How to Help Older Children Choose Reading Material

How to Help Older Children Choose Reading Material - Red Apple ReadingWould your child rather visit the dentist than pick up a book? It can be challenging for parents to find reading material that captures their children’s attention – especially older children!

I have four kids and their reading interests are as varied as their personalities! My youngest is a question generator. He enjoys non-fiction books that get to the bottom of his inquiries. My 11 year old has trouble completing chapter books but loves comic book style reads such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. My 14 year old loves fantasy and historical fiction while my 17 year old enjoys the dystopic genre of books.

All kids are different, and with a little effort you can help yours discover enjoyable reading material. Red Apple Reading has a few suggestions to get you started!

1) Interest Inventory – The first and easiest suggestion for helping your kiddo find reading material is to simply think of things that interest her. This suggestion may seem a bit obvious; but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the answer that is “staring us in the face”. If your kid would rather watch WWE than read a book, find all the books you can about the wrestling profession. Yes, there are plenty out there! Maybe your child enjoys playing with Legos. Guess what? There are several books available featuring Lego characters as well as Lego history.

2) Be a Benevolent Dictator – If you really have a hankering that your kiddo would enjoy a particular book if he gave it a chance, then try instituting a “three chapter rule”. Tell your reluctant reader that he must read three chapters of the book. If he still doesn’t like it, then let him put it away. He may discover that the story had a slow start but eventually “hooked” him!

3) Survey Says… – One of the best ways to help your older child find material she would like to read is to ask friends for recommendations. Next time you are with a group of parents, ask them what their kiddos are currently reading. There’s a good chance that someone has unearthed a gem of a book that you and your child haven’t discovered yet!

4) Think Outside the Book – If you’re having trouble finding any book your kid will read, then it’s time to “think outside the book”! There is a variety of reading material available that isn’t in “book form”. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, and graphic novels are all great reading resources!

5) Challenge Accepted! – Many kids find a good challenge to be inspiring. Think about how you can turn reading into a fun competition. For instance, you could challenge your child to read one book from each of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal system. Or you could see how many books he could read from the Banned and Challenged Classics list. Be sure to offer an incentive to spice up the offer!

 Don’t grow weary of encouraging your child to read! Although it may be challenging to find the right reading material for your kiddo, your persistence will eventually pay off. Reading is a gift that will yield rewards far into their future! If you want to learn more about how Red Apple Reading helps kids become successful readers then check out our website. Our online program provides serious learning that’s seriously fun!

Reading: It’s Never Too Early!

If you are a parent of young children, you may be wondering about the role reading should play in your child’s daily routine. After all, most kids don’t become independent readers until they reach elementary school. However, that doesn’t mean that parents should wait until their children are school-age to emphasize the importance of literacy. It is never too early to teach your child the value of reading! Red Apple Reading has some helpful hints for developing literacy skills in each stage of early childhood development.

Infants:

  • Start Reading Day One! – Don’t feel silly reading aloud to your newborn. He may not understand what you are saying, but he is enjoying hearing your voice and having a cuddle. Eventually he will begin to associate reading with these things and consequently develop positive feelings about books!
  • Buy Baby-Friendly Books – Does it seem like your baby spends more time chewing on her book than looking at it? This is completely normal! Babies learn about their world by exploring it orally -“What does this taste like?”, “This is soft”, “This is hard!”, “This is cold”, etc. At this stage, books should be made of durable material (think board, plastic, or cloth) and easy to clean. When reading material is baby-friendly, mom doesn’t have to worry about her little one tearing pages or ruining the book with drool!

Toddlers:

  • Model Reading – It’s important for little Reading: It's Never Too Early!ones to not only be read to, but to also see the adults in their lives reading! If Mommy and Daddy are sitting down and reading a book, newspaper, or magazine, it must be a good thing to do!
  • Bedtime Reading – Make sure to continue reading aloud to your older baby. Even if you don’t get to read every word because your toddler insists on turning the page, she will still get the benefit of being exposed to books. Reading before bedtime is a wonderful ritual. Listening to a book will help your toddler settle down for the evening and give Mom and Dad the opportunity to sneak in a snuggle!

