Friday, April 30, 2010

Ok, I have to share this little guy's success story...struggling reader success!

Last night at baseball, my mom friend pulled me aside and told me a new success her son had.
Again, tears came to my eyes!

During TAKS testing, other grades have to be basically silent for three days, so teachers get creative. Usually one of those days will be deemed a "read in" where kids bring books, pillows, stuffed animals, etc. and read all day.

Now for my boys, that is like THE BEST DAYS OF SCHOOL EVER! But for struggling readers, it is the most boring, tedious, and longest days of the year.

I have been the teacher that has watched those strugglers roll around on the floor, playing with their stuffed animals, only snatching up their books and pretending to read when they see me looking their way.

In my class, I take that as my opportunity and challenge to make that day work for them, to be fun. But it isn't easy!

Now, P, my little friend, had a baseball game the night before the read in, and actually got a pretty nasty injury to the neck from a grounder that popped up and hit him. He was walking around all that night, his mom said, with his head cocked to one side. They tried ice, heat, etc, but it wasn't getting better. So, knowing it was painful, she offered for him to stay home from school the next day.

The past read ins, she told me, he had been resistant to even go to school, knowing it was going to be a hard, long day. So she figured he would hop at the chance to stay home. way! He said "mom, where are Mrs. Forrest's books? I can't stay home, I have the read in tomorrow!" (this is where you make a sound effect of her jaw dropping to the floor)

She said he ran around, got all the books packed, and was adamant about going. She again told him he didn't need to worry and could use the day to rest and heal...she told him they'd let him sleep in and see how it was in the morning.

Again, come morning, he got up, without parental wake up -- and got ready, all books in hand.

She called the teacher to check on him later, and the teacher reported he was happily reading, and wasn't complaining about wanting to come home.

So what's the magic?

MATCHING BOOKS. I found something that connected with him, something he liked...

When you do that, that's when it happens...they fall in love.

Keep working on finding those matches! Email and comment with your child's specifics and let me see how I can help too!

I am P's biggest fan right now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Book for Vocabulary Work and a Few Other Things

Oh my goodness! I have too many things here to talk about today. That's how it is some days...

First off, I am so excited to announce that I am going back to the classroom this fall at my boys' school. It will create a more hectic pace, but I know I will have more strategies to share with you based on the fact I will be interacting with so many young readers every day.

Secondly, I love facebook today, because a former student's mom (from WAY back in California days) connected with me...she reminded me of how far he'd come and how his third grade experience with me changed the way he looked at inspiring. I feel so blessed!

Thirdly, I was reading with A yesterday, and I came up with a fun book to do context clue/vocabulary work with. It's called "Dinorella" and is Pamela Duncan Cole's spin on Cinderella, but done with alliteration (most words begin with the letter D). So A picked it out, and WOW! we had some fun, but did a lot of work. It would be a good book to read if your child is working on vocabulary, but don't worry if their fluency's like a tongue twister, so it is hard to read for an adult, much less a child. There are words like "dowdy" "dastardly deed" and "digested" that have clues either in the pictures or the words/sentences around them that will help them make sense of the words. But A and I really worked on that book, and she's got great decoding and vocabulary background. It gave me the idea to use it next year. I usually use Dear Ms. LaRue (see earlier posts) but this would be a good follow up to use during our traditional literature (fairy tales, folk tales, legends) unit.

Yesterday I also mentioned I wanted to say something about abandoning books. I think I will save that for tomorrow, because I want to do it justice, and my two year old is creating havoc in my kitchen...I am scared to go look at the damage, actually.

Thanks to all my friends for all the congratulations on getting the job...again, I feel incredibly blessed to have such great support - you are the best!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Matching Books to Readers

I got an email from a former student's mom asking for some recommendations for books for her son. She told me what others had recommended, and that he hadn't really gotten "into" them.

I thought about the books -- they were current, popular, and well written -- so why didn't he just love them?

Because it wasn't his match.

Time and time again, I notice kids gravitating towards what "everyone else is reading" -- which isn't a bad thing in itself. Often, we tell kids that recommendations are one of the best ways to find out about books.

But here's what I have found to be true in my life, and if that is the case, I know it is true for kids too. EVERYONE, I mean everyone, who I know has read "The Kite Runner" -- except me. Believe me, I have picked up that book several times, and just can't get into it. I don't know why. It is a good book, well written, well loved. But just not a match for me.

Not that it won't be in the future, but not right now. So rather than forcing myself to read the whole thing just because everyone else is, I stop. I find something else.

That's what I recommend. Let trends help you, but don't be frustrated, and PLEASE tell your child not to be frustrated, if it is a book they don't absolutely devour like the rest of the class.

Matt's that way. He is a great reader, and could easily read all the Harry Potter, but he doesn't care for them. Fantasy isn't his boat. So he reads lots of other things.

Do I feel like he's missing out? No. He may actually read them some day as an adult, much like the rest of us did.

So keep searching for those matches, and don't be surprised if it is some obscure title most people have never heard of...those are hidden gems!

By the way, I enjoyed my interviews...just waiting to hear their decisions -- at any rate, I can't wait to get back into the classroom -- Oh, and so I don't forget, I think I am going to talk about kids abandoning books (not reading the whole thing) tomorrow. (I need to write things down these days -- my mind can't keep everything straight).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


There are several things on my mind today -- it's one of those without much of a focus...

First off, Matt is taking his standardized tests today and tomorrow...I am not having him cram. Instead, we did some leisurely reading, ate a good dinner and breakfast, and got a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, tonight is going to be a bit crazier with a baseball game until about 8:30. I just keep reminding him that this is what he's worked up to...he knows everything that he needs to. Now he just needs to relax, be confident, and USE HIS STRATEGIES. Underline proof for his answers in the stories, read slowly, re read, and read each answer. I also told him to take notes in the margins, and to take his time. Here in Texas they get unlimited time to complete the test, so time is not a pressure.

The other thing I have is interviews. I am getting excited to get back into the classroom, and talking with teams just gets me ready to jump in right now. At this point, I am not sure where I am going to be -- I want to interview at each of the schools to find a good match. Of course, it is nervewracking, no matter how "seasoned" you are. I want to make sure I tell them everything -- and want them to just love me and want me a part of their team.

So we will see.

