Category Archives: Reading

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How to Raise Readers in the Digital Age

A lot of us parents worry that the expansion of digital technology into our children’s lives will result in them reading less than kids of previous generations. It turns out that we needn’t worry at all. Children today are reading more than ever, in both digital and print forms, says a Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report.

What steps can parents take to ensure their kids become enthusiastic lifelong readers?

Embrace the e-Book

Half of children ages 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had greater access to e-books, according to the Scholastic report. E-books, in particular, are motivating boys and reluctant readers, who are reading e-books for fun in record numbers. E-books needn’t replace the printed book – 80 percent of kids who read e-books still read print books for fun. Having multiple options simply means more reading opportunities in many children’s lives.

Take your Reading with You

Tablets and e-readers make it easier than ever to take your reading along wherever you go – in the car and during other travel, in waiting rooms and local parks. And there are increasingly more great devices for reading e-books. The digital subscription service Bookboard provides access to a library of children’s books (audio and non) for the tablet, in a playful system that harnesses the natural interest kids have for technology and helps motivate them to read by rewarding them with books appropriate for their age, reading level and interests. Audio books, in particular, have proven a very effective tool for kids who have difficulty reading.

Use your Public Library

Libraries are still extremely popular, says a Pew Report on Library Services in the Digital Age. As many as 91 percent of people say that libraries are important to their communities and families. Libraries provide early literacy programming to support parents’ role as their children’s first teachers. They serve as community hubs and help bring families together. They invite hands-on experiential learning that prepares kids for reading and school. They provide access to technology and support digital learning in a way that may not be available to families at home. All this makes libraries a great place for readers and pre-readers alike to enjoy the array of services and foster a lifelong love of reading.

Look for “Readable” Moments

Books aren’t the only places kids learn to read. Reading opportunities are all around us. When you’re walking with your child, point out letters and read signs out loud. Make a game of this by searching for certain letters and words (or have children search while they’re in the car). When your baby or toddler is playing or when you’re performing chores at home, narrate what you or they are doing. “You’re building with blocks.” “I’m washing the dishes.” It might seem silly at first, but children initially learn the skills that lead to speaking and reading by listening to you.

In addition, kids often enjoy making lists. Even if the “words” consist of scribbles and lines, that’s the way they begin to read and write. Lists can be used to make menus for playing restaurant or receipts for playing store. Older children can help read recipes and make shopping lists and then help read the items in the store.

Set a Great Example

One of the most effective tools for encouraging kids to read is to be readers ourselves. Try to set aside time for your own reading where your children can see you (and read side-by-side with them when they’re older). Read a variety of media. Make a habit of reading to your kids as often as possible. Some of my family’s fondest memories involve bonding over childhood books. Bedtime is a natural time for winding down and cuddling through reading, but some kids enjoy bath time so much that that can be an ideal time to share a book. Young children treasure time with their parents and when you spend some of that time reading, they’ll associate it with your presence and physical closeness and the sound of your voice.

Enjoy fostering your child’s lifelong interest in reading.

This post originally appeared in Dot Complicated.

Fed Up with Frenzy Book Celebrates One Year!

Speaking at the elementary school my daughter attended

 

What a year for Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, my book that grew out of this blog in an attempt to share some of the techniques I used with my family to slow our increasingly busy and out-of-balanced lives, as well as outline 300+ affordable and delightful games, crafts and activities that I enjoyed with my family, friends and Girl Scout troop to help us slow down, reconnect and spend more joyful and distraction-free time together.

I relished recounting the playground and jump-rope games I learned from my own mom; the paper boats my family made and sailed down a local creek; the awe we experienced observing natural phenomena, like tidepools and meteor showers; and the simple fun we had making batches of bubble solution or picking berries to make jam and fruit desserts. It is my firm belief that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or prep time to enjoy activities with children that will create lifelong memories and perhaps result in a new skill, or one that was forgotten as we entered an increasingly busy and technologically oriented adulthood.

 

 

Slow Down.

Reconnect.

It’s Easier than You Think.

 

 

 

 

It turned out that a lot of people, in the media and in everyday life, related to the message.

TIME Healthland named Fed Up with Frenzy and Slow Parenting a 2012 Top 10 Parenting Trend. The book was reviewed in the Washington Post.

I got to fly to New York to talk about Slow Parenting on national TV, on Fox & Friends Weekend. You can watch the interview here.

