Sunday, July 31, 2016

5 {more} ways to encourage your kids to read

Mom2MomEd Blog: 5 {more} ways to encourage your kids to read
I love to read.

I just do--reading is my favorite activity. It is what I would do all day, every day, without fail if I didn't have other obligations.

I grew up in a family of readers and have always had an affinity for books. I was lucky enough to have a librarian for a grandmother, and some of my happiest memories were receiving huge boxes of books that the library had pulled from circulation. Sometimes they were still in excellent condition. Sometimes they were all but falling apart. Regardless of their condition, I loved them all.

I still remember several books from those boxes--and I still have a few of them as well! There's the well read, slightly tattered Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book and a well loved copy of What Do You Do, Dear? There were many Eric Carle books (you know, the guy that wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar). I received my first Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books in these boxes.

I loved them all.

As a professional educator and private tutor, and a lover of books and reading, it pains me to see a child who struggles to read, or worse, to hear a child say they don't like to read. It also pains me to hear other educators and literacy advocates insisting on one and only one method of reading instruction--regardless of what type of instruction (more about this in a future post).

I previously shared five tips to help encourage your children to read in THIS post. Today, I have five more suggestions for you!

1. Don't insist on perfection
Do you like it when someone stands over you and watches for, and points out, every single mistake?

No? Are you sure?

Well, guess what--your kids don't like (or need) it either.

A sure fire way to turn a child off to learning is to be too rigid, focusing on every single little detail as they read. It is perfectly normal for ALL readers to miss an occasional word, be slightly off in pronouncing a word, and so on.

Let reading be enjoyable and an activity to be excited about, even if your child can't read perfectly. Sometimes mistakes lead to self-correction. Sometimes mistakes lead to conversation. Sometimes they don't even notice the mistake.

Pointing out every single little mistake, every single time your child reads will take away any possible joy. It also will cause your child to lose sight of the plot, characters, and other details of what they are reading. It likely will also create unnecessary anxiety.

That said...if you notice your child repeatedly making mistakes, making so many mistakes that their reading makes no sense, or making mistakes that radically change the meaning of what they are reading, start paying attention--if they keep doing it, your child may need some reading help.

2. Read to the dogs (or cats or hamsters or goldfish or potted plants)
Check with your local library to see if they have any "read to the dogs" or similar activities. Or, have your children read to pets you may have at home.

One of the sweetest little girls I have ever tutored had significant anxiety reading aloud. She would read aloud with me, but not with most other adults (not even with her mom!) outside of school. I suggested to her parents that they allow her to read to their dogs. She loved the snuggle time with her dogs and the dogs loved the attention! Over time, reading to her dogs aloud helped her to overcome some of her reading anxiety, and eventually she was able to start reading aloud to her parents and siblings.

Don't hover. Don't read along. Don't correct.

Let your child read aloud to the pets, or even to a house plant, without interruption. The goal is simply to get them reading and then to get them comfortable with reading.

You can work on specific skills like pronunciation, speed, fluency, and so on separately.

3. Let them see YOU reading
You've probably heard this before, but if you want your children to read, they NEED NEED NEED to see you reading too! I can't stress this enough! There is ample evidence that children need to see their parents reading.

Read the newspaper in the morning.
Read a novel while you relax in the evening.
Read on a Kindle or other e-reader.

You don't need to point out your reading--"Hey kids, look at me! I'm reading!"--just make it a natural part of your day.

Even if you don't really enjoy reading yourself (first, figure out why that is! I bet it's actually ingrained in your childhood), find a book that you think you might like (or at least tolerate if reading isn't your thing), and make it a point to read a little bit every day and in your child's presence. If you don't really enjoy reading, try just a few pages a day.

Just be sure you are reading in your child's presence so the act of reading is normal for your children.

4. Easy is sometimes OK
If your child doesn't have some EASY reading experiences, you might as well write off reading confidence. Sometimes it is perfectly and completely OK for your child to read material that is "too easy" on occasion.

When my tutoring students struggle with their school reading material, I let them choose some pleasure reading that is several levels easier. Even if they only read this easy material for a few minutes per day, knowing that they have read something with ease may help boost their confidence.