The other thing I need to do is get a bunch of birthday presents...which means, a lot of gift cards to bookstores in my case. Usually with kids, I will try and pick a paperback book and then add the gift card too. It gives them a taste of something, and then it gives them incentive to go get more!

I think I need yoga at 10 -- those butterflies in my stomach for this afternoon's interview are driving me nuts!

Monday, April 26, 2010

I missed it! That's what you want them to do...

This morning I had a chance to sit and read the paper. It felt as good as the long hot shower I took to get rid of that campfire smoke smell!

Then I thought - wow! That is what we want our kids to do when they don't get to read. To miss it. To feel that it is as much a part of the day as brushing their teeth.

How do we do that? Make it a part of every day, in some way.

Whether it's reading together, silent reading, or reading to each other...make it happen. Carve out time.

Remember - provide material for them. Don't depend on them to have a book in their backpacks...reluctant readers might have "forgotten" it, or have selected a book that isn't just right.

Be their "librarian" - go without them -- spend time picking things out. My boys love the element of surprise and new books. Bring them home and put them in a special place or a basket. For my boys, I have a bin in the family room. It is easy for them to reach, and always in a reminder.

My problem isn't getting them to take books's getting them back in -- they are kind of like socks in my house...left wherever my boys were last!

I think if we can get kids to make reading a part of their daily lives -- not as a task, mind you -- but as natural as eating when your stomach growls, they will miss it when that time is absent.

That's the sign of real readers.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We're Back!

Whew - that was a wild two nights. Now that I have gone with the boys, I have a "woman's perspective" on what else we need to make camping more comfortable...yes, I know roughing it is all a part of it, but it would be handy to have a few extra things - mostly cooking gear.

So enough of that.

My boys did read, by lantern, in their tent at night by choice. They loved being cozy in their sleeping bags and getting to "read outdoors." That was a special opportunity they don't have very often.

Also, Cub Masters had them hiking and reading along the trail...maps and markers. They learned about the trees and plants, and had to follow the map to "check" to make sure they were on the right trail.

So all in all, it was a great time out of the house, back in nature...but you better believe I am counting the minutes until I can climb into my own bed, without Nick rolling around on me! :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Weekend We're Camping...

This weekend I am going for the first time with Nicholas to the boys' Cub Scout Campout. It's only an hour away, but you'd think I was moving the entire house somewhere, all the STUFF I am having to take.

Which leads me to the reading connection. When we found out the trip was coming up, I had the boys go on the computer and look up camping. I had them each make a list of the things they needed to take, and then together we wrote a list for the food (which is so much junk and processed cr** that Jamie Oliver may show up on my doorstep today).

How does this help? Well, they were motivated, and they had to read to find out what they needed -- then they took the next step to write and spell it. I didn't say they had to spell it right, but I said this: "If I can't read it or don't know what it says, it won't get packed."

They thought that through for a minute...what if mom can't read underwear and I get there and don't have any? What if I don't have my sleeping bag? So they wrote neatly and cared about the spelling.

Why do I make this a point today? Because it was authentic reading and writing. Kids know when they are doing worksheets that have no connection to their real lives...they give a lot less effort (unless a reward or grade is attached) and soon the memory of even doing it fades.

But my boys, because they are using the lists and it does matter to them, will not soon forget it. It will probably come up in some dinner conversation in their teens "Hey, remember when mom had us make those lists? We thought we were such explorers..."

So find real life situations where they can read and write. Read directions, cook, make grocery will all help them realize that reading isn't a's what you do every day!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to select books for your reader continues...

Happy Earth Day!

Today we continue looking at a book and deciding what to teach with it and whether or not it is a good fit for our reader.

I forgot to say yesterday, that when I pick books, I am going with some goals in mind. It might be a particular child in my class, or children. In that case, I need to know their reading levels, what I want to work with them on, and their interests and resistances. Knowing what you need to do will help you focus and find those books which provide the opportunities to talk. If I need to work on fluency, I will look for a book with lots of dialogue, for example. If I need to work on vocabulary, I will look for a book that is a bit challenging in that area, but will provide support to figure out the words (picture books are great for that). If I don't have a child/children in mind, I am usually picking books for my classroom library -- in which case I don't have to worry about level as much, because there is a range in my class. I do, however, look for GOOD WRITING and things that will entice them. Finally, sometimes I am just buying to satisfy my buying urge. Some women it's shoes -- if you looked in my closet, you would realize that isn't my splurge - I could actually use an updated pair or two, or three... Anyway, if it is splurge buying, I look for new and fun books to add to the collection...

So know who it is you are buying for.

Mr. Putter was selected for a struggling reader in second grade. She mainly has fluency problems, but that stems from some trouble sounding out new words...and that also inhibits her comprehension of the story.

I like Mr. Putter because it has chapters -- Five short ones in this book -- so you can tell your reader they are doing great to be reading CHAPTER BOOKS. That is a huge hang up for some kids. They see other kids reading harder books, so they will pick books that are too hard for themselves. Remember the most important match is the JUST RIGHT BOOK. (Check out earlier blogs for that explanation).

As I stand in the aisle at Barnes and Noble, I read the first page: It was April. Mr. Putter and Tabby were full of April energy. -- Nice short sentences, months...words they will recognize, but already an opportunity to ask them what "April energy" is...see? there is depth to these "easy" books -- don't miss it!

I glance through the remaining pages, evaluating the illustrations - enough support? what details can they see in the pictures? how do they tell the story? what do they focus on? if a child just looked through the pictures, what story would they get?

Then I look at the writing - what size is the font? Where are the words placed on the page? At the top always? Bottom? Side? I like Mr. Putter because it varies around the pictures. How many sentences are together at once? How long are the sentences? Are they phrases? Is there dialogue? Match your reader...

Another thing I look at is the punctuation and sentence variety. For young readers, I want more predictability -- words that occur more than once. As they grow, I want it to change -- I want different words, maybe even multiple meaning words.

And finally, I read it. Do I laugh? What makes me laugh? Why? Do I have a connection to my life? How? Do I question? What? Do I wonder? Why do I wonder about that part?

If I have those thoughts, so will they -- or, those are the things we need to teach them to wonder, connect, and question.

So - go to your child's room and pick up a recent it through the paces and see what comes into your head. You will be surprised at what great ideas you will have about reading this with your child!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Really, What is it that I do that changes struggling readers' minds?