I was interviewed by Randi Zuckerberg at Dot Complicated.

I got to speak about Slow Parenting at my childhood hometown bookstore and my current local bookstore and have dear friends and family enliven the discussions that ensued. I shared Fed Up with Frenzy in libraries, community rooms and school auditoriums. Most recently, I shared tips for enjoying a slow family summer in nature with guests at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a place where my younger family had enjoyed many discoveries of our own. Hear the talk and watch the slide show. Read about other Fed Up with Frenzy talks.

Attempting to look serious with CA Writers Club members

I also had a lot of generous people write very nice things about my book in the press and on my Fed Up with Frenzy blog tour, including Vicki Larson in my local paper, the Marin Independent Journal, which featured my daughter and me, and Jessica Hahn-Taylor of SF Hill Babies, who ran an extremely beautiful and thoughtful piece just last weekend.

Anna and me photographed making soap

From the moment the carton of books arrived in our house, the year of “Frenzy” has indeed been a busy, albeit very exciting, one. I’m thrilled to have met so many wonderful people and gained new insights from the parents of today’s young children, whose lives are even busier, more distracted and more technological than mine was in those years (and who are very grateful to hear that making dried-bean mosaics constitutes a fine Saturday morning and to offer the epiphany, as one mom at a preschool talk did, that brushing teeth is easier and more enjoyable if viewed as an activity, rather than a chore.)

Thank you so much for coming along on this Slow journey with me. I look forward to seeing what Year 2 brings!

 

 

New Book Helps Parents Homeschool While Working

Do you wish to homeschool while working but remain unsure about your ability to “do it all”? Pamela Price’s How to Work and Homeschool is here to help. Pamela Price, herself a working homeschooler and blogger at both How to Work and Homeschool and Red, White and Grew, shares extensively from her own experiences and challenges, as well as her observations hosting a series of homeschooling workshops and her interviews with multiple families who are successfully combining homeschooling with a variety of work  schedules and needs. In her introduction, she refers to the growing group of working homeschool parents as “part of a new breed of ‘educational entrepreneurs’”. She writes of her own experiences:

We have stitched homeschooling into the weave of our lives, if not seamlessly, at least functionally.

That sentence sums up much of the tone of the book – hopeful, extremely practical and helpful, and also realistic about the possibilities as well as the imperfection inherent in choosing a path that combines homeschooling with working.

How to Work and Homeschool covers a lot of ground, about what it takes to be, in essence, a “social change agent”, redrawing the traditional lines of school, work, home life, education, community and parenting. Pamela interviews multiple real people, in the trenches and in a variety of situations, who are making all of the new possibilities work for their families, in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

We meet Emilee, a homeschool student and then parent who runs the thriving Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds business; Brenda, who enjoys multi-generational involvement in her homeschooling endeavor; Khadija, a telecommuting mother of eight; and Jennifer, a nurse-turned-journalist and homeschooler of four.

Pamela Price

Through interviews, anecdotes, experience and statistics, Pamela reveals many myths, truths and tips about homeschooling and combining homeschool and work, that could help the trepidatious take the leap into homeschooling and continue to homeschool with grace. Countless experienced homeschoolers share what has worked best for them and some things they may have done differently. The book has a section on single-parent homeschooling and on contingencies when things don’t quite go as planned. Most helpfully, Pamela outlines different homeschool/work scenarios and schedules, based on family needs, that would help any family consider the best way to tackle homeschool and work, philosophically and practically.

How to Work and Homeschool would be a fantastic addition to any homeschooling library and is a must for parents who intend to combine homeschooling with work.

Graphics: Pamela Price, Hedua.com

Origami Boat Race

My family has long been fans of making and sailing paper boats, an idea we got from our beloved book, H.A. Rey’s Curious George Rides a Bike. In the book, George secures a paper route, which leads him to make and sail a whole flotilla of folded-newspaper boats. Over the years, we’ve taken our origami boats down to a local creek, where they indeed sailed along once released, on the gently flowing spring stream. We were thrilled to learn that our local Mill Valley Public Library was teaching kids how to make their own origami boats (which they cleverly dipped in wax), before holding a boat race in the local creek.

What better way to celebrate Children’s Book Week than by making a version of Curious George’s paper boat and joining local children in releasing the boats into a creek for a race?

 

Follow these directions to make your own paper boat.

This activity was adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities.

