10 Ways to Make Reading Fun for Your Child

Wow! What a year 2020 has been thus far, right? Those who are parents and/or guardians of grade school children were propelled into the homeschooling journey. Schools across the nation are closed until the end of the school year, and some states are considering keeping them closed for the fall, are considering keeping distance learning in effect, or are creating new ways for schools to operate. That also puts summer programs at risk of taking place. What does that mean? You’ll still be responsible for your child’s learning experience.

I personally advocate for parents to continue teaching and encouraging their children to learn throughout summer break regardless of what’s happening in the world. Why? It helps bridge the learning gap that exists at the beginning of the next school year. When your child’s teacher introduces new material you want to make sure your child isn’t left behind or struggling to keep up. There are ways to make sure that your child is having endless fun throughout the summer, but still learning. I remember when I was younger (all the way through high school), my mother would create summer work packets for my sister and I. They were always ELA/reading based so I’m sure that’s why I love it til’ this day. When our schools sent home Summer Reading lists, my mother was right on it! Our work and chores were to be complete before playing, watching TV, or going outside. If I was attending a summer camp or had a summer job, my packet needed to be worked on when I came home.

Since reading and writing are my favorite subjects to learn and teach, I thought I would start with a few tips on that subject alone first. I’m no expert, but these are some methods that work for my children and I. Every learning experience differs per household and that is just fine! Find what works best for you and yours. I’ll include other subjects in the future.

So how do you make reading a little fun? There are several ways to incorporate some fun into reading time, but here are my top 10 go-to’s.

Read aloud together-Children participate in reading aloud all the time in school. When they are preschool-aged it looks more like the teacher reading at circle time. As they grow older, children take turns reading aloud. This still takes place in middle and high school as well. The teacher will call on students to read instructions, syllabi, and paragraphs in reading materials or books. Keep that same energy at home! Reading aloud allows you to hear how your child reads. Is there a flow? How many words per page are they struggling with? Are they pausing at commas and stopping at periods? These reading sessions are great for the parent and child alone, siblings and parents, or the whole family. It can even turn into a family book club. Older children may enjoy knowing that they aren’t the only ones in the house tasked with reading. They will feel supported.

Use an accent or favorite character voice-  This goes along with reading aloud. As the adult, I would start it off in order to set the tone. I loveeee using an accent when reading with my daughters. I always tell my 8-year-old to become the characters in the book she’s reading. How do they sound? Where are they from? Are they short or tall? Are the filled with excitement, or sadness? Are they mean or timid? I want to hear that when she’s reading. Of course you don’t want to make fun of another culture, however; if the story is based in a place like Texas or Louisianna there are distinct accents associated with those states! Using an accent, a favorite character voice, or even mimicking a loved one’s voice will have your child saying, “Ok! My turn!” I introduced my daughter to Harry Potter books a few months ago. When she would read aloud I reminded her to become the characters. Lo and behold, I had a mini wizard from Hogwartz sitting beside me. LOL

Act it out- Bring entertainment into the home! After your child reads a chapter or two, put on a play. You can choose to stick with the chapters that were just read or start from the beginning of the book until the last chapter read. This is basically putting a book report into motion! Have them go around the house and grab some things to create the setting of the book, make a mini stage, and make a costume (bonus: arts and crafts). If you have them, grab some wigs, makeup, and more. You can leave it as a one-man/woman show, or you can get the whole family involved. This is a fun way to get your kid moving. It gives them something to look forward to at the end of their reading. It forces them to actually pay attention to, and comprehend what they are reading rather than just reading words on a page. Afterward, you can give your critiques. If you feel like they missed a major part of the main idea, you can mention “I loved what you did here! Wow. What an amazing job! I remember there being a part of the story where ______ learned _____ no longer wanted to be friends. I didn’t see that in your show. Is there a reason why you didn’t include it in the play?” If your child doesn’t favor putting on a show, try making them a broadcast news journalist. They can “report” the news from the book and provide weekly or daily updates. If they are interested in music, they can make a song (rap or sing) about it.