After yesterday's post, I had a mom ask me, "Seriously, how do you do it? I don't get it? Kids just love to read once they have had contact with you!"

Yes, I have found that to be true, but in all humility, I just do what I love to do. There's no magic -- I have just been blessed to find a career that I enjoy and fits me perfectly. Sometimes I wish that career had six figures tied to it, but alas, you can't have it all! Ha!

Now back to the topic.

I think it is a couple of things: Attitude, time, relationship, and knowing material.

I want to talk about knowing material -- let's walk through a specific book in the next few days and how I selected it. I think that is a big part of it - as Amy commented yesterday, all readers can be discerning and picky - they all deserve the best.

I have a Mr. Putter and Tabby book in front of me. The series is written by Cynthia Rylant, who has a plethora of great kids' books out there. That's step one for me -- get to know authors -- authors YOU like and that have GOOD writing. I have known Cynthia's books for years, and know she puts out good material to work with.

There's a difference between published material that has been designed and patterned towards kids and material that was written with quality storylines with each word and sentence done ON PURPOSE.

Don't get me wrong -- there is a time and place for those Scholastic type pattern readers, but let me tell you now...that's not how kids fall in love with reading.

Mr. Putter and Tabby is a series involving a senior, Mr. Putter, who lives alone and longs for company. In the first book, he gets a cat (not a kitten -- it's been a long time since he was "peppy") and their lives together are what produce the wonderful books that follow.

The underlying theme of an aging gentleman and his rememberances, as well as new "adventures" will touch your heart. That is one way I pick books. If they touch me - they have substance. Those are books you can work on many levels with.

So I picked it up because I knew those things...but let's look at the book.

Mr. Putter and Tabby -- Run the Race - First off, I read the back of the book -- which I always tell kids to do. It gives me the information I need to get my mind ready.

Now, my mind works a million miles an hour. As I am standing in Barnes and Noble reading this, I am reading it as a reader myself, but also as a kid -- I am thinking...what will they know? what will they question? what do they need me to explain? THAT'S WHAT I WOULD TEACH.

It's that easy. No lesson plans required. In fact, I have a hard time following prescripted lessons for things -- don't tell anyone.

Ok, the back tells me he hates running but is going to do a senior marathon -
number one, I am wondering how he agrees to do that if he hates running -- point that out to kids as something we need to find out. Lots of times kids will try and answer you right there - agree that they might be right, but we need to read to really find out. I would also ask/explain what "senior" means and how that may affect the length, etc. of a marathon. Be aware of where your child will have experience or not. You may have just run the Boston Marathon (YEAH Sarah Campbell, my son's teacher!) and your kids may well know what it takes to train and how long that is, but they may not. Knowing what you need to tell them by way of support is important.

It says there is a second place prize that he really wants -- a train set (we found out in an earlier book he LOVES trains from his childhood) - So I am thinking to ask kids "Hey, I wonder what first prize is? Will he try NOT to get first so he can get second? Or will he get first and be bummed because he wants the train?

Lastly, it leaves us hanging - Will he make it to the finish line? So I would talk about that. "Hey - he might not make it!"

Then I would tell them that I was ready and wanted to read...and as a recap I would re-read the blurb on the back one more time.

What does that do? It builds up excitement. It supports them. Their minds already have a good idea of what is going to happen, who the characters are.

So that's just the blurb...more tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Celebrate the Successes!

Tears came to my eyes this morning as I opened an email from the baseball mom I was telling you about earlier. If you didn't read the earlier blog, I will quickly get you up to speed.

She has been working tirelessly with her son(s) and yet they still find reading extremely difficult, and it isn't something they would choose to do.

BUT!!!! I gave her a bag of books at baseball on Sunday...

Her email this morning : He read the book without prompting - "I walked in on him reading it and then he read it again. He liked doing voices and yelling out the statements. It was fun for him to be silly."

THERE IT IS -- first steps! If they enjoy it -- they will keep doing it!


Monday, April 19, 2010

On Not Giving Up on Anyone

Yesterday the paper ran a feature on Gary Paulsen, a very noted author (most well known for Hatchet) who is going to be in town. He has two new books out.

I haven't read a ton of his books, but I do know he is a very good writer. He spends countless hours researching before he writes, and that information is intricately woven in his writing. Kids learn a lot through them.

But he pulls no punches...he calls it like it is.

His latest book talks about the Revolutionary War, and from the review, I does not sugar coat it in any way. Just know that.

What I wanted to mention today about him, is that he comes from a very terrible background - alcoholism and abuse...he struggled in school, reading was hard. But...

A librarian handed him a book when he would escape into the library from time to time. She reached out, and her actions gave us a great writer.

This may be a message for teachers today -- but you never know when you will touch their lives with books, you never know when they will turn around and fall in love with it...

Keep giving them books. Keep trying to get them reading!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reading and Teenagers (well, before they are there)

It's 8:30 Sunday morning, and I just got back from a 5 mile run and some "boot camp" is good - of course I have the cup of coffee next to me, and I probably will try to sneak in a nap...

I wanted to put the whole testing subject on hold for today.

I have lots of time to think when I run, and I think a lot about my kids.

Kids are constantly growing, constantly changing.

It has never been more clear as with my oldest son, Matthew. He's finishing 4th grade, and is showing those signs of becoming a teenager. This is uncharted water for me...

I need to provide material for him that will meet his growing awareness of the world, people, and self.

There are tons of books out there these days for the middle school crowd. I have noticed a lot of good things, but I have also noticed that a lot of the material seems to be similar to adult books, but brought down to a kid level. For example, vampires being all the rage in tv and adult lit, there are a bunch of teenage books that have a similar theme.

Now I am not to be a spoil sport, and I am definitely not one to censor things...but I know this: I need to know what he is reading.

Just like we need to know what they are doing on the internet, just like we need to know who their friends are and what they are involved in.

I know it is asking a lot to read their books. I know what it means to have NO time -- juggling a full time job, sports, and the house...but here's where I am going to set a goal for myself.

I have always said that it seems like instead of the boys needing me less as they grow up, they need me more. Of course it is different -- they don't need me to set out breakfast and get them dressed every morning -- but now it is deoderant, how to deal with bullies, and where do people go when they die? subjects.

Teenagers hate to have their parents around, so I have heard. But deep down, they don't.

