Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Eating Cinderella?

Eating Cinderella

Eating Cinderella

My “I Brake for Moms” column this week in The Everett Daily Herald.  Check me out in “The Good Life” section.

Unrivaled, by Siri Mitchell

Unrivaled, by Siri Mitchell, really made me smile.

The basic plot is that in 1910 a young woman named Lucy comes back home from Europe and finds her family’s candy making business in shambles.  She could either marry her way out of it (like her mother wants), or become a young businesswoman and turn that candy business around.  Booyah! 

Unrivaled reminded me so much of everything I loved about Bethany House as a teenager.  There’s history, romance, and a determined female character all rolled into one.

387 pages and every one of them rated G!  But Siri Mitchell managed to tell a compelling story without any vice whatsoever.  That’s pretty amazing.

I am definitely adding this book to my collection of novels I can turn my daughter loose on someday.  I might even read it again myself, just for fun.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

Literacy, Boys and Scouting

Get Boys to Read with Boys Life!

Get Boys to Read with Boys Life!

Do you want your son to read?

Well so does the Boy Scouts of America!  That’s why I was really excited to read about their new Literacy Matters campaign in the 2013 May/June issue of Scouting magazine.  You can check it out online right here.

Since I was a Girl Scout, I never got to read Boys’ Life magazine growing up.  (Now I realize where all of my husband’s jokes come from.)

It turns out that Boys’ Life is just one of many ways that the BSA is supporting literacy.  Troop meetings, pack meetings, and camping trips can all be opportunities to encourage boys to read.  Volunteers can encourage a love of reading by modeling their own love of books.

As Michael Gurian mentions in the article, so much media attention gets focused on girls falling behind in math and science, that people are forgetting that there is a 10% literacy gap for boys.

I’ve seen this when I used to be a teacher.  Third grade seems to be when some boys really start falling behind.  But the good news is that if you catch that problem in time, you can still turn boys into bibliophiles.

Here are some of my favorite books that can help get boys to read.

I’m going to add Boys’ Life to that list!

Why I’m proud to be a Delta Gamma

DG forever!

DG forever!

Let me tell you why Delta Gamma should be in the news

  • Do you know what the DG motto is?  “Do Good”.
  • Since 1936 DGs have been committed to preserving sight and helping the blind.
  • DGs were the first fraternity to create an independent philanthropic foundation in 1951.
  • DGs have given out over $2,800,000 in grants to organizations who share our mission.
  • DGs were one of the original founders of the National Panhellenic Conference.
  • There are fabulous DGs everywhere.  Check out: Yep! She’s a Delta Gamma.

What’s the best part of being a DG?  Sisterhood!

Yeah, that sounds trite but it isn’t.

Fifteen years after I joined, my DG sisters are still amazing me.  The Upsilon chapter of Delta Gamma at Stanford has since closed, but Upsilon women continue to make a difference in my life.  Every time I sign onto Facebook it’s chapter night all over again.

Not only did DGs help me get through college, but now they help me get through life too.

And I know, I bleeping know, that I’m really lucky.  Because there are a lot of women who graduate from college and don’t have what I do.  I’ve got DG sisters all over the world I can call for help, advice, friendship or prayer.

Maybe someday I’ll have time to volunteer at the Beta chapter of Delta Gamma at the University of Washington.  When my kids grow up, maybe I’ll fly off to DG conferences all over America and meet up with old friends.

In the meantime I pay my (minimal dues), read the Anchora, and live my life knowing it’s a lot richer because I pledged DG.

I’m so happy that I am-a.. Delta Gamma!

Reading with a Flashlight

Do your kids have random flashlights floating around the house? Don’t pack them away with the camping gear just yet!

Daily Sentences go from ho-hum to super-fun with a little illumination.

Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Write a new sentence each day and tape it on the wall.
  • Read every sentence each day.
  • Read the sentences to Daddy when he gets home.

An extra trick is to read vertically as well as horizontally.

We don’t just practice reading the sentences straight across, we also read down the chart too.  My daughter Jenna can read all of the words that say “on” for example.  She can also read all of the words that say “I”.  Shining the flashlight on each word she reads makes it extra fun.

The rule at our house is that sometimes mommy gets to shine the light on words and sometimes Jenna gets to.  We take turns!  That’s an important ground rule for any of this to work.  😉

Shopping with Kids Drives Me Crazy

My “I Brake for Moms” column in today’s paper.  Check me out in “The Good Life” section of The Everett Daily Herald.

An Idea for Mother’s Day

Normally I wouldn’t blog about what I’m giving out for Mother’s Day.  But I’m so inspired by A Dream So Big, Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger by Steve Peifer and Gregg Lewis that I decided to go for it.  As soon as I read this book I went out and bought three more copies and funded some lunches.

