There’s a Facebook trend making the rounds asking users to list ten books that have affected them. Each time I scan someone else’s list, I am reminded of great books I have loved and I've mentally added to my list of ten a hundred times. Books have the power to change our lives and to impact us in so many ways. So, how can a busy parent raising kids in the age of technology ensure their kids will develop a lifelong love of reading?
Straight from the teacher's desk, here are my top ten tips on how to raise a reader:
Familiar rhymes and songs have a tremendous effect on the early learner’s brain and help set the stage for competent reading. You will be surprised at how quickly the young mind picks up on the cadence of the words — even better if you put a tune to it. There’s a reason most preschoolers love singing Happy Birthday — rhyme and repetition make it instantly familiar, and that makes kids feel like experts.
There is no baby too young to benefit from having books read aloud to them, perhaps even while they are in utero. When your kids are little, read to them every day and keep reading to your kids long after they learn to read themselves. It’s wonderful for older kids to hear proficient reading modelled, and you can expose them to amazing stories that are outside their current reading level. Find time to share books together as often as you can.
I think a lot of kids turn on reading because they are “forced” to read books they are not interested in. How many of you despise a few of the novels you had to read in high school? Let kids read the books that they really want to read. If every book they pick up is about hockey, or they only want to read about Pokémon, so be it. Comics are good, books based on movies are engaging and Captain Underpants makes kids laugh. If children get to choose for themselves, they are more likely to enjoy reading.
Be a reader to get a reader. Let your kids see you read; whether it’s the newspaper, online articles or a recipe book. Have lots of books of many genres and for several age groups in your house. As always, actions speak louder than words.
It’s common for kids to become book lovers after getting hooked on series. There’s something magical about fostering a long-term relationship with a main character. Many a kid has devoted countless hours to Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Series have a wonderful way of making the reader hungry for the next installment and having readers searching for the next great read once they finish the series.
Invite your kids to read and lead them through exposure. Take them to the bookstore and the library and suggest books they might enjoy. Turn off the screens for a while and encourage quieter playtime — but don’t make them read. Don’t set a hard fast “You must read for twenty minutes a day” rule — and please do not make them keep a reading log! Forcing the issue will only turn them off — encouraging, exposing and leading by example will always get a better result.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never underestimate the power of a good conversation! Talk to your kids about what they are reading and about what you are reading. Talk to them about life, about TV, about your neighbour's cat — just talk. A child’s vocabulary grows rich through conversation, instilling a love of words. Ask questions and really listen to their answers.
Keep books in the car, in your family room, in the kids’ bedrooms. Let books be at their fingertips. f a bored kid sees a book, they’re likely to pick it up. Once the reading bug has bitten, our minds will read just about anything. That’s why we read ads on buses and the back of the cereal box — because it’s there. If you want your kid to read books, make sure they are available. And a book stashed in your bag is a great way to pass the time with your child on the subway, in a line or in a waiting room, without the irksome glow and ping of your cell phone.
It is great to read things more than once. Your little ones won’t tire of hearing a cherished story dozens of times. Encourage your older kids to reread the novels or series they loved. Rereading provides kids an opportunity to find things they may have missed the first time and to anticipate their favourite parts, building comfort in familiarity.
Every child develops at their own pace in their own way. Some may grasp the concept of reading early, but may take years to find books they truly love, while others may love books, but take a long time to figure out how to read them. My eldest brother was a notorious non-reader growing up. I think insistent pressure and “assigned” reading from school made the idea of reading for pleasure a foreign concept for him, but now he’s all grown up and always has a book on the go. Give them time, give them support and give them exposure — most kids will find their reading groove eventually.
Helping your kids master the art of reading is a long process, don’t forget to enjoy the journey!
Kids are notorious for drenching their classrooms in unseen viruses and bacteria. Your child’s first year in an organized group setting—be it daycare, preschool or kindergarten—was probably their worst.
Kids seem to pass on a continuous stream of colds and germs to each other, regifting often. Just when it appears a virus was letting up, a new one sweeps in to take its place. Even if your child is a school veteran, he or she is not immune. No doubt, more than a few sniffles will pop by your house this year.