I am going to start now, being there for Matt. Reading the things he is will give me a window on what he is dealing with.

And, as I said earlier in my blogs, books are a perfect way to begin conversations about subjects that are tough to bring up. Put it on the book -- "Hey, when I was reading what xyz character did, I was thinking...what did you think?"

Matt is 10. I need to start now, because I am sure some of you reading with older kids are thinking, "Yeah, sure...he'll talk to you when he's 16 -- about getting a car, not books."

I have taught middle and high school students, and yes, I know some of them go into their own worlds, but there are those who you know parents have been talking with them -- not in a "I want to be your friend" way, but that they have related to their kids as mutual readers...that's different.

So that's what I was thinking about for 5 miles, that's what I was thinking about to get me through that 100th jumping jack. Next step...start reading the books he is!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

More Authentic Test Preparation

Sorry to those readers who have kids that aren't taking Standardized tests yet, but I feel it is a timely subject, and your children will be taking them someday, so this information isn't irrelevant to you. You just have longer to prepare! :)

The TAKS test here in Texas has several passages (too many - ok, my opinion) for kids to read, and then several questions following for them to answer. Much like every other state, honestly.

They have different types of categories of questions...

Context Clues/Vocabulary -- word meanings...usually looking for clue words in the sentence around the word or, their favorite, multiple meaning words (i.e. the word "chart" - how is it used in the story -- as in, he had to chart the waters for his boat trip, I looked at the chart, etc.) and they have to select the answer that would fit how it was used. This is a huge area where they trick kids, by the way. Kids will choose answers they know rather than how it is used in the sentence. Kids do this a lot with vocabulary words, especially if they are struggling readers - they will select answers they can pronounce/they know rather than the answer. For example, if a test question asks the meaning of a word, say, elated -- the choices may be A) late, B)raised, C) rejoicing, or D) upset...Kids may choose the first option A because they see the word late in elated, or they don't choose C because they can't pronounce it and therefore, don't know the meaning. They are afraid to choose an unknown.

So what can you do? Make up some questions of your own using their books...TELL them about the tricky test makers who are trying to do that. If you don't feel like you can make up questions on your own, then go ahead and get a workbook. BUT ONLY USE IT FOR THIS SKILL. Remember how I said before...they need the test practice, but the most important thing to remember is that this can be done with authentic literature.

Another question type is MAIN IDEA. This question asks them to select an answer which best embodies the main idea of either the story, or a paragraph or portion of the story. You can practice this with whatever your child is normally reading. Just stop periodically and have them tell you what the big part of what they read is...for more ideas on this, search the blog for main idea. I gave a bunch of ideas before. But what is key to tell your child here is -- if they can come up with a sentence main idea on their own BEFORE they look at the answer choices, they will have an easier time. For example, if Matt reads a passage in the TAKS and then finds a question that says, What is the main idea of paragraph 2? this is what I would tell him to do. Go back first and RE READ paragraph 2 -- then come up with your own main idea sentence in your head. Now he can read all the answer choices, and eliminate those that were way off from what he had in his mind, and select the one that is closest to what he came up with. Here's the caveat to this, however. Your child has to be good at getting to the main idea on their own. If they are giving you details instead, they need more practice.

Inference. This is where the rubber meets the road. These questions are the ones that can't be exactly found in the text -- they can get hints, but the thinking comes from them. For example, this is an inference...

Ken ran into his room, threw his books on the floor, and slammed the door.

How is Ken feeling? Well, angry...we see that. But there is no word angry, mad, upset...we figured that out from his actions. That's inference.

You can do this with their reading. As you are reading, when you see description, or there is heavy clues towards what is going on but it doesn't exactly say it, have them tell you what they are thinking, and then HAVE THEM READ THE PART THAT GAVE THEM THAT IDEA. They need to support their answers.

Summary. This can be similar to Main Idea, but it is where they give a little about the entire piece. Usually tests will give them the first part of a summary and then ask them to select an answer with sentences that best complete the summary. This is where the main idea/detail work helps. Test answers will usually throw in details in the end, or leave out the main idea of the ending as choices. Tell them to think about what the main idea of the last part is. That will make it less overwhelming.

Remember, they are reading a lot. The passages (several different ones -- long and short and different genres) and the answers. That's a lot for their little minds to dissect in the time alloted.

They probably feel like you do right now, my having thrown a lot of info at you.

So I am going to pace us...I will talk about the other types of questions later.

Before I leave you, you need to find out a few things from the school/teacher about your child's testing...Is it timed? Is it broken into several days? Or is it one time, as long as it takes them?

This is important because it will make a difference in how your child approaches the reading test. Fluency will become a factor if it is timed, because if they struggle in that area, there may not be enough time for them to get through all the reading...we need to prepare them in that way.

More tomorrow...and remember - THEY CAN DO IT!!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Testing and Reading

If you live in Texas, our state test, TAKS, is looming...

If you are a child who lives in Texas, you've known IT is coming since January, or maybe even September.

Testing is such a hot topic, and tough one. States "need" them to keep us accountable, money rides on them, and many a teacher has sweat blood and tears to help the kids pass them.

It's high stakes, and in some states, promotion to the next grade hinges on passing.

Here's the deal for me. I tell the kids the first time it comes up in September (yep, they bring it up 'cause they've heard and they're worried) that I GUARANTEE they will pass...if they just do what good readers do, if they just employ all the good reading strategies I teach them all year.

For me, I know that by the time the test rears its ugly head, the kids will have the reading know-how to pass. It's just teaching them test format and strategies.

I know that testing will not go away. So instead, we need to prepare them.

Not with pressure, not with fear.

Pump your kids up.

As you read, ask them a few questions about what they read, and have them read the sentence or sentences in the book where they can "prove" their answer. If they can do that, testing will be a breeze.

Brush up on some context clues work...testers love vocabulary. When you come to a trickier word, or better yet - multiple meaning word (those are huge on tests), stop and work together to find the clues in either the sentence itself where the word is found, or in a sentence before or after...really practice it. Trust me.

Don't spend tons of money on booklets and worksheets. They do enough of those at school. Those get old, and they start to burn out.

Use real books, and show them how what they are doing all the time as good readers corrolates to the tests.

I have found that boosts their confidence. And they start to see that, yes, it is doable, and tests aren't that scary...if you pay attention, use your strategies, and watch for tricks.