Read in silence together– So maybe your child doesn’t like all the extra stuff, and they’d rather just read independently. That’s just fine. You can still take the experience up a notch by you each reading your individual books in the same room, and then discuss them. It’s very simple. You’d simply take turns telling each other what is happening in your book so far and do a little reading comprehension aloud. For example, sharing how you relate or don’t relate to the main character and story. What do you think will happen in the following chapters? What would your alternate ending to the book be?

Scavenger Hunt- Time for a mini scavenger hunt! These are great for younger children and older children. The great thing about scavenger hunts is that you don’t have to have a lot of space in order to have one. It can be done indoors or outdoors, in an apartment or a house.  Find specific objects from the book in your house and scatter them wherever the scavenger hunt will take place. If it’s a hunt with older kids you don’t even have to gather the items. Leave them where they are and have your child find them and bring them back to you. Set a timer to bring the drama and excitement. We all know kids love games and small competitions. There’s nothing wrong including a prize or incentive at the end.

Arts and craft– The things you can do with arts and crafts are endless. Craft or create what the book was about in any way that your child finds fun. Color worksheets that feature items from the story, draw, sew, build, and more. If you’ve taken care of the writing for the day, doing an arts and craft book report is a fun and creative alternative. If your child needs more writing work, have them to write out their book report first, and then use that as their blueprint for their artwork.

Easy. Just Right. Hard– Oftentimes, reading isn’t fun to children because they aren’t reading the right books. Maybe they’re bored because the book is too easy (older children), or maybe the books they find fun are too easy for them (younger children). You may even find that your child dislikes reading and quits easily. With your young child, let them read an easy book first. It gets them excited for reading time and builds their confidence. They’ll most likely know the book by heart and make little to no mistakes. For all ages, find books of their interests that are just right for their reading level. For example, my daughter is 8 and still loves picture books, however, her reading level is that of an 8th grader. So I let her choose some graphic novels or picture books as her easy book to read, and then choose just-right books that still meet her needs. She loves unicorns and mystical/magical worlds and characters, so Harry Potter and books like them are right up her alley.  I also choose some books that I’d like her to read as well that aren’t in the same genre as those. Lastly, you want to challenge your reader as well.  Choosing a book that is a little more difficult isn’t a bad thing. It allows you to gauge their reading progress and gives you words to work on with them. To make it a little easier on them, let them help you choose some of the difficult books. If it peaks their interest, it may make them more interested in reading it regardless of the difficulty. Remember, it’s important not to focus on the harder books because it can discourage them. We often make the mistake of giving our children nothing but difficult work. That is the easiest way to make your child lose confidence in themselves. You have to balance the reading material out by giving them a challenge, but not taking it overboard.

Create a reading nook–  Create a space that is specifically for your child that encourages reading and comfort. Also, let them choose the books they’d like in their nook in order to encourage independent learning. When reading together, you can let them select their favorite choice from a list of books you have chosen that is “just right” for their reading level.

Combine reading with another subject– When homeschooling, I often combine my daughter’s reading lessons with other subjects. She absolutely loves science so we’ll read articles, stories, and more on whatever we’re learning then. I use this method for all subjects! Including, but not limited to music, health, history, and geography.

Switch up the reading format/platform– It’s easy for human beings, not just children, to become bored with routine. Try audiobooks, kindle, or other downloadable books, online stories, and reading games through learning sites. This gives you a little break also. Young children can watch/listen to stories on many websites, but you’ll never go wrong with YouTube. Just be sure to check the quality of the video and videos to follow to make sure that you’re protecting your child’s innocence from anything inappropriate that could pop up.

These methods are perfect for new homeschooling parents, experienced homeschooling parents, and distance learning parents. We tend to believe that our children’s learning only takes place inside of school walls and that is far from the truth. Even when schools open back up and you return to work, do your best to incorporate at least one of these methods into your weekly schedule. Reading together or having your child read independently should take place daily and be no less than 20 mins, but can be as long as you and your child desire. You can split the time up into increments if 20 minutes is too long for a sitting. When you’ve chosen one day of the week to add on the fun activities listed above, the entire session should last no longer than an hour. However, if the fun is too good to end, keep going until you’ve passed out!

