Rhymes and Rhythms

You say you weren’t able to read to your child every night, or somehow, despite your best intentions, he or she didn’t develop a love for books? No worries, it’s never too late to turn a reluctant reader into a book lover. If your child is still in elementary school, find a story with a subject they enjoy and start a daily reading time tonight, or let them read to you. Hearing your child read aloud allows you to assess their skill level. A child who struggles with reading is less likely to read for fun. If you notice a reading problem, talk with your child’s teacher about school resources and the strategies you can use at home to raise their reading level.     

If you can’t persuade your child to read books for pleasure, try introducing reluctant readers to poetry. Rhythms and rhymes help your child regulate the pace of their reading and learn to appreciate the interplay of words, feelings, and ideas. Since poetry comes in so many forms, you’re sure to find one that your child will embrace.  Click here for forms of poetry:

Once you’ve introduced poetry, encourage your child to create their own. We’d love to read their poetic works. Feel free to share one here in the Comments section.         

From Treasure to Treasure?

I was inspired by Alex Weiss’s article, “10 Spring Cleaning Tips for Getting Rid of Old and Unread Books,” which offers creative and crafty ways to clean off our bookshelves. I appreciated the ideas for donating books to other people or organizations, but the suggestions to make paper bouquets and storage holders from books was like a stab in the heart. Cut up the pages, dig a hole into a book? It feels sacrilegious. Someone, somewhere poured their heart and soul into writing those books, so I’d feel bad mutilating them. Then again, maybe I’m reacting as if the books were written by me, maybe I’m just projecting. Imagine yourself as a writer, how would you feel about your book being transformed into a rose or storage holder? Before you answer, click on the picture to check out Weiss’s article:               

A Story We Missed

New books have a few months to make a splash in the marketplace before they’re nudged aside to make room on the shelf for newest bestseller. I’m open to purchasing books from anywhere ranging from big retail stores to online websites—even from thrift stores. In fact, some bestsellers show up there right beside the relatively unknown novels. Although I don’t read many memoirs, I discovered one of the most riveting memoirs in a second-hand store. See if you’re familiar with it:


This book catapulted me into a world I had always wondered about. I bet it will take you there too, because that’s what good books do. If you find an older book, give it a chance, it might be one of the best books you’ll ever read. Which one of your favorite books published months or years ago would you recommend to readers today?     


Why Read to Readers?

Once children can read on their own, parents think their part is done, but reading aloud to children is about more than teaching them to read.  Listen to the video below to hear why parents should continue to read to older readers.

Why do you agree or disagree with Rebecca Bellingham's talk? 

Adventure of a lifetime

When’s the last time you visited a library? If you’re a student, maybe it was yesterday, but for too many of us, the library is a forgotten resource. Nowadays the Internet rules. Anything you want to know, along with things you don’t want to know, await you on the web.

I smiled this week after one of our kids, complaining that websites for a school term paper were useless, asked for actual books. Finally, somebody wants to visit a library. And if you plan to do any type of serious research, expect a library visit in your future, too.

In college, I remember visiting the library’s “stacks.” These were multiple, unoccupied floors of shelved books accessed by an elevator, and thankfully, a student I.D because the stacks were—in a word—scary. If I recall correctly, the lights were on timers attached to the end of the bookshelves. That placement only added to the fun of hunting down an ancient resource, especially after you forgot to reset the timer and found yourself in near darkness. But after braving the stacks, locating a particular work of literature from among the nearly two million other books felt like finding a treasure. Library memories (sigh).

How about sharing your library adventures? 



A Reading Journey

If we believe reading matters, our children will see us demonstrate good literacy habits by turning to books during our free time. Over the years, my reading habits have changed with my lifestyle. As a single person, I enjoyed reading thrillers and suspense novels. After we started our family, in addition to reading picture books to our children, I only found time to read articles in magazines. Later, as our children grew older, I gravitated to non-fiction books. Now, with more free time, I read magazines, non-fiction, and fiction books.

Here’s the point: no matter what you like to read, keep doing it. Make it a habit in your home so that your children will emulate you by grabbing a book, too. As they continue to build literacy skills, down the road, you’ll see great things happen. 

What are you reading these days?



Educational Toys

By now, we can all agree on the importance of exposing babies and toddlers to books. Let’s consider other factors that help children develop a strong foundation for literacy. I didn’t rely on a computer to teach my children to read, but things have changed since then with so much technology geared to today’s youngster. Still, I believe there is a place for inexpensive, non-technical toys. Learning becomes a natural part of a child’s childhood when their toys have an educational component. Although I bought some technical toys, early on, I focused on ones like these:


We used to keep these magnetic letters on our refrigerator, and they were indispensable because I could play with our daughter while I cooked dinner. How convenient is that? After our children learned the sounds letters made, we progressed into creating short words and swapped out letters to create rhyming words. Before long, our kids were r-e-a-d-i-n-g, and yours will, too. Reading-related toys can bepricey and high-tech or garage sale economic. What’s your favorite reading-related toy?     