Matt has Math and Reading TAKS coming in a few weeks. He's been practicing at school, and I have just been pumping him up. He can do it. I don't have any passages or worksheets here at home. We work with his books.

Hope that gives you some encouragement, and things to do. I think in the next few days I may go into some specific strategies to help with different types of stay tuned!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Going on Vacation? Get the kids involved now!

Summer is approaching, and you may be making plans for vacations. Maybe you are sticking around the area, or travelling out of's my thought for today.

Have the kids read about the places you are going, or have them research some places to go. If you are going somewhere tropical, check out some books on sea animals that are in the area.

If you are going to Disney or Six Flags, go online and find reviews, etc. about it and have them read.

This will be highly motivating!

I came up with the idea when I was talking to Matt about canoeing and kayaking here in Zilker Park this summer. He started telling his brothers all these things he "knows" about it (we call those "Matthewisms") and I realized how little he knew. So I suggested he check out some books so we are prepared when we go, and he could help dad keep everyone safe and having fun.

He liked the idea. Of course, he'd rather just go and experience it, but I think this will be good for him.

So try it...see what amazing plans they will come up with for you!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kids are like cats sometimes, and you need to sieze the moment!

Before I compare our kids to felines, I want to mention that Amy had a great comment yesterday -- I had forgotten how facinated I was as a kid by my parent's huge set of "World Book" Encyclopedias. I remember when they got them -- they were allotted a special place in the living room bookshelf (not the den) and they smelled new, had crisp sheets, and best of all had shiny gold on the cover, enticing me to find the "riches" inside.

I sat for hours and read about everything and anything. It wasn't my reading level, and no, I didn't understand much of it, but I would read and leaf through them for hours.

It taught me a few things : that books are a treasure trove of information, I can learn from them, and also I need to take care of them. God help me if I had torn a page or spilled on it...those were priceless, in my mind.

I know my boys respect books, but sometimes they just throw them in their backpacks...argh!

I also remember loving the dictionary. Words, words, cool.

Maybe that's why I love crosswords, analogies, spelling -- you want me as your Scrabble partner, that's for sure.

I thought about my boys' facination with the Guiness World Records books...they eat that stuff up, especially the gross or unusual (which it all pretty much is). The boys at school used to fight over who could check it out at the library.

Capitalize on that interest...send them on a scavenger hunt to find the silliest, oddest, prettiest, etc.

Ok, now cats. I notice that sometimes my boys like me to sit with them, sometimes they don't. Like my cat. She decides when she wants to be petted, or when she feels like a lap.

Unfortunately, sometimes those times are the most inopportune ones...I am dealing with Nick (we're potty training), or I have had an exhausting day and I just want to watch The Bachelor and tune out. "Can you sit with me mom? There's this great part..."

It's so hard. We as parents work all day (either at home or the office -- both are completely draining) and we need some "us" time...

But here's my challenge to you. Sit with them anyway. Get Tevo or DVR -- put aside what you are doing. It will be worth it in the end. When they see you make priority for them, and reading, it will speak volumes to them.

Last night, Ben needed me to listen. At first, I thought "Man, Scott is out of town, I have been going all day..." But then I remembered that time is fleeting. I needed to keep perspective. We read, and I felt so good. It had given me a peaceful time with my son, time to focus on him and his thoughts.

So when the cat climbs in your lap, don't put it down...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Something Else to Do When They Won't Read a Book

Now I know. I am a mom. I am realistic.

There are times where you just CAN'T get them to pick up a book. Or they just sit there and pretend read. I have seen it in my classroom, and yes, from time to time (but rarely, thank God) in my home.

So instead, let's think about other things you can do that help promote a reading life, yet may not really be "a book."

Play a with instructions, or cards you have to read to get to the next turn.
Look at magazines.
Read Toys R Us descriptions of toys on the internet or flyer...make them read the fine print!
Put on the closed caption on the tv and mute it (they freak the first time)
Put them on a scavenger hunt...write down clues and have them have to go get certain items.
Play hangman
Draw comics and create speech bubbles.
Have them cook with you and read the recipie

In a nutshell, think about anything with print. Use it! Point out to them that they needed to know how to read in order to do whatever they did too.

For Nick, today I am taking a bunch of different letters and printing them in different fonts. We are going to play a matching game. I am going to start with only 2 letters and we will sort them into piles. As he recognizes the different looks to the letters, I will add in more letters. We can do that with shapes, colors and numbers too.

For little ones, they need to first recognize that those scribbly lines have meaning, and each "squiggle" is different. That's where we are.

So today, if your child won't pick up a book, find something in print for them to work with.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do I Pick Books?

I told you a few days ago that some friends of mine are going to borrow some of my books for their boys. Two of them are first graders, one is a second grader.

So where did I start pulling books?

First off, I thought about what I knew about their reading levels. Each book I took off the shelf, I re-scanned through to check for vocabulary.

As I scanned, I also thought about the look of the pages. Were there too many words? Illustrations? Too few words? Enough chapter breaks? What size was the font?

Then I thought about content. I chose humorous books first, for motivation, and then I thought about what their moms had told me about them.

I chose some baseball books -- both fiction and nonfiction -- because they all play with my sons on the Pirates. My boys have read the books I chose already, so I thought I would bring them into play too, by talking about the books with the boys. I actually am going to have them tell their friends what parts they liked, and believe me, that will mean more than if I sat there and tried to sell it to them.

I also put in several from the same series. Stink was one of them, and this is why. Sometimes kids will like the characters and the reading level will be perfect, but the content of the episode isn't their thing. I don't want them to get turned off. On the flip side, if they like one of them, more than likely they will pick up another one.

I gave them each at least 10 books a piece. I know that if I give them one or two, there's not enough choice. They need to select.

I thought about their fluency: Do the books have managable Dialogue? How are the sentences written? Are the paragraphs overwhelming or just right?

And comprehension: Will they understand the story? What about the vocabulary? Do they have experience and support enough to enjoy the story?

Yes, it seems like a lot to think about, but once you know your reader, it gets better.

A friend of mine told me something that I thought was key as well. She said, "You know, parents don't know these kids' literature as well as you do. They don't really know what's out there beyond the bestseller lists or what the media touts."


So maybe we all need to take a trip to the bookstore. Not Amazon, not websites that review books. We need to handle the books ourselves, and look at them through the eyes of our child.