Kenya Kids Can! is so amazing, that I’d really like to help spread the word.  So…

Are you looking for a Mother’s Day gift that is enjoyable and meaningful?

Here’s an idea to copy:


    • Does your mom like to garden?  You could throw in some corn and bean packets.
    • Is your mom more of a tea drinker?  You could include organic rooibos tea instead of the coffee.
    • Does your mom like wine?  You could round the gift out with a bottle from South Africa.
    • Would Kiva be too confusing?  Check out Heifer International, Kenya Kids Can!, or any other charity you like to support.

I’m also wondering if this might make a good end of the year teacher’s gift…

P.S.  If you are interested in finding out more about Fabric of Life, the great boutique right here in my own hometown of Edmonds, WA that helps women in Bamako, Mali “go from begging to businesswomen in 18 months”, please click here.

A Sentence a Day

Have you ever seen my Where to Start page?  If so, you know that reading and writing a daily Morning Message is something I really encourage.

But sometimes what works for kid #1 does not work for kid #2.

Jenna keeps wrestling the pen from me every time I bring out the whiteboard.  It’s been like this for a while, so I’ve finally gave up on doing a Morning Message with her.  That meant I had to thinking of something else.

Daily Sentences to the rescue!!!!

I write a new sentence each day, and then we tape it to the wall.  When Jenna reads the sentence with me, she gets a gummy bear.  We also read the sentences from the previous day, and read them again to Daddy when my husband gets home from work.

Daily sentences strips aren’t nearly as good as a Morning Message, but they’re better than nothing.  The reason a Morning Message would still be better, is because kids see the thought process going into the formation of each word.  There’s also more content, and you can do some fancy underlining.

But maybe I’ll think of ideas to make Daily Sentences a bit better, as we go along.

Gearing up for Summer

Last year we did A STEM Summer and had a blast.  This year I’m planning on doing the Activity Guide from Story of the World Volume 3.  Other ideas are for percolating as well…

I was shopping at JoAnn’s Fabric yesterday and saw that all of their teacher’s supplies were on clearance.  Even though I’m not a teacher any more, is was really hard not too go nuts.  Especially since almost everything was under a dollar.

It got me thinking some more about summer.

This reading poster is one of the things I am really excited about.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it includes pictures about genres.  Then I got 100 die-cut books to with it.  So every book my son reads this summer, can be proudly displayed under the corresponding genre.  That will be really motivating for him, plus it will let us know “the big picture” of whether or not he’s reading in a balanced way.  If he’s not, that’s okay too.  It’s just useful to be mindful.

Another thing I found (not pictured) was a US Presidents bulletin board kit, also for super cheap.  So I picked that up too.  Maybe I can do something with presidents and books I pick up at the library.  (I’m still not sure.)

But what I do know, is that I’m excited by the possibilities!

Little League Heroes

Happy Sunday!

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column today in the “Good Life” section of The Everett Daily Herald.  If you get the chance, please share it with a coach you know.

A Dream So Big, by Steve Peifer

Steve Peifer and Gregg Lewis’s book A Dream So Big, Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger is my new favorite book and I haven’t even finished reading it yet.

Have you ever read Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains about Dr. Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti?  A Dream So Big is in that league.

Once you read A Dream So Big, you will never be the same.

Steve and Nancy Peifer are missionaries in Kenya, but A Dream So Big is not about an American family from Texas going to Africa to convert people.  It is the story of modern Kenya itself, and the thousands of challenges Kenyan nationals face each day.  It is also the story about how we can’t call ourselves human, and ignore what is happening in Africa.

There were many passages in the book that were so moving that I read them aloud to my eight-year-old son.  One example of this, is about how excited hospitalized children were to see a concrete floor, because they had never seen a floor before.  Another part was about school children who couldn’t pay attention in class on Thursday, because their last meal was on Monday.

It is those children who inspired the Peifer’s to found Kenya Kids Can, which provides one meal a day to over 18,000 Kenyan school children.  They purchase food through the local markets, so it’s not disruptive to the local economy.  They also convert shipping containers into solar powered computer classrooms.  Steve Peifer was awarded the CNN Heroes Award in 207 for his work.

A Dream So Big is deeply moving, but it is also funny too.  It’s a book that can make you laugh on one page, and cry on the next.  

At the very end of this book is a page about what Americans can do to help.  I was so encouraged to read that one of their suggestions was to share this book on blogs and social media platforms.  I can at least do that!

I received a free copy of A Dream So Big from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinions and review.  But I’m going to be purchasing it in the future many, many times.  I feel like I want to give it to every person I know.

