Raising Boys Who Want To Read

 by Allison McDonald

I was reading this article from the Huffington Post while nursing my daughter over the weekend. After she drifted off to sleep I laid there next to her thinking about how we as educators, parents and adults in general handle our boys and what they choose to read. This is a fresh topic at our house because my son has started reading independently; while he is far from fluent, he can read simple “I Can Read” books alone if they interest him.

How do we get our boys interested in books?

Read to them starting from birth.

That is the most basic answer, but it’s not a complete one. Some kids won’t sit for books, while some need to be moving when taking in the information. Some simply don’t want to read. It looks hard; it looks confusing; and it makes them feel dumb when they can’t figure it out.

You have to make them want to figure it out – to conquer that desire to give up with a stronger desire to find out how to read so they can read something really cool.

So how do we make books worth the effort?

Teaching boys to love books doesn’t start when they are learning to read in kindergarten. It starts at birth by making books a daily part of their play time, not just bed time. Here are some strategies we’ve used :

We did many book festivals when my son was a toddler. We’d pile up a ton of books, jump on the bed or couch, and read. I always gave him the power to choose the books we read, which gave him a sense of control and allowed him to develop favorites and his own opinions. I wrote a post about how we discovered this strategy and how it came from my son’s inability to sit stuck snuggled on my lap to read as a toddler.

Make going to the library a regular activity. My son hates story time at the library, not because of the librarian (whom he is actually quite fond of ) but because he doesn’t want to sit and listen to the books she chooses. He wants to listen to the books he chooses. So if your child dislikes storytime don’t give up on the library. Try other times; let them choose their own books, and don’t just show them the kids section, show them all the adults reading too.

Which brings us to the next strategy: role models. Boys need to see the men in their life reading. As a stay at home mom whose husband works long hours with a long commute, I end up doing most of the reading, but it’s still easy to create wonderful role models even if time together isn’t abundant. I got my son and husband a subscription to Sports Illustrated to share. They read the articles together and have some “man time” reading it together. It gives them special time together while also promoting reading.

Let them choose their books, but steer them to widen their horizons too. My son is all about Batman so we scour the library for these books, some of which I am not fond of. But he is so excited about reading I think it’s more important to keep building that foundation of books being cool and developing his view of himself as a reader that I enthusiastically pop them in our basket. Don’t be quick to say no to a type of book . What your child might hear is you saying no to reading.

Another strategy is to let kids “break the rules” with books. I am not advocating stealing books or any other real rule breaking; what I am talking about is letting kids stretch out bedtime with some reading time of their choice.  We just started this with my son and it’s so thrilling to see him enjoying reading alone.

My last strategy is what I feel is my mission here at No Time For Flash Cards, which is to use books as the foundation for play. We go both ways, sometimes reading a book first and sometimes starting with play then finding the books to go along with it.  When my son read this Babar book with me last week  he immediately wanted to dress up like the soldiers, so we fashioned a costume , not just for the pretend play that followed but because it attached a positive association to reading,  it reiterated to him that reading is part of play.The statistics are frightful but we aren’t powerless. There are things we can do to help make reading and books accessible to young kids (especially reluctant readers) and yet again it comes back around to play. Hopefully with a strong foundation of trust in the enjoyment books provide the less enjoyable side of reading will be worth the effort.

Books About Frogs

The other day we went for a family walk and there were frogs croaking everywhere ! Here are some great books about frogs both fiction and non fiction to enjoy.

Too Many Frogs

Too Many Frogs by Sandy Asher is a funny tale about a introverted Rabbit and a friendly Froggie who is a little clueless that he is imposing on Rabbit’s politeness when he invites himself over to listen to stories every night. Rabbit eventually breaks down and has had enough when Froggie brings his whole family reunion with him one evening to hear the stories as well. You will like how this story ends , the goofy but warm characters and expressive illustrations.

Fribbity Ribbit

Fribbity Ribbit! by Suzanne C. Johnson is a simple but deceptively detailed book about a frog that just can’t be caught! The frog jumps from the backyard where a little boy is this close to grabbing him through the house and along the way runs into every family member who joins in the attempts to grab him. I love the different situations each family member is in when the frog interrupts, I particularly like that the grandfather is cooking , if you look closely you can see his cook book is titled “Frog Legs” . There are more frog details on every page, see if you can find them.

Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni is a cute book that not only talks about friendship but it also explains the transformation of a tadpole into a frog in an entertaining way . I have used this book in classrooms while doing animal life cycles and kids always love how the fish in the book imagines people as fish with legs! The story of friendship between the little tadpole and minnow can’t be ignored either, it’s a great message about change and the way friendships if true can withstand change.