Really. That's all I do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So if we don't compete or measure, how do we motivate?

Take a minute. Think about something you enjoy doing. Maybe it is cooking, or biking, or even travelling.

Were you inately born with the ability to do those things? No. You had to learn them. You had to CHOOSE to learn them.

Did your first time on a bike go smoothly? You've never fallen? The first trip you took to Europe you just went completely unplanned and it took no work whatsoever to get there or to know what you wanted to see?


The answer tried it. More than once. You learned from mistakes. You savored the good parts.

Ok moms, if we really focused on each day of being pregnant, would you say it was beautiful - a breeze - no problems whatsoever? No. You remember those days of nausea, or back pain, or even the pain of buttoning those jeans for a last time in many months.

But we don't focus on that! We focus on the good moments, the beauty of the outcome. How we feel for having experienced it.


It isn't inate. It is taught. Sure, some kids have an easier time of it, but it isn't something we automatically excel at the first time.

So...instead of competing, just focus on the enjoyment. Really pick through the experience to find the good. Teach your kids to focus on that too.

If reading is hard for them, create a personal analogy of something hard for you and tell them how you are working to enjoy it and get better at it.

Mine's running. For all the cycling and lifting I do, you would think I would love all things workout related. NOPE. I really hate to run. Right now I am working on running an incline of 3.0 on the treadmill instead of a flat. I am up to 15 minutes @ 6 mph. Not that great. BUT, last week I couldn't even do that, and so I see improvement. And I am not breathing that hard anymore in the midst, and I am feeling good after.

So when your kids hit a roadblock, help them work through it.

Another thing facing kids is the constant comparisons that many "reading programs" put kids in. They don't have so and so's level, or points, or what have you. RUBBISH.

Don't you think our kids have enough to deal with...we know the downsides of comparisons...there is always someone better, faster, wealthier, more's a very slippery slope, and not a good one.

LEAVE READING OUT OF IT. Let them just be.

And that's my thoughts today. Stop comparing, be, and look for the joy in it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Competition -- Good for Reading??

Today I may lose some friends with what I am going to say. But it is something I feel very passionate about, and I have to speak out.

I went to work with kids again on Thursday and was reminded of how much I really do not like incentive programs for reading. Call it AR, star charts, pizza parties, what have you -- getting kids to read for a reward or points RUINS IT. Not for all kids, but in my experience -- most.

Here's what happened. The little guy Mrs. C asked me to work with had picked out a book for AR and, instead of even sitting down to read it, had taken off to the library for a computer to take a "test" on it.

As I headed out the door to find him, I heard her say, "That's probably why he's not passing the tests." OH. That was a good discovery - lots of kids do it, but it's not easy to catch.

So I found him, already logging in. "Hey there friend," I said. "Can we read that book together? I want to hear it -- I have heard great things about it."

He slumped into the chair next to me. "Why? Reading it is a waste of time," he replied -- so loudly, I might add, that even the librarian heard him.

Now, if that had been the first time I had heard that, I might have been shocked. But this is not my first run in with AR and kids trying to rack up the points.

ARGH! I have heard it all -- "Is this an AR book?" "How many points is this?" "My parents say I can't read anything but AR until I reach my goal points..."

I will tell you - those statements have made my blood boil and my eyes water too many times to count.

I do see the merit in having comprehension quiz after a child reads a book. I see how the leveling helps select books...I GET IT. I am not saying it has no good to it, BUT...

AR isn't the first incentive/levelling program to hit the block. If you are of my age (yes, old) you remember the SRA kits that sat in our classrooms. You read a passage, answered questions, and moved up the color levels. I loved it...I moved up those levels as fast as I could...yet I don't remember ENJOYING anything I read. In fact, I don't remember anything I read.

But boy, did I get satisfaction from being at the "gold level."

Here's where I get upset, and yes, I may need to see a therapist because it is my own issue, but I don't think so.

Let's go back to my little guy. After he told me reading was a waste of time, I exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! Really? Well, I know you are a good reader, and good readers know that there are always favorite parts or funny parts or aha parts in books and the only way to find them is to read them! Come on good reader...let's do it!"

Notice what I did. I did not react or even address what he said. I refocused, and told him I knew he was a good reader...and what he, as a good reader, was going to do.

We began reading, and yes, I found out, as I suspected, that reading isn't that easy for him. But we worked through the book. I made it a point to really show my enjoyment of different parts in the book. At first, I caught him looking at me like, "What is this woman on???" But soon he was talking and laughing right along with me, and predicting what would happen next. Of course I praised him for his good thoughts.

When we were done, I asked him what his favorite part was. He pointed out it was when a mouse was sneaking into the pantry and then eating so much he fell asleep. I asked him if he would have known about that part if he didn't read it. He admitted, no.

Hah! I win!

Rather than focusing on the test, we focused on the book, and look - he enjoyed something from it!

We then went over to the computer where he took the AR test, and did better than he had done on most of his surprise.

My deal today...if you have a struggler, don't make it about rewards outside of the reward of reading. That will create that external drive to make reading a competition, or simply something measured by quantity.

I want kids to fall in love with reading. Not winning.

So sorry, AR...sorry, chart driven star users...I am not a big fan.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Here's One To Try

Yesterday I sat down and read Ben's new book. He got it in his Easter Basket. It's the latest "Stink" book -- by the same author of the "Judy Moody" books.

I really liked it for kids who like space. It has a cute storyline about "saving Pluto" as a planet because scientists have "kicked it out of our solar system."

It is an easier chapter book, and the reading is managable -- chapters are just long enough, there is dialogue which lends itself to some fluency practice, and there are "fact fun pages" that teach kids in a humorous way about each of the planets.

Ben read me the first four chapters in one sitting, and I worked with him on some of the subtle humor and vocab -- "sour ball face" "he got skunked" "gonzo" "buttering her up" -- and throughout the book they use mnemonics - using the first letter of each of the planets and making up a sentence to help remember them (My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas - remember that one???).

It's a cute book, and good for those strugglers or kids entering chapter book stage.

On another note, I had a conversation with another baseball mom about her boys and reading. She's a great model for us -- she works hard with them and is a wonderful advocate for what they need. But both of them are quite different, and the older one has some things that make academics really hard for him.

I could hear in her voice her sadness and frustration, but also determination. She's tried everything, has lots of interventions in place at school and at home, and he still struggles.