This year I will be teaching kindergarten and I fear the snotty noses!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a mom and therefore a wiper of all things gross. I clean tushies, drool, and boogers along with the best of them. I once cut my infant daughter out of a onesie that fell victim to a first-class poop explosion. But, gross is less gross when it comes to your own children and those bright-eyed little kindergarteners are notorious snot factories. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
So, in the interest of protecting your children, not to mention teachers everywhere (for example, me), I present to you:
A Teacher’s Guide to Good Boogie Habits!
Little noses have a way of being invaded by little fingers, which then proceed to use communal pencils, touch door knobs, play tag and share finger paints.
Nose picking may be a reality of life and some people can’t seem to resist the urge for a little public exploration (especially while beside me at a traffic light). Teach your youngins that clearing the bats out of the cave is a private matter and if it absolutely must be engaged in (sometimes there’s an itch that needs scratching) do it in the bathroom and then wash your hands properly.
Seriously, the washing of hands is an amazing medical advancement (ok, not a recent medical advancement, but at the time, it was revolutionary) that has saved millions of lives. Show your kids how to wash early and often. It isn’t hard, as I have never met a preschooler who doesn’t love getting their hands all sudsy and playing in the sink any chance they get. The real trick is keeping them excited about hand washing as they hit grade three and above.
And good old-fashioned soap and water will do the trick. Hand sanitizer can do in a pinch, but be cautious of its overuse. There is a growing body of evidence questioning the health of hand sanitizers and the toxins they contain. Also, there are many health care professionals that believe the rise of antibiotic everything is contributing to an increase in allergies and intolerances. Regular handwashing with good old soap and water is always the first choice.
Snot happens. Mucus is there for a reason — it lines your nose to collect all those microscopic invaders, then you cough or sneeze to prevent the tiny aliens from going any deeper into your body and setting up shop. The problem is, those coughs and sneezes send the germs and viruses back out into the big wide world, in search of a new body to attack.
You’ve seen the signs on public transit — cough or sneeze into your elbow or block that nasal spray with a tissue. We probably all grew up being told to cover our face with our hands in these instances, but here in the modern world, the elbow is preferred — because no one turns the doorknob with their elbow. A human sneeze can come out at more than 100 miles an hour. Stop that sucker in its tracks using an acceptable force field.
Darn it. Eat right and exercise is always the answer. Just once I want to be told to lie on the couch with a pint of ice cream. But alas, the body’s immune system is its greatest line of defence against boogies turning bad and you keep your kid’s immune system healthy by keeping their bodies healthy. So the blasted eat right and exercise rises again. Sigh.
Remember that running nose, trying to expel those foreign invaders? Once a cold takes hold, that little mucus factory will flow and flow until it feels germ-free. If you are lucky, your offspring have learned the fine art of blowing their noses — as in forcibly expelling the boogies. Mine is still in the wiping stage — although she makes a valiant effort at imitating my model blowing by making a variety of noises with her mouth. The wiping stage means that for the duration of a cold, I get the pleasure of looking at my daughter’s sweet face and noticing it shining with snot, often flowing right into her mouth. Ah, glamourous childhood! Whether your child blows or a flows, Boogie Wipes will be your new best friend.
Boogie Wipes are soft little tissues, moistened with saline, aloe and vitamin e — everything you need to keep those wee nostrils from reddening and drying. The saline also helps moisten the inside of those nasal passages, helping expedite the mucus flow and minimizing the disgusting crusty boogers (see point #1). Not to mention, they come in a slew of great scents that appeal to tiny smellers.
My toddler frequently asks if she can smell the package. Actually, while writing this post, she helpfully developed a cold and now every time she feels some escaped moisture, she runs to me saying, "Boogie Wipes." Seriously, the kids asks for them by name — and she's not yet two.
I’m sure there is some crazy statistic about how many times the average person touches their face in an hour. No matter what that number is, urge your kids to reduce it. There’s no doubt that some dirt is good for kids, but when it comes to managing the boogie brigade, face touching just gives them a horse to ride in on. Keep little fingers away from noses, eyes, and mouths.