You might also like:

How To: Make a Paper Boat
Celebrating 100 Years of the Mill Valley Libary
Rich in Kindness, Poor in Money: All-of-a-Kind Family Children’s Book

 

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Small Wonders: Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth

I’m so pleased that Patty Born Selly, educational expert and consultant at Small Wonders, parent, Small Wonders blogger, and long-time advocate for early childhood nature play, has written a beautiful, inspiring and very thorough book, Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth.

After making the case for nature fun and offering tips for overcoming common obstacles to getting kids outside for exploration and play (“the kids are too wild”, “this is a logistical nightmare”, “we don’t have a nature area”), Selly dives into instructions for countless fun activities that inspire children’s exploration and care of nature and help them learn about weather, air, water, food, health and reuse. Each activity lists a recommended minimum age and offers detailed descriptions, as well as tips for further exploration. Many are very simple to do, such as a Sound Walk, a Color Search, a Seed Sort, or a Puddle Hunt, while offering windows to deep exploration and fun.

A few other wonderful projects include a Water Cycle Garden, in which kids create a greenhouse to observe the movement of water through plants and soil. Wind Ribbons, Kites, Rocket Balloons, and Paper Pinwheels are among the activities that help children explore air. Sunshine Sculptures, Shadow Tracing, and Raindrop Rainbows help children explore sun and rain. I love the Scent Chase, in which children experience their senses of smell with scent jars. I also love the Soap Making activity, which utilizes the melt-and-pour method and is part of a group of activities designed to help children think about healthy choices in cleaning and personal products.

Each activity includes the national science education standards that that activity meets. Each chapter includes information about the theme (such as “Weather, Climate and Energy”) suggestions for teaching and discussion of the impact of (weather) on people and of people on (weather), so that readers and the children in their lives can get a very clear understanding of the Earth’s ecosystem and their place within it. This is a very thorough, inspiring and fun book that will help parents, teachers, youth leaders and others spark children’s curiosity about and knowledge of the natural world.

Redleaf Press is offering a 30% discount on Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth from now through June 30, 2013. To take advantage of this deal, follow this link and enter the coupon code GREENEARTH.

You might also be interested in:

Patty Born Selly’s Top 10 Tips for Teaching Kids about the Environment
The Simple Joys of Tree Climbing, Small Wonders blog
Hear Patty Born Selly on the Mom Enough radio show
Felt a Bar of Soap
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
Kids Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play
Children & Nature Network

Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play

“Nature is a destination,” write Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, the authors of The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up. “But you don’t have to travel anywhere to find it. Just open the door and step outside.” That idea of fun and adventure in “nearby nature” infuses their entire delightful new book. This is an especially important concept at a time when kids are spending much more time with electronics than they are in the natural world. The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book offers a perfect counter-balance to indoor time, with activities that are easy for even the busiest families to enjoy.

The book is wonderfully, and helpfully, arranged by seasons (each of which is declared “the best season”.) Each season features an array of fun outdoor activities, so that a reader might be inspired to tap a maple tree or find a turtle in spring, catch a firefly or find fossils in summer, go owling or conquer a corn maze in fall, or go ice fishing or whittle a branch in winter. In addition to all the activities, which are presented in a fun check-list fashion and have guidelines as to the “adventure scale” of each one, there are plenty of larger-scale projects, outdoor games, destinations, and foods to make, so that families and others can be kept very busy doing the book’s activities over many years.

The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book  is very rich. It features a range of activities, from those that are simple to do, but might have escaped notice, such as “Roll down a hill like a log” (something my daughter loved to do) to more exotic ideas like “Go spelunking” in a cave. Rachel Riordan’s extremely cute illustrations complement the breadth of ideas in this  jam-packed, fun-filled book. Tornio and Keffer, who are judges in the 3rd annual ClifKID Backyard Game of the Year Contest, have captured the joy of being alive and the rhythm of the seasons and the natural world. Readers of this book will surely be inspired to open the door to their own outdoor adventures.

Want to get your own autographed copy of the Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book? Enter to win the CLIFKid ZBar and book giveaway.

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Join Project Feeder Watch and Other Fun Citizen Science Activities
8 Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids

New Book Helps Families Slow Down

Many of us want more joy and connection in our family and daily lives. We often don’t quite know how to achieve those things, and the process of even beginning to do so can seem daunting. Enter Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy, the beautiful new book from Slow Family Living co-founder Bernadette Noll.