Where is my frog

Little Critter Where Is My Frog? by Mercer Mayer was a wonderful surprise sent to me by the publisher to review. I have been a fan of this series since I was a little girl and was excited to see a lift the flap book for the younger set. As any fan of the Littler Critter series knows there are hidden spiders, mice or frogs on the pages of the stories but it’s not the easiest for toddlers to find. This format is perfect, story is simple Little Critter goes fishing with his dad , takes his frog along and then the frog goes missing! While lifting the flaps, you find all sorts of animals small and large. Even though my son is able to enjoy much more sophisticated books at three-and-a-half he still finds joy in lifting the flaps, that are so wonderful for younger toddlers to stay interested in otherwise static books.

From Tadpole to Frog by Wendy Pfeffer is another gem from the “Let’s- Read-And-Find-Out” series. It goes into great detail without offering too much for young readers. When I was reading it to my 2 year old, I skipped some pages, it’s a little long for him still but 3-5 year olds are perfect age for this non fiction book. The illustrations are interesting and kept my wiggly man into the book when the text went above his head.

Mama, Mom, Mommy – Books About Moms

her_mothers_face

Over the years we have reviewed many books about moms . Here are a few that we’ve reviewed that didn’t make it into our previous Mother’s Day Books Lists , which you should totally check out too!

Her Mother’s Face by Roddy Doyle is not really a book for very young children, but I loved it. I would read it with a child who is 6 or older , the text is long, the humor is subtle but the message is fantastic. Set in Ireland , a little girl is silently suffering from her mom’s passing. She doesn’t tell anyone she is sad, she doesn’t tell anyone she can’t remember her mother’s face or that she can’t talk to her dad about her loss. A chance meeting with a young woman in a park changes things for her in the simplest of ways. As the years pass her pain lessens and eventually she is able to talk to her dad who clearly misses her mother desperately too. I like that this book wasn’t about the moment her mom passed away, but rather years later, about how she was trying to hold on to the memories and deal with her grief.

The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl. I had to search this book out, I had forgotten the title and author all I remembered was that there was a child named Gunhilde! Thank goodness for Google! The story is very sweet with the Duchess giving her staff the day off because she wants to bake a cake for her family. Unfortunately things go awry and the cake ends up huge with the Duchess stuck on top of it high in the air! Luckily the duchess finds a solution and things are fixed in the end. I loved two things about this book as a child, the idea of everyone eating a giant cake to save the Duchess and that the Duchess was taller then the Duke, I remember thinking that was funny and I didn’t know that a wife could be taller than her husband. That’s the beauty of books, even picture books open children up to new experiences.

Mommy, Mama and Me

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman is a book about everyday life of a family with two moms. What I love about this book is that it showcases parts of the day that young toddlers through preschoolers can relate to easily. They have bath time, they go to the park, they cook dinner, in other words they are a family like any with a small child. My son loved this book and related easily to the baby in the book and to the experiences that they share.The book makes no political statement, no explanation of two mommies and it shouldn’t, it’s a book about one loving family and nothing more.

Back into mommy's tummy

Back into Mommy’s Tummy by Thierry Robberecht made both my son and I laugh hysterically, mostly because it was incredibly relevant to us. In the book a little girl asks to go back into her mommy’s belly for her 5th birthday. She wants to stay close to her mom, never have to go to school, stay up as late as mom does and even tells her mom if she wants to see her she can go get an ultrasound and she’ll wave hello. The absurdity is awesome, and the sentiment is bang on. Late in the book we discover that mom is expecting and she asks if her daughter is worried about her loving the new baby more. I love how the author and illustrator Phillippe Goossens use humor to get to the heart of it all. My son is incredibly attached to me and this book really opened up a great dialogue about having to share my snuggles, and love.

Family Puppets – Inspired By WordWorld !

Monday morning used to be our Letter of the Week day but as you may have noticed it’s been missing lately. There is a great reason for that, my son is done , like DONE with these projects. He’s known all his letters for ages and as I preach I also practice following my child’s interests to support his learning. Now we are working on putting letters together, sounding out words as we read and rhyming.  Playing with letters and words in addition to reading is a great way to make learning an experience. Lessons that are fun are more likely to be remembered , connections are stronger and learning is less frustrating.  Sometimes the easiest way to make those fun connections is to use a character,  game, book or in our case a WordWorld ebook as your inspiration. It’s also why most of our crafts are linked to books.