Occasional easy reading material helps children to also practice skills so that they become second nature. Once they have really developed early reading skills, they can then build other skills.

If your fourth grader is struggling to read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle for a school assignment (one of my favorite books, by the way), let them spend a few minutes reading a Judy Moody book by Megan McDonald or a Ramona Quimby book by Beverly Cleary.

If your first grader is struggling with Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, let them try Cat the Cat by Mo Willems. If Cat the Cat is too much, don't be afraid to let your child enjoy picture books before tackling Frog and Toad Are Friends!

The goal is to build confidence. Your child should be challenged periodically with harder material, but if the reading material is too hard all the time, your child will grow discouraged and just give up.

5. Take turns
You know what your children are likely to enjoy a whole lot? And you too?

Reading TOGETHER. I don't care how old your child is--reading together can be great fun and a wonderful bonding experience for your entire family. Although I suggested in my last reading tips post that you hold a read-a-palooza and spend time reading together, I also want you to take turns reading aloud to each other.

While you can read almost anything together, taking turns is especially ideal for struggling readers, readers who tire easily, or kids who have reading assignments that are a little too challenging for comfort.

Depending on your child's age, attention span, and skill level, consider alternating paragraphs, pages, or even chapters.

If your child is in school and has to keep a reading log, the teacher may not like this, but I believe that taking turns still counts towards school reading logs. If you read 10 pages together, alternating pages, write down 10 pages on the log--not just the half that your child read.

As you are taking turns reading, be sure to ask your child questions as you read. Some of my favorites are:
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • How do you think {character} felt when {event in the story} happened?
  • What would you do next if you were in this story?
  • Does this seem realistic?
I'd love to know about YOUR childhood reading experiences. Please comment! Did you grow up in a family of readers? Were you encouraged to read? Did you struggle with reading as a child (or now)?
Go out and pick up the books mentioned in this post at your local library (and be sure to find out if they have any read-to-the-dogs events!) or buy them on Amazon below:

Be sure to come back on Tuesday for Part 5 of our book club reading of The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre! We'll be tackling topics including boys and literacy! Don't miss it! 

If you don't have refrigerator alphabet magnets, and aren't sure where to buy them, we've pulled together links to four of the top sets on Amazon below!

This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, July 29, 2016

5 Self Care Ideas for Busy Moms

Mom2MomEd Blog: 5 Self-Care Ideas for Busy Moms
My friends, I hate to admit that I’ve been having some mommy tantrums this summer. I am just so DONE with the constant demands of being a work at home mom and wife and daughter and sister and friend and neighbor.

I am tired.
I am sleep deprived.
I am overwhelmed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love and adore my children and husband, friends, and family. However, lately I’ve been losing sight of my own needs. I’ve been losing sight of what makes me happy and fulfilled—I know there are many that think I should be satisfied with my life as it is and that I should just enjoy my kids while they are young. But, you know what?

If mama isn’t happy, no one is happy!

Am I right, moms?

Well, when I realized that I haven’t been enjoying life fully lately, I started paying extra attention to some of the things that make me feel good and help break up my sometimes monotonous schedule.

Here are a few things that have been working for me:

Exercise—I’ve been trying to get up and take my dog for a walk in the morning before my husband goes to work and my kids get up. That means, before anywhere from 5am to 7am and it’s just me, the dog, and the silence of morning.

No kids. Just me.

It’s been a great way to start the day and I end up feeling motivated and refreshed when I return home. I definitely notice the positive impact that exercise has on my mood. By extension, that leaks over into my interactions with my kids throughout the day.

Reading—I love to read, but I don’t often have time to do so. Or, rather, I don’t make the time as often as I should. Either way, our Mom2MomEd book club has been great for me! I mean, I HAVE to read for the book club, right? I can’t exactly run a book club and not participate—that would just be silly!

Reading is my down time and helps me to refocus my brain. It gives me a few minutes to sit down and do something for myself.

I like it.

Coffee—Of course, coffee! Actually, coffee is less about what’s in my mug and more about where I’m drinking it and the mood around my cup of coffee. My backyard is particularly peaceful in the mornings, so I’ve been trying to get outside and drink my first (of many) cups of coffee on the back deck.