Just reading Bernadette’s book makes me feel calm and confident that I can make the small changes necessary to have a more fulfilling family life. Her voice is reasoned and experienced, and her suggestions are each presented in short chapters that describe an activity or practice that can result in greater family closeness. The first step, according to Bernadette? Ask yourself and your family:

Is this working for us?

So often, in family life, we do things because they’ve been declared a “tradition” (Bernadette offers a funny tale about this), or because we feel obligated to take on an activity or do something the standard way. Once you’ve determined whether something is working or not, you can set about changing what needs to be changed.

The activities in the book range from practices like pausing, expressing appreciation, active listening, and letting weekends be half-full, to ideas for keeping family life fun like spontaneous game nights, family journals and billboards, lemonade stands, and making stuff together, which is the title and topic of Bernadette’s fantastic first book about art as a means of expression, fun and family and community bonding.

Community bonds also figure in this book, and I love the ideas for slowing as a community by having dinners together and playing sports together, as alternatives to every-family-for-themselves, on one hand, and over-organized league sports, on the other. In both cases, Bernadette illustrates how her community came together to provide something richer, and more fun, than the traditional offerings did. The community dinners involved various children and families in a novel way. The family “sports league” alleviated excess driving to various sports events for different members of the family and provided space for everyone to play together, adults included.

You will get a lot of ideas from Slow Family Living, both big-picture and everyday, that will make you pause and reflect, and will help you lead a more connected and joyful family life.

You might also be interested in:

Make Stuff Together, 24 Simple Projects to Create as a Family
The Blessings of a Slow Family
Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play
Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World

Why Finland’s Education System is the Best in the World

No Child Left Behind, with its accelerated education practices and emphasis on standardized testing, seems to be leaving many American children behind much of the industrialized world, according to a new global table of education, produced for the Intelligence Unit of The Economist. The U.S. is ranked 17th in education, far below first-place Finland and many other countries. Read why Finland has the best education system in the world.

What are their secrets?

For one, Finnish children don’t start school until age 7. (Waldorf education advocates that children not read until 7.) Phenomenally, Finnish students only take one standardized test, and that is at the age of 16. By that age, a typical American child will have taken dozens of standardized tests, and will have spent much educational time preparing for them, at the expense of other learning and discovery. Finnish elementary school students receive 75 minutes of recess per day, as opposed to an average of 27 minutes in the U.S. There is very little homework.

Education in Finland is 100% state subsidized, as is teacher training. The results of all this attention to teacher support and developmentally appropriate learning, free time and play? 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school, a figure that is 17.5 percent higher than that in the U.S.

Some might point to Finland’s smaller size or relative homogeneity as possible reasons for their success, but their success is notably higher than other Scandinavian countries, which have similar demographics and diversity. 30 U.S. states have populations equal to or less than Finland’s, at 5.5 million.

This article from The Atlantic notes that Finland’s acclaimed education system owes much to the idea of economic equity.

Read more about why Finland’s education system is Number One.

So how does the U.S. educational system stack up against that of other countries? According to a 2011 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), American 15-year-olds scored at the international average of industrialized nations in science and reading, and below the international average in math.

The above article goes on to note that high-performing countries recruit and retain talented teachers. It noted some interesting cultural differences, as well. For instance, Japanese students are encouraged to struggle through problems more than American students are. According to UCLA psychology professor James Stigler, who studied the Japanese educational system:

American students “aren’t socialized to struggle hard. They’re socialized to put their hands up and say, ‘I don’t know.’ ” While Japanese parents would be inclined to tell a child’s teacher, “Thank you for helping my kid struggle,” American parents are more inclined to say, “Why are you torturing my kid?”

That’s a very interesting point that speaks to many parents’ well-meaning, but sometimes misguided, attempts to rush in and fix perceived problems, a habit that ultimately robs their children of essential problem-solving skills and the mastery and confidence that come with them.

The original Economist report quoted above makes some of the same key recommendations about economic success in its Five lessons for education policymakers:

  • There are no magic bullets
  • Respect teachers
  • Culture can be changed
  • Parents are neither impediments to nor saviors of education
  • Educate for the future, not just the present

And this comes from NYU Research Professor of Education and Former U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, in her review of Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? in the New York Review of Books:

U.S. policymakers have turned to market-based solutions such as “tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models.” By contrast, Finland has spent the past forty years developing a different education system, one that is focused on improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to education professionals.