I review for BookSneeze®

Symbolism in Literature for Kids

Do you spend a lot of time driving your kids around in the car?  Here’s something fun (and educational) to do the next time you’re stuck in traffic.

Play the Symbols in Stories game.

First talk about basic symbols with your children.  The cross, the star of David, the peace sign, the dollar sign, etc.  Make sure they understand that symbols carry deeper meanings.

Then just start using your imagination.

Example 1:

There’s this kid named Rex.  His family has a lot of money.  His mom packs him really great lunches, that he usually takes for granted.  He’s also got super fancy gold sneakers, and even a golden backpack.  His little sister always gives him a big hug when he comes home from school.  One day Rex finds a magic coin that grants him a wish.  He decides to wish for a new bike.  But not just any bike, the best and most expensive bike ever.  So poof!  There’s the bike.  But one day when Rex is at school, his little sister sneaks out with the bike and gets really hurt.  That’s when Rex realizes that things aren’t as important as people.

Question for kids:  What myth does this story remind you of?

Example 2:

A little girl has a dog.  Every day she and the dog play in the front yard in front of a maple tree.  In summer, the tree is really shady and the girl and the dog both take naps in the grass.  In fall, the leaves start to fall off from the tree.  That’s when the girl notices that her dog isn’t feeling very well.  So she takes the dog to the vet.  It turns out, that the dog is really sick.  By winter, all of the leaves have fallen off the tree, and the girl sits in the living room and stare out at the empty branches.  The dog sits in her lap, and she holds him while he sleeps.  But by springtime, their are new leaf buds on the maple tree and the dog is feeling better.  The girl and her dog go on a slow walk around the neighborhood and enjoy a beautiful day together.

Question for kids:  What types of symbols were at play in this story?

Charles Dickens for Kids

The other day I asked my son Bruce(8) what his favorite book was and he said Oliver Twist.  Then he started begging me again to buy him Great Expectations, so I finally relented.

My son is obsessed with Charles Dickens!

I’ve blogged before about how much I love the Classic Starts series for kids.

A lot of people look down their noses at abridged classics for children.  To which I say, “Fine.  Whatever.”  I don’t want to be a snob about it, but I read a ton of abridged books when I was young and I made it all the way to  blah, blah, blah.

One thing I really like about the Classic Starts series is the discussion questions at the end.  They feel very Junior Great Books ish to me.  So what we do is my son reads a book on his own, and then that night at bedtime we go over the questions together.  He loves this part!

All of the Classic Starts books are on my “Grandma Please Buy This!” page.  So keep that in mind the next time one of your kids has a birthday.  It could be a useful link to pass along.

Grandma Please Buy This!

Paperclip Parenting

Is one of your kids driving you nuts?

Here’s a trick that just might help. I call it Paperclip Parenting.

First thing in the morning put two colors of paperclips in the back pocket of your jeans.

Then every time that day you find yourself catching your child being good and say something about it, (i.e. “Thanks for brushing your teeth without being asked!), move one paper clip to the front pocket.

Every time you catch your child being naughty and have a verbal interaction over it, (I told you to pick up your socks three times already!), move the alternate color paper clip to its front pocket.

At the end of the day link all of your paperclips together.  You’ll get a good visual about what is actually going on.  How much positive reinforcement is your child getting?  How much negative?  If you work harder to “catch your child being good” will that help?

The picture I’m showing in this example is just for props.  Most likely you’ll have closer to 100 interactions with your child.  At least that was the case with me, when I tried this experiment at home.

I did this behavioral modification experiment three days in a row with one of my children, and it really helped.

Maybe it will work for you too!

MyPlate on My Budget, Final Thoughts

Here’s what I wished my dinner table looked like every night.  But who am I kidding?  Most nights, I’m lucky to just get the table set. Cooking dinner is hard enough, even though I somehow do that about 340 nights each year.

If you’re a mom or dad who cooks dinner too, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So remember the theme to Mission Impossible?  Good.  Now play that in your head.

Then you might want to take one last look at the MyPlate on My Budget project from my ” I Brake for Moms” column in The Everett Daily Herald  from today.

Thank you to Rose McAvoy, from Our Lady of Second Helpings.  I couldn’t have done this project without you!  I’m adding Our Lady to my blogroll, so be sure to check Rose’s blog out the next time you are looking for a healthy recipe or inspiration to lose weight.

To all of my regular Teaching My Baby to Read followers who stuck with me last March when I totally veered off topic from Early Childhood Education, Thank you!

I’m ready to let my grocery obsession pass now, and move on to other crazy adventures.  The scary part is contemplating what those might be…

Follow MyPlate on My Budget on Pinterest