away may just mean we need to escape for a bit so we can face our problem with fresh eyes. And when we return we might hope a good dinner is on the table!

Grace comes home for Spaghetti and Meatballs, her favorite! I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s her favorite because it’s a family favorite often requested when my kids are returning home.

In honor of Pasta Day (yesterday) this month’s recipe is early!

The Niner meatballs and sauce recipes. Be sure to use the slider to see both!

Time flies

My last blog post was before Thanksgiving. I can’t believe how many months have passed since then. I’m not always as disciplined in my writing endeavors as I’d like to be. While I was working on stories and other things authors do, I failed to continue weekly blog posts.

Sometimes life gets in the way! There were highs and lows, but the biggest high came on December 24th when our first grandchild, Noah David was born!

Noah was born into a family of readers. Before he was born his bookshelf was full because books were a requested baby shower gift.

BOOKS are a part of his everyday life!

READING to children from birth ( or even in the womb) has been shown to have a positive impact on so much of a child’s development.  A recent study from Rutgers University has shown that reading to your child has a positive impact on their behavior. Reading to a child boosts vocabulary and reading skills . But keep in mind that print books get the nod over ebooks in this study out of the University of Michigan. 

So when you finish this find a good book and read to a child!

Picture book month

0716181154_HDRNovember is a month when we think of family, friends and giving thanks. It is also picture book month.  So I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some authors that are part of my Flashlight Press family.  Writers mostly work alone, but we cherish the relationships, even if they are only in cyberspace, we have with other authors.

When I became a Flashlight Press author my wonderful editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, suggested I contact some the other authors to gain insight into marketing etc. They welcomed me into the family with great advice.

When I see their books at a story or library I smile. Check out their books and you’ll smile too! Click on the links to learn more about each book and find free activity pages too!

Jodi Moore

When a Dragon moves in          When a Dragon moves in Again

Jason Lefebvre

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Too Much Glue

Donna Earnhardt

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Being Frank

Lois Brandt

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Maddi’s Fridge

Richard McFarland

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Grandfather’s Wrinkles

 

Picture books & Conversations (part 2)

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My big sister reading to me

Last week I talked about using picture books to talk with children about issues or other topics. Sometimes we can introduce a topic that a child hasn’t experienced.  I still remember my children’s reaction when we read the book Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting. It allowed us to talk about people who did not have all the things they had in their lives.

Sometimes we can use a book to explore things we all experience.  In The Day I Ran Away, Grace is having a bad day (who hasn’t had one of those!). Her favorite shirt is dirty, her favorite cereal is all gone, she gets sent to her room after a tantrum and, when she colors her white shirt purple, Mom takes her markers away. That’s when Grace decides to run away, but how can you run away if you aren’t allowed to cross the street? We can use this book to talk with children about:

Bad days

  • Have you had a bad day? Why?
  • Share a bad day you’ve had
  • How can we make a bad day better?

Favorite things

  • What is your favorite: color, food, item of clothing, book, etc.
  • What would you do if a favorite thing was missing?

Rules

  • Grace wasn’t allowed to cross the street? Is that a good rule? Why?
  • What rules do you have in your house?
  • What happens if you don’t follow the rules?
  • Why do we have rules?
  • Was it right for Grace to lose her markers for a week?

Saying you’re sorry

  • Grace makes a picture for her mom as a peace offering.
  • What is a peace offering?
  • Why is it good to say you are sorry?
  • How do you feel when someone apologizes to you?
  • What are ways you can tell someone you are sorry?

Yoga

  • Grace is doing bedtime yoga. What is yoga?
  • Have you ever done yoga?
  • Why does she do it at bedtime?
  • What other things can you do to calm down at bedtime?
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From The Day I Ran Away

Picture books can start conversations

42747118_1927805887309834_6118873833110765568_nReading to a child gives us a perfect opportunity to start conversations. You may choose a book such as Mr. Worry: A story about OCD or I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette Syndrome that deal with a specific topic, but most picture books can be used to start conversations.

In No More Noisy Nights, Jackson has moved into a new home. After a day of unpacking he’s ready to sleep, but it turns out he’s sharing his home with some creatures that are noisy at night. Jackson has to use his best problem solving skills to quiet the creatures so he can get a good nights sleep. We can use this picture book to talk with children about:

Fears

  • Talk about Jackson. Was he afraid? Why or why not?
  • Ask questions such as: Have you ever heard scary sounds? What did you do? Are there are things that scare you?
  • Share fears you had as a child or now.

Problem solving

  • Talk about the way Jackson solved his problems. What else could he have done?
  • Talk about solutions for the fears they shared

Moving

  • Moving can be hard, but we bring things with us that help our new house feel like home. What things did Jackson bring? What things would you bring?
  • Make a list of the good and bad things about moving.

Making friends

  • The creatures in Jackson’s house were noisy. How did he treat them?
  • How do you like to be treated?
  • How did Jackson make new friends?

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From No More Noisy Nights

Reading Aloud & Language Development

Children are designed to listen to language. By listening they learn to talk.

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Never to old for a picture book!

I have fond memories of being read to as a child and of reading to my children. There is a warmth in that shared experience that I can still feel. That alone is reason enough to read aloud with children, but language development is an equally important reason.

Children are designed to listen to language. By listening they learn to talk. This listening begins in the womb. A 1980 study by DeCasper and Fifer showed that babies were listening in the womb.  In the study, mothers-to-be read aloud a story every day during the last six weeks of pregnancy. Some read The Cat in the Hat and others read The King, the Mice and the Cheese. Two days after birth, the infants were tested to see whether they found the story that they’d heard in the womb more soothing than the other story. They did. The infants who had heard The Cat in the Hat preferred it to The King, and vice versa—even when the story was read by someone other than their mother.

After the womb, reading aloud continues to be a wonderful way to enhance language development and enrich vocabularies. There have been numerous studies in recent years showing the positive effect reading aloud has on development of a child’s cognitive skills, language, attention span and memory.  These studies have shown differences in academic performance and vocabularies, but a recent study also showed differences in the actual brain activity of children living in a literacy friendly environment. It showed that the more you read to a child the more you help neurons grow in areas of the brain involved in understanding words, concepts and memory.

Books contain a richer vocabulary and more varied sentence structure than children encounter in spoken language. So reading aloud lets children hear new words in new contexts. Picture books provide additional visual cues that help a child move new words from working memory to storage where they can retrieve it to use themselves.

So reading aloud helps with brain development, but it also promotes bonding and provides enjoyment.  According to Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, “Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain.  You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure.”

Trelease also urges parents and teachers to continue to read aloud even after children can read to themselves as this promotes reading for pleasure, which can be the difference in a child becoming a life time reader, not just a school reader.

So turn off those screens, pick up a good book and turn your children on to reading. Their brain and their future self will thank you!

 

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