That is the worst feeling as a parent, I know. The last thing we want is for our kids to hurt or have trouble...give it to us, not them.

I wanted to focus not on the diagnosis, but on how we can find the right material for him within his range of just right books. It is hard, when you as a parent are working so hard with them, yet you can't find that "click."

DON'T GIVE UP. I found my wheels turning as we spoke and I wanted to run home from the field immediately and pull about 10 different books to try with him.

I am going to bring them to her on Saturday. I told her I wanted her to focus on the fun of the book. I want him, as a second grader, to laugh and see the I am going to start with Gerald and Piggie by Mo Willems (see some earlier posts on how to use the books) and Fly Guy. He has a younger sister, so I told her that might be a great way to have him practice too...he'll get the deeper humor and sarcasm, while she'll just think it's a cute story with a pig and elephant.

Suffice it to say, she presented a puzzle to me...I am going to do everything I can to see if I can find what books he can love. I don't have the know how to solve his reading problems completely, but if I can find that ONE book he laughs and enjoys...he will keep trying.

That's what good readers do...keep reading and growing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

About Fast Paced Life

Those of you who know me personally know that I am a fast paced person. I usually am juggling the four kids, a full time job, plus one or two other things (like teaching spin at the gym or consulting). Don't forget - those four kids bring a plethora of things -- homework, afterschool activities -- and Heaven help me if someone gets sick...

Anyway, this Fall's move to Austin slowed me down. WAY DOWN.

I am now at home with Nick, hanging out. Yes, there are lots of up sides to it, and I have yelled a lot less, but it has been an adjustment - mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I was reminded of this when I was reading the paper this morning. There is a local author and mom who published a book about living simpler...letting kids have free play, getting away from so much technology, just letting life be lived in its natural rhythm.

Hmm...that got me thinking. I have a hard time with that. I love to be busy. It is just my nature. Currently, I am applying for a job in the fall. I miss it.

But, I thought, what is it that I can do that helps me maintain some of that simpler, lower stress, more natural pace?

My answer to myself was reading. With a book. Not with a Kindle, or an IPad...a real, paper smelling, page by turned

The author of this book reminds us that we ourselves grew up with so much less technology, and had so many more real life (rather than virtual) experiences and social interactions...we forget that our children, with all the perks of being a tech-saavy generation, is missing that.

Maybe that's why I resist getting a Kindle - and read my paper at the breakfast table rather than online...I need to connect with it.

Think about that.

I am doing a lot of thinking about that in terms of Nick. They have all those "leap readers" or what have yous to help little ones start reading. I never got them for the twins or matt...I don't think I will start. I think the first thing I got for them was a Leapster, when they were 5 and were well underway reading "real" books.

So today I want you to look at simplifying -- by picking up a book.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The How To Train A Dragon Series

I am reading book two of the series, "How to be a Pirate." Along the way, I have some handy post its to remind myself of the things you may want to highlight and talk about with your readers.

First off, I have to say that Cressida Cowell knows boys. She injects humor in ways that makes me snicker and think any boy from age 7-15 is going to smile and laugh.

Here's some of the subtleties...Fellow Viking names...Snotlout, Fishlegs, Dogsbreath the Duhbrain - the swords have names too: The Stormblade, the Swiftpoint Scaremaker...

and here's a little part you've gotta love..."Grimbeard had been the ULTIMATE in pirate-ness, the GREEDIEST,GRISLIEST, GORIEST Viking who had ever sailed and slew and farted his way across the Northern Seas." See what I mean? BOYS WOULD EAT IT UP.

On another note, she does something else really well. Description. She creates great images using words. For example, the opening pages find the boys on a ship in the middle of a stormy sea. "A black wind was shrieking across the wild and angry ocean. Furious thunder boomed overhead. Lightning speared into the water." Cool, huh?

This is where we can get our kids to run "movies" in their minds. Ask them what they see, hear? What do they smell, feel? Get them to involve themselves.

Another thing she does is use graphics. She has a map at the beginning of the book which kids would normally just skip over, yet later, using an astrick, she refers to it. It is important they know what the * mean, and that it is telling them to look at the bottom of the page for some explanation. It will tell them to go back to the map, which is, in fact, a treasure map that will be used throughout the book. They need to have a clear understanding of where Hiccup is travelling and the map is the help they need.

So those are a few things I have noticed so far. I am only into chapter 6...long way to go. I will give more ideas as I read on.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sometimes you've gotta just let go...

I did get the next three books in the Dragon Series. I am really excited to read them, that is, when I can get my hands on them!

The second my boys walked in the door, they each snatched one...and disappeared into the living room.

It was funny listening from the other room to the occasional "Hey Matt, listen to this!" or giggle from Sam. They were really excited, and devoured them.

But here's what I know. Matt is probably the only one of the three who is really actively comprehending the books deeply. Does that bother me? Yes, a little, but No.

Sam came in about an hour into reading, claiming he'd finished "How to Speak Dragonese" and was ready to get the next book. Instead of fussing and pointing out that there was no way he could have finished that fast, I asked him to show me a few of his favorite parts.

He did, and as he did, I was able to add a few thoughts to deepen his understanding. "Oh," he'd say.

Now if that were the ONLY reading he was doing, I would have steered him away from it and told him that it would be a good book for us to read together. And Sam doesn't like to be "steered away" from anything he thinks he wants to do. Sam is my headstrong one, the one that doesn't like to be told no, the one who doesn't like to think there is anything he can't do.

So instead, I made sure he read more, in a just right book. When I reminded him that his brothers were still reading the Dragon books, I mentioned casually, "Maybe you should read your just right book for a while." He gladly picked up his Magic Tree House book that he got from the library at school, and read until his brothers surrendered another of the Dragon books.

Here's my thinking on that. Rather than fight, compromise with them, yet make sure you gets tougher as they get older, but you can do it.

If they are fighting you, you will get nowhere. Don't get them defensive...always be on "their side" - let some battles go, while keeping in mind what's important.

In this case, I kept Sam happy, he "read" his Dragon books, but he also READ his just right book, which is exactly what I wanted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

WOW - The movie and the book were so different!

Matt, Ben, Sam and I went to "How to Train Your Dragon" on Saturday afternoon. I was prepared for a different ending from the reviews I had read, but -- without giving the whole movie away -- IT WAS TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

I looked over at Matt several times -- I could tell from his furrowed brows that he was trying to figure out what was going on, and comparing it to what he had read.