Preschoolers:

  • Play With Letters – When your child reaches the preschool stage, it’s time to begin learning letters. However, this doesn’t mean it’s time for mom to break out the flash cards and start quizzing junior! Preschoolers learn best through play. Fortunately, letter manipulatives for children are easy to find. Letter magnets for the refrigerator can be found at most any dollar store. Cookie cutters in the shape of letters can be used with PlayDough. Letters cut from old magazines can be used to make collages. As your kiddo plays with letters he will become familiar with them and learn to identify them.
  • Choose Educational Shows – The amount of screen time for preschoolers should be limited. When they are allowed to watch television, choose programs that are engaging and have educational value. For instance, PBS offers a variety of programs that encourage children to read. WordGirl, Super WHY!, and Sesame Street are just a few shows that teach while entertaining.
  • Read Aloud – So by now you’ve noticed that every stage of development has included being read aloud to. That’s not a mistake! When reading time is a priority in the daily schedule, kids will understand that reading is worthwhile! By the way, even when your kids start school and become independent readers, they will still enjoy being read to and you will still enjoy it too!

Red Apple Reading is dedicated to improving childhood literacy. Learning to value reading at a young age is a big part of developing that skill. Why not visit our website and learn more about our awesome on-line reading program? Even if your child is currently too young to enjoy its benefits, you can file it away for future reference!

5 Ways to Foster Your Child’s Imagination

fostering-your-childs-imagination-RARWe’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t let your imagination run away with you.” However, it’s possible that this is exactly what our kids should be doing. While an overactive imagination can be harmful, many of our children are suffering from the exact opposite problem – an under active imagination. In his 2012 article, The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development, Scott Barry Kaufman writes, “Over the last seventy-five years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child.” Because of the great importance of imaginative play in a child’s life, it is imperative that parents provide an ideal environment for imagination to flourish. The following 5 suggestions can help to foster your child’s imagination.

1. Limit Screen Time – While modern technology certainly has benefited our society, too much of a good thing is still bad. If your child is spending an inordinate amount of time watching television, playing video games or browsing the internet, his chance for free play is significantly diminished. Make sure your little one has plenty of opportunity to exercise his imagination by limiting daily screen time.

2. Schedule in Free Time – OK, I know having to schedule free time sounds a little ridiculous. However, children today are very busy. Think about the practices, extracurricular activities, and appointments your child has in a typical week. If your kiddo has a packed calendar, there’s a good chance she does not have the down time necessary to just be a kid. Children need to have time in their week to simply lay down in the grass and see pictures in the clouds. Don’t make the mistake of over scheduling your little one.

3. Choose Toys Wisely – Not all toys are created equal – especially when it comes to fostering imagination. When choosing toys for your child, ask yourself if it will promote imaginary play. For instance, a bag of Lego blocks can become a house one day and a car the next day. The possibilities are endless. However, the latest toy gimmick may only have one or two potential play ideas.

4. Ask Thought Provoking Questions – Make the most of the conversations you have with your kiddo. It is tempting to tune out our children – especially if you have an especially chatty child! Resist the temptation to turn on the radio during car rides and use the time instead to ask questions. For instance, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” or “If you were a superhero, what would be your super strength?”. Kids enjoy these interactions and you will enjoy learning something new about your little one.

5. Read! – Last, but certainly not least, provide a reading friendly atmosphere for your youngster. Reading is an optimal way to engage a child’s imagination. Envisioning characters, settings, and plot outcomes will spark your child’s imagination like nothing else can. So be sure your home promotes reading by having books available, quiet places to retreat to, and a reading parent as an example!

Are you doing all you can to foster your kiddo’s imagination? Be willing to take an honest look at your child’s environment and schedule and see what areas you can tweak in order to promote an active imagination.

 

Why You Should Read to Your Baby

Why You Should Read to Your Baby - Red Apple Reading ExpressWe all know the importance of reading in the lives of our children. As parents of young elementary school children, we are always receiving reminders from teachers to read with our kids nightly. Most of us even recognize the importance of reading to our preschoolers. But what about our infants? Is it really important to sit down and read to them each day? In short, the answer is yes! Let’s explore a few reasons why reading to your infant is important.