The Benefits of Fun

If you’re a parent, perhaps you’re wondering why there’s so much hoopla about reading to your child. First the sad news. Literacy Partners posted on their website sobering 2011 statistics from ProLiteracy stating that 65% of all state and federal correctional inmates can be considered low literacy. But, here’s the good news. Study after study shows a correlation between children who are read to from an early age and academic success. Youngsters’ brains are like sponges, soaking up the basics of language and building the foundation for good reading skills. And what child wouldn’t enjoy snuggling onto a parent’s lap for a story?

Regular reading can occur at any time of the day, and it doesn’t have to be a book. Of course, books designed for a child’s age level are best, but a woman told me that on a busy afternoon she read the Wall Street Journal to her child. Years ago, my husband read a business book to our baby daughter. I think she even pointed at the pages, probably wondering where the pictures went. Along with the significant educational benefits of early literacy, it’s also free, fun, and a memory-maker. What tops that?

Have you ever slipped in non-traditional material during reading time?




Surviving Repetitive Reading

Any parent who faithfully reads bedtime stories to their child knows the pros and cons of repetition. It’s great for kids to hear the same books over and over again, to enjoy the story’s rhythm and cadence. After a number of rereads, my children even memorized various passages of their favorite books. But, since I rarely reread a book, those repeated readings made me antsy.

Here’s how I survived reading repetition:

1.     Quantity. At night, give your child a wide selection of books from which to choose, decreasing the likelihood that you’ll read the same story every night. This strategy is short-lived because your child will eventually zero in on their favorites. So, we move to the next step.

2.     Brevity. On the evenings when I felt too tired to mumble a word or when a book seemed too long, I skipped a page. If this practice is the exception rather than the rule, you’ll discover that after several good readings your child will ask about the deleted parts. Don’t feel too guilty, you’re building their listening skills. Simply make a vow to read every page the next night.

3.     Creativity. Never underestimate humor and ingenuity. When our children bought a new book, I could do a straightforward reading for the first one or two months. After the millionth reading, I tossed in wacky character voices and an occasional dialogue change. Suddenly, The Little Train That Could was whining, “I don’t want to do it! Let me think about it.” Our children, familiar with the story by this time, laughed at the surprising story twists.

Bottom line? You’re unlikely to be a perfect bedtime reader. The good news? That’s not the goal. Consistency is the key. Set aside time to read to your child night after night and you‘re on your way to raising a good student who loves to read. These strategies helped me over the reading repetition hump. What are your comments or strategies for surviving repetitive reading slump?



Book Accessibility

In prior posts, we mentioned how teacher instruction and parental involvement build great readers. In additions to that, kids need access to books. As a youngster, I remember waiting on Haddon Ave. for the Bookmobile to arrive. Standing on the cold, dark street with an armful of already-read books, I couldn’t wait to scoot inside the warm truck and find new stories to devour. The Bookmobile, a mini-library on wheels with its list of regular, scheduled stops is always a fun mini-outing and manageable alternative to visiting the mall.


Later, as a middle school student, whenever I had questions about animals, places, well-known people, or a school assignment about presidents, my mother would tell me to look it up, even when she knew the answers. I grew up pre-Internet, so after finding the information in one of the books from our set of encyclopedias, I continued reading about a wide assortment of other subjects that began with the letter “P.”

Today, since many families own a computer or hand-held device, kids have access to books—free books. Websites such as www.magickeys.com , www.meegenius.com (nominal fee),  and

Click on the picture for an ebook list from Gizmo's Freeware

Click on the picture for an ebook list from Gizmo's Freeware

enable kids to dive into a book anytime they want.          

The Other Component

I asked my mother if she learned to read at an early age. As a matter of fact, she didn’t. She developed an appreciation of reading through the other key component of the learning-to-read process—her teachers. Their respect for books impacted her so much that—flash forward seventy years— she now buys about twenty books a month reads them and returns for more.

Now that’s an avid reader, and a great example of how a teacher or librarian can have a lasting impact on a student. Who knew how my mother’s story would turn out?

Here’s a big “thank you” to my mother’s dedicated teachers for the great thing that happened when they believed reading mattered.     

The Reading Plan

In the old days, parents raised children to be seen and not heard. Today, most parents shape great students by seeing them, hearing them, and exposing them to tons of positive experiences, including books, music, art, and athletics. Intentionality is the key. A beautiful garden doesn’t grow on its own. A gardener cultivates it until the flowers bloom.

In a recent conversation, I discovered that I learned to read at an early age because my mother introduced me to the alphabet, flashcards, and easy five-word books. She also read to me. Unknowingly, I repeated her practice and read to my children, too. When our kids were four months old, we began their nightly book-reading routine. The time we put in paid off. We lived by this advice:  


Of course, some kids are born with great gifts, like the three-year-old opera singers and the geniuses who do calculus at age nine. Our exceptional kids (exceptional because they’re ours) deserve great head starts. Everyone connected to a child—parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, babysitters, teachers, librarians, and neighbors—can invest in shaping future generations of outstanding students. 

Who are you investing in and what’s your plan?