If you aren’t familiar with WordWorld it’s a TV show on PBS that really IS educational. It promotes literacy in a very real way, and for kids like my son who are just starting to make the leap from simple letter recognition to decoding (which is most easily explained as  the process of “sounding out” the word using the letter sounds) it’s super fun to watch because so many of the animations on the show are shaped using their word, so be prepared to hear ” I just read sheep all by myself!”

Did I mention how important confidence is for reading? It’s big.

Ok so here is what we did. Inspired by this ebook we decided to make family word puppets which also uses my son’s absolute love of pretend play.  Instead of using the process of decoding explained above we used encoding (  breaking down the sounds in a word verbally and putting them into print ) to make familiar words we use every day , perfect for his level of mastery.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some family photos, construction paper or card stock, crayons, scissors, tape , sticky back foam letters and popsicle sticks ( tongue depressors would be even better). 
  2. Start by deciding which family members you want to create, make sure the words won’t be too frustrating for your child. Cut those out.
  3. Now decorate the paper however you want with the crayons. We are using crayons and tape with this project so that we are free to play as soon as they are done, if waiting isn’t an issue paint and glue works great too.
  4. Add the letters and photo.I made sure we had all the letters we needed in the pile . Having the letters easy to find ( but not done for him) as soon as he connected the sound to a letter was important to keep his confidence up, fun going and frustration at bay.  If your child is struggling, help by all means this isn’t a test.
  5. Tape on the sticks and pictures.
  6. Make your whole family!
  7. Time for a puppet show. 

I had a blast watching my son’s puppet show, his impressions of our family interactions was eye opening but ultimately heartwarming.

 
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by WordWorld, I also received a DVD free of charge.  The craft concept, educational information, opinions and kids are my own. You can try WordWorld’s  free eBooks and games, and find more information about their iPhone and iPad apps on their website.

New Books!

by Carrie Anne

A love of books is important even before your kids can read. I hope to bring to you each month some new releases for the smallest ones in your family to enjoy.

My Little Carry Books: Colors

DK Books
Age 0-5 (board book)
Even as a colour concept book, My Little Carry Books: Colors has a cute rhyme flowing through the pages, making it even a fun read for mom and dad. Little ones will like the colourful objects illustrating the colour being talked about; the background colour also ads reinforcement. But the best part is the thick, reinforced handle at the end of the book, perfect for small hands. Now that spring is slowly creeping in, take your little one on a colour scavenger hunt; they’ll love carrying their own book to use as reference. There’s also My Little Carry Books: Animals with real photographic images of both pet and wild animals.

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Pop-Up Peekaboo: Farm
DK Books
Age 0-5 (board book)
Kids will love discovering farm animals hiding within this sturdy pop-up book. The rhyme invites kids to help the other animals find under the eggs or behind the tree or in the barn. I love that the flaps are integrated into the page edge, making them much more resilient to little hands than flaps just stuck to the page. Kids will love that the animals hiding behind the flaps ‘jump out’ at them as pop-ups. The animals used or stuffed toys versus photos but I think that adds to the cuteness of the story. Along with reinforcing animals names (with the exception of Horse being called Horsey), kids will learn and love repeating the sounds the animals make. Each page in Pop-Up Peekaboo! Farm adds animals as you go through the pages (one chicken, two cows, up to five noisy animals), giving you a chance to practice counting. Pop-Up Peekaboo! Playtime is also in this series

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Press Here
Chronicle Books (Raincoast Books)
written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet
Age 3+ (picture book)
There are no sounds. There are no flaps. There are no touch and feel spots. None of these special effects are needed to get kids to interact with Press Here. With a sturdy cover and slightly thick pages (though they can still rip), Press Here relies on a child’s inquisitive nature to keep the pages turning. The only illustration used throughout the whole book are dots, sometimes a lot, sometimes only one, in a few basic colours and one size (except near the end). Each page consists of an instruction, written simply at the bottom of the page : press here and turn the page. Each new page shows how the dot has reacted to their interaction in some way and offers words of encouragement (Great! or Perfect!) and then a new instruction. This goes on through the whole 56 page book. But once you and your kids start you’ll be drawn to going right to the end and then starting the book all over again. I couldn’t believe how involved my 4 and 6-year old got with this book. They laughed and really got into touching and shaking and turning the pages to see what would happen next. Even with all the technology and gadgets out there for kids, it’s great to see them get super excited from a simple image on a page.

Disclosure : I want to thank Chris from DK Canada and Crystal from Raincoast Books for my review copies.
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Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 , Managing editor of EverythingMom.com and an avid reader. You can catch up with her on her blog  Another Day. Another Thought…Or Two