The air is cool.
The birds are chirping.
The chickens are out hunting for bugs.

It’s peaceful and a great way to start my day!

Showering—Ok, I know, I know. I do shower every day. I just don’t always do it in the morning, my preferred time to hop in the shower. Some days, I am out the door and just throw on a hat and whatever clothes are closest and clean without even feeling like I’m fully awake.

Taking a morning shower helps me to start my day feeling alert and ready for anything. Plus, I just plain appreciate those few minutes to myself!

Making lists—I make a lot of lists, but I don’t follow most of them. For me, lists are more about the act of writing things down, not necessarily crossing things off. I tend to remember things once I put them on paper so the acting of writing my list is like mentally priming the pumps for my day.

I always have at least one list out on the kitchen table with the activities that we have going on that day or coming up soon. Lists help me to feel in control in a world that so frequently feels completely out of control.

I realize that this list of self-care ideas isn’t profound. That wasn’t the point.

The point is that I need to take care of myself—I need to put in time daily to tend to my own needs so I can be refreshed, alert, and PRESENT for my family.

These activities help me focus, break up my days, and at least give me some sense of control.

If you find yourself having your own mommy tantrums and meltdowns, give yourself a mommy time out. During your mommy time out, grab a journal and make a list of your own self-care ideas. Include those things that you love but set aside so you can tend to others.

As busy moms, it is so important that we take time for ourselves and re-group mentally so that we can put our best foot forward.

The days are long when you feel like you are constantly struggling. I can be guilty at times of complaining instead of helping myself, and I don’t always have the energy to do anything other than simply getting by and surviving. If that’s you to, then you are not alone!

We are in this together.

Now, go pour yourself a cup of coffee (or tea, but truly, coffee is magical—Malea agrees with me!), and find ways to carve out some ways to steal a few minutes for yourself.
Check out these other great posts:

Looking to simplify life? Try meal planning with these cute, printable worksheets:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The book that revolutionized my relationship with my son

Mom2MomEd Blog: The book that revolutionized my relationship with my son
We are blown away by the response to McKenzie’s Parenting My Spirited Child post! We knew it would resonate with some of you, but we didn’t realize how many of you would connect with that post so strongly! Thank you so much for the likes, comments, and shares. We truly appreciate it.
A few comments reminded me of a book I read when my son was three (he’s 17 now).

It was a particularly rough patch in my life and I was truly struggling as a mother. My son had multiple food allergies, increasing anxieties, and I was dealing with an abusive partner (my son’s dad). The mix of it all, along with trying to finish my undergraduate degree and working at the same time, was just far too much for me to handle at times.
Partially as an escape, and partially in search of solutions to my problems, I found myself taking my son to the public library A LOT.
One day, I came across a book that looked promising, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Fourteen years later I still use lessons from it!
The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children by Steven W. Vannoy truly transformed my relationship with my son and started me on the path to not just wanting a change in our lives, but to actually feeling like I could make that change happen. This was also the first parenting book where I was able to take a specific tip and apply it to our lives with immediate positive results repeatedly.
I don’t recall the specific tip in the book that was the turning point, but it happened one evening as we were eating dinner and my son didn’t want to eat his vegetables. His dad’s typical reaction was to get angry and to try to force our son to eat because, you know...
That’s always effective, right?
Nope, never effective to force a child to eat when they truly don’t want to.

I recall that instead of reacting with anger, dominance, or some other power emotion or move, I wanted to turn things around. I took a deep breath and tried my utmost to respond to my son’s veggie refusal with understanding, support, and love.
I don’t remember my exact words or my son’s exact words, but I do remember that he responded in a positive way and we found a new level of mutual trust immediately. Instead of melting down into tears, my son ate his broccoli and dinner went on without incident!

I also began hugging my son more, and holding on until my son deciding to stop the hug.

The tips and ideas in Vannoy’s book have had long lasting implications for my son and I and have formed a solid foundation for us to move forward through some exceptionally trying times. My son knows he can come to me with anything he needs to talk about, even if he knows I won’t like it, because I have made a consistent effort to stay calm, open, and understanding.