Before I say more, I have to say I LOVED IT. I cried. A lot. It was a really touching story. I will definitely buy the DVD.

But - I want you to know that it isn't a true account of the book. They took the story of a boy and his dragon, the Viking community, and the theme of acceptance and misunderstood personalities and ran another course.

It worked. I don't want to make this a movie review, however.

I did have some great discussion with Matthew after it was over. I was really impressed with his ability to remember the book and tell me all the places where the movie took a different slant/turn.

Now I have to read the book with Ben and Sam. It will be important for me to talk to them along the way about what they are picturing in their heads, and what they are will be really easy for them to remember the images they saw on the screen...I need to teach them how to "follow" the book as we read.

I may have a sheet of paper with me where we can write down the differences - so they don't get confused, for one thing, but also to show them how books and movies contrast.

I am having a bit of trouble writing this without giving away the movie for you all...I will have to go into detail as I do the reading with Ben and Sam. That will give you time to go see the movie.

I was impressed with how they took an idea from a book, and kept the thematic credibility, yet changed the plot dramatically!

See the movie, but more importantly, READ THE BOOK.

I am buying the rest of her series today.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's Easter!

Happy Easter ya'll - hope your day is filled with love, praise, family and friends...and chocolate of course!

Tomorrow I will tell you about How to Train Your Dragon -- boy was I surprised!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sometimes Reading Just Takes Commitment

I have been thinking a lot lately about how much my boys have improved in baseball this year. It is pretty much their first year participating in a very structured, well run, competitive League here in Austin. We have been SO blessed by the coaching they have had.

Here's what I am thinking.

Their coaches have been intense, but SO positive, AND they have a I-will-not-give-up-on-you-you-can-do-it attitude with them.

Never once have they focused their words on what the kids aren't doing. They have always phrased it in the positive, and shown them what to do that will make them better. They praise even the tiniest bit of improvement, and constantly stay with them.

My boys weren't used to that. They were used to the once a week practice with the volunteer dad at the Y, and everyone gets a trophy. Here, there are wins and losses, and everyone STRIVES TO WIN.

But our coaches know that there is only one formula that will work -- HARD WORK + COMMITMENT + POSITIVE ATTITUDE = CONFIDENT KIDS WHO GIVE THEIR BEST, AND WIN.

The Pirates, my twin's team, has only lost one game, and Matt's team hasn't done as well, but let me tell you his story.

Matt strikes out. A lot. He just doesn't have the knack of timing yet, and this has been extremely frustrating for him. He wants to hit. So he practices. He gets out there and keeps trying. He, the coaches, and Scott and I, just keep pumping the positive.

Last week, that paid off. Call it Divine Intervention or what, I was so happy for him. It was your classic scenario -- last ups of the night, Matt's team losing by four. A couple runs came in, but by the time Matt got to the plate, they were still down one and had two outs. Matt's friend was pitcher on the other team.

It gets even more dramatic -- it's the making of a book, really -- Matt gets full count, so it's the last pitch, do or die.

He hit it.


He ran to first, where the team watched as the final winning runs came in. As soon as they realized they had won, they dogpiled Matt.

I had never seen him so proud.

But, it took work, patience, and a positive attitude...

Apply the above to your reader. Trust me, their RBIs and winning hits WILL come.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ideas for the Easter Basket

Yes, I am sure you already know what I am going to say...BOOKS!

Not only books, though, but journals, pens and pencils, markers, paints, magazines...anything that will get them reading and writing.

What's my criteria for the basket? Nothing that has an on/off switch or could be used with something with an on/off switch...

which leaves lots of room for other treats...including the sweet edible kind.

Oh, by the way, there is a new "Stink" book out! I got it for Ben since he is so into is all about the Solar System. Take a look at it...

We are making another trek to Houston today for various important lots more reading time in the car (not for me, unfortunately).

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teaching Little Ones to Read

My friend Kristin has three kids...her oldest are twins who just turned three. We have known each other since high school, and now we have another kinship - mothers of twins.

She emailed me yesterday asking a really good question, and I thought others might be experiencing the same thing. She wondered if I taught my kids to read at home or if they learned it more at school. She's working on letters and having them begin to write their names.

Well, first of all, I had to search my memory banks to think back to when Matt was three. I remember doing a lot with him...reading books together, labelling things in his room, writing words under pictures for him that he would glue into "his special books" (construction paper stapled together). Reading came naturally to him.

But I do remember at three being frustrated when his attention span was so short. He would never really sit for anything, unless it was on his timeframe (Obviously a first time mom at that point - now I just KNOW that's a part of being three).

So here's what I would suggest...make it fun, SHORT, and varied. Paint letters with water this summer on the driveway, use chalk, sand, shaving cream...don't pressure them. They will get it. Just expose them.

The other thing - TALK to them. A LOT. Telling stories and talking through things and giving things names is the first step. Seeing and being able to write them are a whole different level.

Another thing I did with him, and the twins was the letters of the week/day- eat things that start with that letter (it's a great way to get them to try, say, asparagus on "A" day) and read books that have that letter too.

With the twins, it was harder. There were two, plus Matt, that needed attention. I did some of the same things I did with Matt, but it was really double the work. Sometimes they would sit together, most of the times, no. I would have to catch them separately. Yep, anyone who says "I really wanted twins" -- I lose a lot of sleep those first three to four years...

And remember, each child will progress differently. Don't, even though it is really tempting, compare your child. That will translate into frustration, and frustration will zap the fun out of it...not a good pattern to start.

Try and take the worry out of it. Make it fun.

How did I fit it in? I scheduled our day in hour blocks...hour of free play, hour of games, hour of park, hour of rest, half hour of reading/half hour of writing (coloring, painting, etc.).

When you go places (like the zoo, Disneyland), don't buy stuff...get a book! I remember Ben buying his first book about baby animals at the Houston Zoo when we moved there. He sat there for hours and told me about how we saw the mommy and daddy animals -- highly motivated.

Remember, if your kids are in preschool, they are getting this there too -- but it is equally, if not more important, for you to do it too. It models that reading isn't just a "school" thing - it's a life thing.

Hopefully I answered your question Kristin...Just be patient, and enjoy...