The last word about our (relatively unsuccessful) competition-driven, test-obsessed educational model will have to go to Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience:

If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.

These are Top 20 Countries in the World, in Education, as ranked by the global table of education:

  • Finland
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Australia
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • USA
  • Hungary
  • Slovakia
  • Russia

More reading (some of these are referenced above):

Why Finland’s Unorthodox Education System is the Best in the World, Business Insider

The Pearson Report for the Economist

What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success, The Atlantic

Schools We Can Envy, New York Review of Books

From Finland, An Intriguing School Model, New York Times

Why are Finland’s Schools Successful, Smithsonian

UK Education Sixth in Global Ranking, BBC News

Great Ideas from Finnish Schools, Two in the Middle

American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids, Slow Family Online and Christian Science Monitor

How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let the Play, Slow Family Online

Pre-school and Kindergarten Graduations: Too Much Too Fast, Slow Family Online and Christian Science Monitor

 

Photos: wstryder, edushyster

Use Pinterest Savvy to Grow Your Business

Pinterest is the fastest growing social media network, with 23 million users worldwide. Pinterest’s referral traffic beats Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn — combined. In addition, it’s full of beautiful and inspiring graphics and it’s fun to use. If you’re not using Pinterest for your business, you should be.

Don’t know where to start? Melissa Taylor’s extremely thorough Pinterest Savvy: How I Got  1 Million+ Followers  (Strategies, Plans, and Tips to Grow Your Business with Pinterest) will help.

Taylor, who blogs at Imagination Soup, has a whopping 1 million-plus Pinterest followers. She enjoys the platform immensely and shares her wisdom and tips throughout her book, which is aimed at all levels of Pinterest users, from complete novices to the more advanced.

Did I mention that Pinterest Savvy is exceedingly thorough? Pinterest Savvy covers everything, from the basics of pinning and organizing boards, to etiquette and suggested sources. Pinterest Savvy really gets juicy where Melissa shares some of the practices that have earned her over 1 million followers, like tips for timing pins, vetting pins and writing descriptions. And she outlines an all-important aspect that many people neglect, on all social media platforms — how to form community. She also lists lots of great pinners who you will want to follow immediately, too.

While Pinterest Savvy is complete, the information is presented in sections that are easy to digest and understand. The layout and graphics are as visual and pleasing as the best Pinterest boards. Anyone intent on using Pinterest to grow a following will benefit from Pinterest Savvy.

How to: Make a Paper Boat

My family first got the idea to make a paper boat from our beloved book, H.A. Rey’s Curious George Rides a Bike, in which sweet and loveable George secures a paper route, which leads him to make and sail a whole flotilla of folded-newspaper boats. Wondering if a newspaper boat could really float, we got out some old newspaper, folded it into boats using the directions in Curious George, and took our boats down to a local creek, where they indeed sailed along once released, on a gently flowing spring stream. You can make your own boat, using any kind of paper.

You’ll need:

A sheet of any type of paper, roughly the same scale as an 8 ½” by 11” sheet
Adhesive tape, optional

Place the paper on a surface the long way, and fold it in half, top to bottom.

Fold the paper in half again.

Unfold the fold you just made.

With the creased side on top, fold both top corners in towards the center crease. This leaves a triangle shape, with a rectangular bar along the bottom.

Fold the bottom rectangles up on each side, creasing at the bottom of the triangle shape.

Place a thumb and forefinger on the inside of the shape, at the center of each triangle, and carefully, completely open out the shape from the middle.

Keep opening the shape until it flattens again into a perfect square. (Your two fingers should now be on opposite sides of the square.)

Lay the square like a diamond. The side pointing up should be the one that doesn’t have any other folds over it.

Fold each side in half, width-wise, bringing each bottom triangle up to the point at the top.

Place a thumb and forefinger into the center of each triangle, as before. This time, as you pull the bottom opening apart, use the other hand to stretch out the two top triangles from the other side of the figure, so that they become the bow and stern (back and front) of the boat.

Flatten the inner triangle slightly to create a sail.

If you like, you can line the bottom of the boat with adhesive tape, which may make it more waterproof and help it float longer.

Float your boat in a bathtub, creek or other body of water!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman and Michael Lipman

Illustration by Margaret and H.A. Rey

Join me for more activities at the Family Book Festival at Jump Into a Book

 See boats in action in an Origami Boat Race!

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