There are times when those boogies shouldn't be at school at all and there are times when those boogies could be prevented. For the rest of the time, slip a package of Boogie Wipes into their backpack.
I plan on teaching all these lessons to my new gaggle of 4- and 5-year-olds this fall. If you are so inclined, dear parent, help me out and teach these lessons at home too. Let’s keep the mucus where it belongs (and not on the sand table or a school desk). And while you're at it, if it’s your husband boldly digging at his nasal cavities while driving next to me, please beg him to stop.
Sometimes motherhood is gross, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey!
Take a minute to boogie on over to the Boogie Wipes Canada Facebook page and click on “Like.”
Once you do you’ll be able to enter their fun Facebook giveaways, get cute craft ideas, and laugh out loud at parenting moments we can all relate to!
Well the first week of school is over. Phew! How was the adjustment for you? In my busy, boisterous kindergarten class the first few days passed in a torrent of tears (not mine), lots of requests for mommy, hours of reminders and gentle coaching about routines, and heaps of giggles, songs, and fun.
My Facebook newsfeed is awash with back-to-school reactions. There are countless adorable fresh-faced kids smiling for their first day photos, decked out in their new school clothes. There are several inquiries about lunch ideas, from what to send, how to pack it and how much say the school should have about what goes into those lunches.
And, this year in particular, I have noticed a lot of parents expressing concern over kindergarten class size.
Kindergarten should be a wonderful, exciting time for our little ones. The junior kindergarten year is all about experiencing school for the first time — learning the routines, making new friends, honing their social skills, and generally finding themselves as students. Senior kindergarten is about learning the academic basics that will set your child up for success in grade one and beyond. Both years are about inspiring curiosity and fueling a love of learning.
For me, the ultimate goal in these early school years is producing kids who are happy to attend school and eager to learn.
It may seem simple, but that becomes a lofty unattainable goal with over-crowded, understaffed classrooms. According to a Globe and Mail article from Tuesday, the government has no plans to cap the class sizes in full-day kindergarten. Apparently some classes have as many as 40 students! I cannot even imagine the chaos that those numbers would dictate.
My classroom is currently a very respectable 23, and I’ll admit, even at that number, the first few days were tough. Out of 23 students, you can assume that several have significant learning, behavioural or social needs, plus there are a handful of students who are new to the country or new to English. Often diagnoses and identifications have not yet occurred and support services at the kindergarten level are minimal — certainly non-existent for the first few months.
The government reminds us that each classroom is equipped with both a teacher and an Early Childhood Educator (ECE), so you can theoretically divide the class size by two. This is true, sort of. In my school, we have three kindergarten classes, but only two ECEs. The class without the ECE is kept to a smaller number, but it is still worrisome to have only one adult in the room. Some of the students are 3 years old and still need help using the bathroom. If the teacher is out helping a little one do up a tricky button, who is supervising the rest of the class?
Also, here’s something I just learned this year. The ECEs are paid by the hour and only paid for a 6-hour day. Teaching time exceeds 6 hours and with setting up, cleaning up, and other duties, most teachers put in 9 or more hours a day. This means the the ECE is entitled to specified breaks and an hour lunch during the school day. Often ECEs are required to supervise the students during their lunch hour, which means the ECE’s lunch hour must come out of teaching time. Again, we are back to one adult in the room, sometimes with 40 kids!
Schools do their best.
Every school I have ever worked at recognizes the unique and sometimes overwhelming needs of the kindergarten program. If there happens to be extra hands available at a time, they are sent to kindergarten. Principals push for services and supports as early as possible for high needs students, although the bureaucratic reality of the school board means it often takes one to two years for correct placements and programs to be found. Most kindergarten teachers I know are dedicated, caring individuals who will work tirelessly to create a positive learning environment for your child, in the face of many challenges.
Wouldn’t it be great if those rolling out the full-day kindergarten program and those controlling the educational purse strings would work just as tirelessly to set up your child for success? It’s hard to see your little one bravely go off to kindergarten — shouldn’t our parental anxieties be eased knowing our wee ones will at least be in a class of a sensible, manageable size?