Now, don’t get me wrong!

It’s not always easy peasy, happy rainbows and unicorns!

My son and I do have plenty of misunderstandings! He sometimes gets grounded or loses privileges, but for the most part, even after something negative, we move past it with trust and faith in each other as parent and child.

In fact, just a month and a half ago, after spending HOURS upon HOURS in the car together, we had to unload a packed car and sort things at the same time (read a little about that trip and connecting with your child HERE). We were both frazzled and just DONE, but due to a tight timeline, this task had to be done right away. The more we worked to unload, the more tired and cranky we both become.

We stopped communicating clearly because we were so fried.

I was far more curt in my speech than usual. My son was less observant than usual.

Neither of us was using our words well to express our needs.

At one point, my son started to get upset. He took some things from the car and up to our storage unit and was gone for what seemed like a long time. I was starting to get angry, but caught myself.

Instead, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this was just as UN-fun for him as it was for me.

When he came back down, he was able to tell me that I’d upset him and was struggling and didn’t want to make the situation worse.

I fell back on some of the lessons in Vannoy’s book and looked at things from my son’s point of view and ended up apologizing to him.

As a parent, you need to figure out what your kids need and how to clearly communicate your love and support to them, even when you really are pretty upset yourself. I’m not talking about being your kid’s friend or having a free-for-all-hold-hands-and-be-happy-all-the-time kind of relationship.

You are still the parent and your child is still the child. But you can take steps to make sure you are BOTH heard and understood.

The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children by Steven W. Vannoy was a true gift for my relationship with my son. I hope you’ll give it a read and that it will prove beneficial for you as well.

Head to your local library for Vannoy’s book or buy it HERE on

When you are done, be sure to come back and let us know what you thought!
Be sure to check out these great posts:
Mommy's "I'm Over It" summer tantrum

BOOK: The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children by Steven W. Vannoy

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book Club Part 4--The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre: Chapters 7 through 9

Welcome back to the Mom2MomEd BOOK CLUB! We hope you've been following along! If not, don't pass up our FIRST, SECOND and THIRD posts. 

This week instead of both of us weighing in, it's just McKenzie's perspective. Don't worry! You will get a chance to hear from Malea next week. 
We really hope that you are following along with us. This book has been eye opening and is a definite must read for any parent!

This past week we read Chapters 7, 8 and 9 and again, WOW! Definitely some food for thought. Read on to see what I thought......

Chapter 7: Requiem for Recess

Recess has slowly diminished over time. Due to school reform and increased expectations, recess is becoming less and less of a priority.  Or is it?
Would you believe that currently only 39 percent of first graders get  20 minutes a day (or less) of recess?  The percentage continues to drop as children reach older ages. 

Peg Tyre notes, “principals are torn.  They know that kids need activity, but physical movement-jumping, screaming, skipping rope, throwing a ball, roughhousing with friends, or simply taking a quiet walk around the perimeter of the playground—is no longer considered a productive use of the school day.”  

Really? Fresh air, physical movement, refocusing, self care, social interaction, respite from sitting at a desk or not productive uses of the school day? Since when?  I understand that there are instructional requirements that teachers and administrators must follow but, come on! Our children are not robots.  As an adult, I get antsy if I’m cooped up in my house too much. I perform best when I’m given plenty of breaks and can physically remove myself from “work.” Why do we expect our little ones to be any different?

Tyre goes on to explore why we are also restricting what can and can’t be tolerated during the measly few minutes children DO get outside for recess. Rough play is strongly discouraged on many campuses and children are no longer able to play tag or touch football.  As a society have we gotten too paranoid????

YES. The answer is YES.  

I’m in the camp that kids need to move. Adults needs to move. Humans need to move. We were not built to just sit still, follow directions and be indoors.  Boys especially need this time to literally—spread their wings. While I understand that teachers and administrators have a ridiculous amount of pressure on them to perform, it’s disappointing that the one subject that is so desperately needed for boys is the first one to be cut. 