Positive Experience
No matter how smart your infant is (and every mom knows her baby is the smartest!), we all can admit that small babies cannot follow the plot of a story. So what is the point of reading to them? One of the most imperative reasons is because it gives them positive experiences with books. Research has shown the importance of physical touch in the lives of infants. When we snuggle in with our babies and open a book, the reading of the book registers as a positive experience. The more positive experiences with books that we can link together for our baby, the more likely that he or she will be excited about reading when entering school. Consequently, it is also crucial to have “baby friendly” books available for your little one to interact with. We are not building positive book interactions when we repeatedly tell baby “no” when she reaches for a book. If we have chunky board books and soft cloth books available, our babies can be free to turn pages, chew on, and handle books in typical baby fashion!

Cognitive Development
Another crucial reason for reading to your baby is it promotes healthy cognitive development. When he is born, your infant’s brain contains 100 billion neurons. These neurons form connections with other neurons. If you as a caregiver create a nurturing and interesting environment for him, the number of his neural connections increases. Thus, by reading regularly to your infant, you can physically alter the wiring of his brain! So remember, reading that story before laying your little one down for his nap not only provides him with much needed physical touch, it also promotes healthy brain development.

Language Development
Language development is the natural result of a healthy brain. The more time you spend reading aloud to your baby, the more exposure she will have to a larger number of words. According to kidshealth.org, a website which promotes children’s health and development, “Kids whose parents frequently talk/read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to.” An increased vocabulary will yield benefits later on when your child begins learning to read. Why wouldn’t we want to give our little ones this head start in life?

Studies definitively show that reading to your infant cannot begin too early. I know some of my best memories are of reading to my babies. So pick up a book today and read to your little one (it’s o.k. if a little book chewing is involved!). We would love to hear your experiences – leave a comment below telling us about your favorite memory of reading to your baby!

Sources:
http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/earlyliteracy2pagehandout.pdf
http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/all_reading/reading_babies.html
http://www.readingfoundation.org/parents/brain_research.jsp

Do Happy Kids Equal Smart Kids?

Do Happy Kids Equal Smart Kids?Any child development expert will tell you that a child’s well-being and his or her capacity for learning are intrinsically linked. From the earliest of ages, children require a basic sense of comfort and security in order for their developing brains to be receptive to other stimuli. Most parents and educators realize this, but what many fail to acknowledge is that this prerequisite for learning continues into childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood! Enter social and emotional learning, a model advocates affectionately refer to as SEL.

What Is SEL?
SEL, or social and emotional learning, is a movement that seeks to help children (and adults) develop effective life skills that when implemented, help them be happier, healthier, and therefore, in a better position to learn and perform academically.

SEL Research
SEL may be a relatively new movement, but it has been researched extensively, and the results are pretty amazing. In a meta-analysis of 213 studies, researchers found that SEL programs enhanced students’ attitudes about school, themselves, and others and even improved their standardized test results by 11 percentile points on average. Furthermore, they identified the most effective programs as those that are SAFE. That is, those that are:

Sequenced- use a sequenced set of activities aligned with objectives
Active- utilize forms of learning that are active rather than passive
Focused- contain elements specifically focused on developing personal and social skills
Explicit- target specific personal and social skills

SEL In Your School?
If you haven’t received notification of a SEL program at your child’s school, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s not one in place. Like most other major school initiatives, SEL is usually a state-wide program. To find out whether or not the schools in your state are implementing SEL, check the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s website.

What You Can Do?
Whether or not your state has adopted a SEL program, you can do your part to help your child develop these life skills. Of course, you first have to master them yourself! There are many online programs for both children and adults that can help you and your child develop these skills. If you’re short on time or just feel as if good-old-fashioned parenting is enough for your child, then here’s the gist of any SEL program: teach your child to value the good things that happen to him/her as much as (or ideally more than) the negative things that occur in all of our lives. Then, talk to your child about self-talk. It may be an awkward conversation, but it’s an important one. Let your son or daughter know that we all talk to ourselves (although most of us don’t do it out loud). Self-talk can be detrimental to our self-esteem, and most of us don’t even know we’re doing it! Once you bring awareness to it, though, you suddenly have the ability to control it. You can either accept the negative thoughts or reject them and replace them with positive ones.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A comprehensive SEL program can help your child acknowledge feelings and deal with them effectively, improve interpersonal skills, deal with challenges, become more independent and responsible, and more!

Want to learn more about SEL? Visit the Learning Matters website to read more and to watch videos of SEL programs in action!