Teaching a Love for Reading!

I always try to teach my kiddos a love for reading. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re reading. If they are sitting down with their eyes glued to a book, magazine, comic book, or whatever, my day is made. My heart is warmed. Reading was a big part of my childhood.  The 7 year old I work with loves reading, but I’ve been finding it challenging to find books that will hold his interest enough to motivate him to pick up the book on his own.  Last summer, we read Matilda (by Roald Dahl) together, alternating chapters, and he loved it.  He also read aloud really fluently, so I knew his reading level was pretty high.  About a month ago, I introduced him to “The Indian in the Cupboard” by Lynne Reid Banks. To “bait” him, I read the first chapter aloud to him.  He put the book down for a bit, then after about a week, he picked it back up and couldn’t put it back down!  He’ll be on vacation this coming week, so last week he hurried to finish the book so that I’d have time to get the next book, “Return of the Indian,” from the library to take with him.  “Indian in the Cupboard” has a reading level of 5.9, and he’s in 2nd grade. Now I have a better idea of what reading level I can look at for future books for him.

Want to get your early reading loving to read too? Here are some quick tips and tricks!

1)  Don’t worry about what he/she is reading. There’s no such thing as “wasteful reading”. Go to the library and find a variety of types of books- picture books, chapter books, comic books, magazines, non-fiction, Ripley’s Believe or Not, etc.  Then ask your kiddo what he/she enjoyed the most!

2) If you suspect that your child is intimidated by harder books, try chapter books with audio books!  Following along with the words while someone else is reading them can be really beneficial when you’re helping a kid to improve their vocabulary and push them into a slightly higher reading level without any fear of failure.  Just remember- if your child’s at a 1st grade reading level, look for something just a little higher, like 1.5 or 2. If there’s too many words that he/she can’t recognize, they’ll end up lost in the book and just listening.  Listening isn’t horrible on its own- they’re still enjoying stories and using their imagination and listening skills, but the most benefit comes from seeing and hearing the words together.

3) Read together to get a better idea about what their reading strengths and weaknesses are.  You read a page, they read a page is a good start, and alternating chapters can be good for stronger readers.  This can be a fun experience for both of you, and highly beneficial. You get to see how well he reads, what his comprehension is like when he reads, and how he flows as a reader, and he gets to take a break and enjoy listening sometimes, which makes the book less intimidating.  Bonus!  You can model voice changes, pace changes, and expression- all the things that take a good story to a great one!

4)  Peak your kid’s interest in a book by reading the first few pages or the first chapter of the book to him/her. Or you can talk about how much you enjoyed the book as a kid and give a brief, exciting synopsis of the book.  You can also try reading positive reviews of the book.

5) Never “require” that any specific book be read. It’s ok to set aside 30 minutes a day as “quiet reading time” (less time for younger readers or readers who just can’t focus that long or don’t enjoy it), but don’t put any requirements on what is read. If he/she wants to read the instruction manual for the new toy they got, go with it!  Seeing reading books as a chore will quickly snuff out their interest in them.

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Amy’s Fancy Bistro is Now Open!

I work with some picky eaters who are incredibly reluctant to try new things. Even more difficult, I have a picky eater who doesn’t like to try new things but also doesn’t like to have the same things too often or he gets burnt out and doesn’t like them at all anymore. It’s a tough situation that I’ve been struggling with for years. I have gotten him to try new things and have definitely expanded his “Things I’ll Eat” list.  But there’s still a lot of room for things to improve.

For help, I decided to re-read the chapter from “No Whine with Dinner” that lists lots of tips for getting picky eaters to try, and hopefully enjoy, new foods. There’s some great ones, and it seemed like a lot of them were pointing towards the same main idea- get the kids involved, and find ways to make the experience fun and positive. I’m hoping to get Mr. 7 in the kitchen helping me pick out recipes and cook them, but until we can get that started, I decided to work on the “fun and positive” part.  Soooo…

I decided to open up my own restaurant!  It’s called “Amy’s Fancy Bistro”. It’s not real, of course, but I tried to make it feel as real as I could. I went to Target and got plastic plates, bowls, and cups that look like they’re fancy porcelain and crystal.  I didn’t want them to worry about the dishes accidentally breaking.   I put on pretty piano music (Thanks Pandora!)  I dimmed the chandelier in the formal dining room and lit a vanilla-scented candle. I put their plates on nice placemats and folded their napkins neatly with their forks on top. And when I put their food on the plates, I made sure it was presented as prettily as I could make it, like an expensive restaurant would.

For dinner, Chef Amy served Crispy Chicken Bites (chicken breast cut into small chunks, rolled in olive oil and then breadcrumbs, and baked at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until cooked through and slightly browned), Roasted Squash Noodles (spaghetti squash), lightly buttered and topped with grated Parmesan cheese, and Freshly Diced Strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar and a small star of Whipped Topping (from an aerosol can- don’t judge, it’s all there was in the house). The beverage of the night was chocolate milk.

The kids were asked to call me Chef Amy, and I gave them some simple etiquette. Food shouldn’t be eaten with fingers unless the Chef says it’s ok to.  If you like the food, please compliment the chef!  If you don’t care for something, the chef would appreciate some feedback about could be better, but be careful not to insult the chef.  And the last rule- Enjoy your meal and let your server (me) know if there’s anything you need.

They LOVED the whole thing. There was no arguing or pestering each other, no whining, no bad manners, and best of all, they tried everything on their plate without being asked!  Neither of them liked the squash, which was the one brand new item on their plates, but I didn’t have to fight them to give it a try, and they gave me feedback about what they didn’t enjoy about it (it seems to mostly be the texture of it). And I got more compliments on the other things than I ever have at dinner before!  It was a win-win for all of us, and they can’t wait to do it again next week!  I’m hoping that Mr. 7 can give me ideas for recipes to try from the cookbooks I got at the library.  And if he doesn’t, I’ll come up with something interesting and delicious!  So all in all, the experiment was a huge success!

PS- this is how my bistro looks in my imagination:

Things To Do With All Those Apples…

It’s apple picking season!  I got to work and my nanny family had a big bag of freshly picked apples sitting on the counter. I hate for things to go to waste, but there’s only so many apples we can eat, you know? So I looked around online to find some recipes that I thought would be delicious and not too complicated.  Now I’m excited to try them out!  Maybe you have a bunch of apples, too?  If so, this post is for you!  Enjoy!

Fruit Leather– Yum!  It’ll keep for a while, and this stuff is great to pack in school lunches or grab as a quick snack.  I might just do apples with a little cinnamon, or I might add some other fruits, like strawberries or blueberries to the mix.

Apple Chips– I LOVE apple chips!

…and for something RIGHT NOW, how about Apple Peanut Butter Sandwiches? They look sooooo yummy!

Let me know how your apple recipes turn out, and if you have any more tasty apple treats!

Fun in the Basement!

Now that I have several hours sans kids every morning, I’ve been picking up more and more projects around the house- mostly organizational type things.  I’ve been working on re-organizing the playroom and the finished basement, which serves as a large playroom/ hang out spot. The basement had lots of paper snowflakes up on the walls, from 4yo’s “Frozen” birthday party.  Which was in May.  And it’s September.  The snowflakes, which I cut out individually and were super fun to make, were getting beat up.  It’s definitely time for a change.  So I looked around the basement, and it hit me.  The ceiling is lower in some areas, higher in others, creating large overhang areas.  They need bunting!  You know, those banners made of different triangle penants?  Super fun!  

I found this easy tutorial for making bunting out of scrap book paper. I found a pack of 48 coordinating sheets with a cheerful “citrus” theme on sale for around $12 at Joann’s. I plan to laminate the triangles after I cut them out and paste the backs and fronts together, which can be done at Staples or most other stores with printing shops.  Then I’ll use a hole punch in each of the two corners.  Instead of stringing them all together on one big line, I think I’ll attach each triangle to the next side-by-side with a ribbon through one hole of one, one hole of the other, and tie them together with a cute little bow.  That way, they can’t start sliding down one side of the string or anything.  

I’m looking forward to seeing it all put together!  It’s going to be a fun little project, and I think it’ll really make the basement space look happy and bright!  And with winter coming up in a few months, we’ll need a sunny place to play!