In addition, are we so afraid of what is going to happen if we let our children play freely during their time in recess? Do we really have to control every game, every interaction and make sure that it is structured?  Tyre notes, “Let’s be clear about what we are losing when we reduce recess and ban tag.  We rob children of free play that is really free.  There’s a cost—and it’s a steep one for many boys.”  

There has been research on the impact of physical activity on learning and test scores. The correlation is there. Why aren’t the decision makers seeing this?  Who needs to advocate? How are parents and teachers feeling about this?  I’d be curious to see the impact this has on teachers as well. I can’t imagine standing in front of a class teaching all day without having time to walk around outside and relax my brain.  I’m guessing that many teachers feel the same. So, are they really giving their best at school without breaks either? It seems like this is a much bigger issue with a simple solution…incorporate more movement in schools.PERIOD.

Chapter 8: Pay Attention

This chapter hit home hard for me. It’s my worst fears for my son in words. I already have figured that he’ll be “labeled” at some point in his education just because he’s not a conformist. 

The story of Kelley and Tim made me sad/mad/hurt and disappointed. They felt pressure by their sons teacher to “get him tested.” They felt strongly that nothing was “wrong” with him yet were continually bombarded with all of these behaviors that his teacher was pointing out.  At some point as a parent you begin to question yourself. What if there really is something “wrong” with my child?  Of course you would want to seek intervention as soon as possible. But, on the flip side, are teachers really qualified to make the call as to whether or not a child should be tested for ADHD? 

As parent’s we see our children in every situation. We know how they are at home, in public, at school, with friends, in private.  Some of these diagnosis have become “one size fits all” and it’s going to end up ruining our children’s self esteem, trust in teachers and parents and we’re going to end up with a bunch of overly medicated children who really just needed to play outside. 

I’m not going to make this a debate on if ADHD exists or not. I don’t really care either way. My concern is that boys are being diagnosed with it at an alarming rate and we KNOW that the system which is pointing the finger is also the very one who is not meeting the needs of our boys.  

Since there are no medical test to diagnosis ADHD, doctors rely heavily on teacher and parent observations.  Tyre adds, “What parents, psychologists, and physicians forget is that when a teacher checks off “often” next to “climbs excessively” she is saying something about your son but she is saying more about her expectations for your sons behavior in her class.” This really speaks to me. If teachers, administrators and parents took a hard look at the expectations and parameters which are set around our children, they will find (hopefully) that these are actually just very normal behaviors for kids—especially boys.

Chapter 9: Notes from the front

What an interesting chapter!

The beginning of the chapter focuses on a middle class school that was seeing a decline in boy’s interest in school and were facing a “boy problem.” While the principal was greatly aware of these issues he wasn’t able to accomplish much without the means and support.

“The reality of public education in low-performing schools, where the boy problem was worst, was that teachers and administrators worked like members of a NASCAR pit crew doing whatever they could, as fast as they could, to help get their underachieving kids over the finish line. Nevertheless, in middle class-communities, many parents, teachers, and school administrators thought it was girls, not boys, who needed all of the help.”  

I like how the chapter later talks about the discrepancy between adult standards and that which we set for boys. Specifically relating to noise and rough play.

In fact, as I’m sitting her typing I’ve asked my son no less than five times to keep the noise level down.  I actually just literally stopped myself in my own tracks and thought about what I was doing. He’s not screaming, he’s not yelling he’s excited about the pretend pet shop he’s created with his sister and is speaking out of joy. Who am I to ask him to keep it down? 

We’re not in church, we’re not in public, we’re in our own home. 

Unfortunately this only illustrates that it really takes making a conscientious effort to allow our children the freedom they need to thrive.  I think I also have a lot of work to do!

  • Here are 2 action steps for you to work on this week with your son (or daughter)... 
      • For every time you redirect your child, praise them for something they are doing well. Watch their reactions. Do they smile? Act surprised? Do that every day for a week.  Make note of the difference it makes.
      • Observe your child in the park, at school, with friends.  Watch how they play with one another. Think about how often you direct their play. Do you think that all rough play is dangerous and should be avoided? Observe how they react to other children.  
Be sure to check out all of our posts in this series: