Favorite Excerpts from The Read Aloud Handbook

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"The purpose of literature is to provide meaning in our lives,” said Bruno Betelheim, Child Psychologist. “Finding this meaning is the greatest need and most difficult achievement for any human being at any age. Who am I? Why am I here? What can I be?” –Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook.
At work Kenneth often turns into the resident religious or life counselor. I can’t tell you how many times a coworker approaching the birth of a first baby has come in to talk to him about this basic quest. They realize that in just a short time they will be responsible for answering these questions for their child. Or at least to lead them in the right direction to find these answers themselves. The reason these friends seek out Kenneth’s advice is because they realize he seems to feel confident that he has found these answers himself. Although this is really a lifelong quest, reading the scriptures regularly with your children will help to answer these questions.

On that note, let’s talk about Fairy Tales. I have always been very frustrated with the way Disney waters down fairy tales. Did you know in the real version of The Little Mermaid she turns into sea foam? This is a huge life lesson. You cannot always have your cake and eat it too. There are also other important themes about temptations and sacrifice that are left out of the Disney version.

Though we might think the original version of fairy tales might be too frightening for young children they “admit to the child what so many parents try to cover up or avoid. The fairy tale confirms what the child has been thinking all along – that it is a cold, cruel world out there waiting to eat him alive.” It tells the child to, “take courage and if you persist, you can overcome any obstacle, conquer any foe. And best of all you can achieve your heart’s desire,” writes Jim Trelease.

“By recognizing the child’s daily fears, by addressing his courage and confidence, and by offering him hope the fairy tale presents the child with a means by which he can understand his world and himself,” continues Jim Trelease. To only read dramatically altered versions of fairy tales, “you rob your child of their essential meaning.”

“The two factors most responsible for giving the child this belief that he can make a significant contribution to life are: parents, teachers and literature” – Betelheim

“Children who are not spoken to by live and responsive adults will not learn to speak properly. Children who are not answered will stop asking question. They will become incurious. And children who are not told stories and who are not read to will have few reasons for wanting to learn to read.” - Gail E. Haley

“Fathers should make and extra effort to read to their children. Because 90% of their primary school teachers are women, young boy often associate reading with women and school work.” – Jim Trelease

I remember after Awsumb began reading more and more silently to himself I didn’t feel as if he needed me to read to him as much. I realize it was silly to feel this way.

Jim Trelease says, “The human voice is one of the most powerful tools for calming a child.”

This is so true. How do we calm babies? By talking to them, reassuring them... I personally LOVE to be read to. I am lucky enough that Kenneth will read aloud to me often. And for years now we have been Audible (an audio book monthly service) addicts! But books on tape do not provide the same thing a live person can. Audio books do not have discussion time.

We know a young man who had such a severe injury this past summer that during his recovery he could not even see well enough to watch TV. I know that his mother spent many hours reading to him. I am sure this brought him much comfort to him, especially during the beginning of his recovery process.

A few other good pieces of advice… Keep a good selection of books in the house. Just like a consumer “How much it eventually buys is determined by how much you have on display.” Also, have many different types of reading material, magazines, etc. Introduce your children to new authors, forms of media, etc. “Awareness comes before desire,” reminds Jim Trelease.

“Literature brings us closest to the human heart… When you read aloud to children you are fulfilling one of the noblest duties of cultured man.” –Jim Trelease

Totally Awesome Kid Games!

Here is a short list of some of our favorite kids games. As you will see most of them are not the basic Milton-Bradley you will find at your local dime store. Most of those games won't hold MY attention span long enough to play a game with Awsumb. I do think JR. Clue and JR. Monopoly are pretty well done. Awsumb enjoys playing those very much. But for the most part we prefer other companies like Game Wright, Ravensburger, etc. (see the game links under Fun and Games) Here are some of our favorite KID GAMES...

Hey That's My Fish - strategically move your penguins around to obtain the most files tiles. Be careful not to isolate your penguins on a small ice chunk.

Labyrinth - Draw coins to determine your quest, then rework the maze to get to them. He who collects the most treasures wins!

Numbers League - One of our favorite new finds last summer! Draw cards to build super heroes that add up to a certain number. Great addition practice, planning, etc. There are also advanced rules. Boys LOVE the art!

Zooreka - This one is from the makers of Cranium. We were so excited for it to come out that we drove our local store clerks nuts asking about it. Earn food, shelter and animals to buy habitats for your zoo. This is like a kids version of Settlers.

Blokus - once you get over the fact this is NOT Tetras, Blokus is a great game. As we have a small family good 2 player games for both adults and kids are always popular. This plays just fine with 2 players.

Castle Keep - Draw tiles to build a castle for your knight. Choose to build on your own castle or attack your opponents. Awsumb and his friend LOVE this game. Sometimes it is very short, other times lasts a long time. They usually play multiple times.

Landlock - Strategically place tiles to earn the most points. Try to create islands or ponds and lock your opponent in.

What games do your kids like to play?

My little bookworm

Sunday, March 22, 2009

6- 2008
Awsumb is a little bookworm. He has always been this way because Kenneth and I enjoy reading and there are books in every room of our house. Last year a friend of my Auntie's gave me The Read-Aloud Handbook. I wish I had this book earlier. It's a great resource for parents of young kids. But the biggest thing I learned from this book was something that should have been obvious. When reading books to your kids read something you enjoy.

Awsumb had these Disney books from doing the Dr. Seuss and Disney book of the month clubs. They were poorly written, seemed to drag on and on and were really long. When Awsumb would bring them to me I moaned and groaned and sometimes even refused to read them! Part of it is that I don't care for the way Disney waters down stories. But, all that matters is I just didn't enjoy reading them.

When you read books you enjoy, your child will sense your enthusiasm. If you read a book you don't care for your child will also sense this and may come to view reading as a chore. Even though it was so obvious I realized this to be a major factor in getting parents to read to kids. I immediately sorted through our picture books and donated the ones that I didn't enjoy reading. From then on when Awsumb and I were choosing books I made sure to pick ones I liked and ones I wanted to read.

Some of the books we are currently reading to Awsumb are...

The Boxcar Children - I remembered reading this as a child and wanted to share the experience with Awsumb. Awsumb loves to see what things Henry will build next. I think he also likes to imagine he is part of this sibling group as they care for one another.

Peter Pan - Kenneth has been reading this story out loud to Awsumb. You probably think of a watered down Disney version when you think of this story. But, this book actually has much more advanced grammar and vocabulary than one might think.

Lemony Snicket - This 'Series of Unfortunate Events' was a book Kenneth discovered years ago and couldn't wait to read them with Awsumb. They only read book one together and moved onto other things. But a few days ago we caught Awsumb reading Book 2 by himself.

Some of the 'my first chapter book' type of series that Awsumb has loved reading on his own this past year are...

Nate the Great and Jigsaw Jones - Awsumb loves mystery books. These series are simple. But Awsumb loves to read them over and over again and find new ones at the library. Plus he loves to act these stories out and play detective. I found a notepad in his desk recently. Awsumb had made two lists titled, 'suspects' and 'clues' under which were things like 'toxic waste' and 'fingerprints.'

Also check out the A to Z Mysteries and Bailey School Kids series.

Magic Tree House of course! Awsumb enjoys following Jack and Annie on quests through time.  There are also the Merlin Mysteries, which are a little longer and more fantasy than history

Nonfiction – Magic Tree House Research Guides.  Don’t forget about nonfiction books!  Awsumb loved researching about animals, planets, other countries, etc.

Magic School Bus Chapter Books - I think there was a PBS series about this teacher? We never saw those shows, but Awsumb has enjoyed some of the chapter books. They throw in little scientific details.

Dinosaur Cove - Follow kids on their adventure to the prehistoric world of dinos. Awsumb can't get enough of these. #5 and #6 are just coming out and Awsumb already has his book order in at school to get them.

Dragon Slayers' Academy - Awsumb just started this series. So I don't know much about it yet, but it looks fun.

Encyclopedias - Kids love reading about the world around them. Don't forget to have non-fiction books around the house. There are many children's type encyclopedias available. I loved reading through encyclopedias as a child. Another good resource for this category is the Kids National Geographic Magazine. Awsumb looks forward to getting the new issue each month.

I recently bought him the Encyclopedia Brown and Superfudge collections too. It's been fun to remember the books we enjoyed as children and share those with Awsumb. Next I want to read the Mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler to Awsumb.

What books do you remember reading as a child?

The run-on sentence blog

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let's just get this out there! I know everything I say comes out in one long run-on sentence. I have always been that way. I can't control it. I just have to say what I'm thinking... and my thoughts usually bubble up faster that I can organize them into proper sentences. My psychiatrist told me that is a common problem for those who suffer from OCD. So let's just rename this blog right here and now The Run-on Sentence Blog! Or how about the Comma Splice Blog. The ... blog would be a good one too!

Where did Wendy's Soapbox come from anyway? Well, years ago a friend of ours noticed that I often seemed to pull out my imaginary soapbox to lecture people. The thing is the soapbox wasn't so imaginary. This friend actually has video of me standing on top of a stool lecturing people! That's NOT a video you are going to see here. So, forgive me when I pull out my little soap box and lecture. When I feel passionate about something I just have to get it out there!

So, how about I write about my day in one sentence!

"She talked to people all day, but when she came home realized she had not really talked to anyone all day."

Can you write about your day in one sentence? Here is some inspiration.

Soap Obsessed

Ever since I was a little girl I have been obsessed with soap! I just can't get enough. I have secret stashes of soaps and wipes. Ironically I have a bit of a phobia when it comes to Purell. OK, back up. Years ago when Purell (alcohol based hand sanitizer) first came out I worked at a book store. The only restrooms were located either down stairs or upstairs. Because I dealt with so many people each day I longed for a break to go and wash my hands. Unfortunately these didn't come very often. I found Purell and was in heaven.

Purell and wipes gave me a sense of peace, if only for a moment, that I could decontaminate myself. Years later the thought of Purell began to terrorize me! The obsessions and rituals that a person suffering from OCD has are not always rational. This is one of them. When you use a hand sanitizer you cannot rinse it off. Because of this I began to think, "the only thing worse than germs is DEAD GERMS!" So, if you have ever offered me a squirt of Purell and I declined. Now you know why!

(I just shuttered thinking about the dead germs!)

Back to soap... Here is a printable soap deal from Johnsons and Johnsons. Awsumb and I love Buddie Bars. I won't say how many I ended up with. Let's just say my supply will last Awsumb through his teen years LOL!

Totally Awesome Game Night

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our favorite family night is spent at the ballpark. But when baseball is not in season you can often find us playing board games at home. We have quite the collection and are always on the look out for new games.

Cosmic Encounters - obtain 5 bases on planets other than your own. Your alien powers change the rules of the game. As far as Strategy games go, it all started with this game. Kenneth has this really cool friend that always showed up for game night with new unusual games.

And of course we love basics like Settlers and Carcassonne. Other old standbys include...

Tikal -set up base camps, dig for treasure. This is an easy game to get started. The "bits" are fun to use and usually there isn't to many hard feelings!

EVO - evolve your dinos to keep your species alive through climate change. I LOVE this game. I was just thinking it's a bit relevant to a main topic of conversation lately. It may be out of print.

Power Grid - compete to build the best network of power lines and stations, choosing which cities to supply and what sources of power to use. Another favorite! Though, it took us a few games to figure out set up, rules, etc.

BANG! - A Sheriff, deputies, outlaws and a renegade, what more could you ask for! Everyone we have shared this game with has run to the store for their own copy.

Pandemic - players work as a group to stop four diseases from turning into a pandemic. Kenneth really likes this game, but I just can't get into the team dynamics! LOL! I guess because I can't be the winner!

Dread Pirate - try to collect as many treasures as you can while avoiding the dread pirate. The "bits" to this game are super cool. Once we get the big pirate map spread out and set up our metal ships Awsumb has to run and put a pirate costume on. The game can be played with regular rules or simple rules.

Coleretto - a simple card game of collections. This was a new one for us. Quick to figure out and Awsumb enjoyed it.

I will have to do a separate post on some kids favorites another day. But I guess you know what we'll be doing for family night.

What's your perfect family night like? Or better yet your favorite game?

It Takes A Family

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Over the past decade the catch phrase "it's takes a village..." seems to have become a standard attitude. While community plays a vital role in our lives (a blog I will share for another day), there is no village or community without families. It takes a family to create a loving home for a child to grow in a comforting, encouraging environment where he or she can form secure attachments and roots. A properly attached child will then be prepared to serve and become part of the continuum of community.

A family consisting of a Mother and Father is the basis each child of God deserves to give him or her the best chance for success. This involves more that simply naming one parent Mother and the other Father. A Mother should be loving and kind. A Father should be a strong example of steadfastness. Each parent offers direction to a child that one parent cannot give alone.

These complete families provide the best environment for raising children, but they also are the best equipped to help other people around them.

It doesn't just take a village, it takes a village full of FAMILIES!

Other blogs and rants to come about being a homemaker, decorating, organizing (just throw it out already!), building up our community (get involved and for pete's sake VOTE!), the "break down of the family," attachment parenting, allowance and "chores", education, living with OCD, book reviews, and much, much MORE!