Happy parenting and teaching!

 

Homeschool 101: Issa Global Pandemic!

It’s no mystery that the world is facing a global pandemic. People all over are being heavily impacted by these conditions. People are losing their jobs, being sent home with no pay, teleworking, schools and programs are closed, and the list goes on. Originally, schools that were closed in the United States were closed for two weeks. Those closings have now been extended for most of or the remainder of the school year. Working moms and dads are now experiencing what it’s like to be work-from-home and stay-at-home parents, in addition to being homeschool parents. So many lives were changed overnight.  Many families are scared because they have elderly, sickly, or essential loved ones, suffering a financial loss, and most of all nostalgic about how things used to be. How do I homeschool?  This was never my plan? Heres my take.

Now that you have a few more weeks added to your new (kind of forced) homeschool journey, RELAX! It’s not as bad as it seems. There are a few steps you should take in order to make the most out of this time with your beautiful child(ren). First of all, yes you are homeschooling/distance schooling, but please understand this is not the same as normal homeschooling. This is pandemic-schooling. Those of us who were homeschooling before COVID-19 aren’t even schooling the same! No co-ops, no playgrounds, no library visits, and more. So take a step back, breathe deeply, and take this new journey on day-by-day.

Unschooling/deschooling is one of the most important steps you can take during this time. It is the process in which both you and your child(ren) release your ideas and/or learned ways of schooling. It encourages exploration, student-led, and life learning. I stress that unschooling is not just for your child, but it is also for you. Teaching in a home environment is completely different than in a school building. While you may keep some of the public school methods that work for your child, it’s important that you do not force those things that to take place at home. Your child views you differently than he/she does their school teachers.

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn with homeschooling is to become flexible and to remain flexible. I’ve tried to stick to a schedule hundreds of times. It never works! Some days I’m up at 7am with a solid plan for my daughters, others I’m up at the same time, but not moving until 9:45-10am. I used to stress over having a strict schedule, but the flexibility works for my family. The days that I find myself moving slower, I actually notice my oldest daughter needed the extra time as well. However, I realize that many reading this blog will be running to the car or bus stop to get their children back in school once it’s open. So keeping a schedule similar to what it’ll be like once school begins again may work best. I also know that you may have to work! If your child has a zoom class meeting, set them up and work. If they can work independently, set them up and work! But if you are required or needed to help finish schoolwork, give your baby some simple tasks like journaling, cleaning, watering the plants, and more to hold them over until you have a break or you’re logged off for the day. Working, cooking, cleaning, and teaching is not easy, so don’t put that much pressure on yourself.

In addition to those two steps, be sure to incorporate a lot of fun and playing in your day. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, pandemic-schooling is not the same as homeschooling. Your child loves you and enjoys being home, but they are missing their friends, teachers, recess, extracurricular activities, festivals, dances, graduations, and more. Most importantly, those old enough to understand are under a lot of pressure and possibly scared. Try incorporating some of their interests into their learning experience. For example, if they are into music have them write a rap or song about one of their lessons or a topic. Let them put on a show and perform it. It combines music and creative writing all in one. You can discuss, proofread, and edit it together. You also never know what your child finds interesting. Bring them into the kitchen to cook with you. If it’s ok, let them see how you do your job, give them some assignments based on your work. They need real-life experiences still! I intentionally let my daughter watch me work on our family budget sheet, pay bills, and put money into our savings. I also let her work with me when I completed our taxes. You can really do anything and make it a learning experience!

Lastly, remain confident. Be confident that you are an excellent parent, employee, and person. You are doing your best with something that was just thrown into your lap. If your child only worked with workbooks, printouts, YouTube, and online lessons for the day, that was a productive day. If you were able to interact and actively teach for the day, that was a productive day. Every day doesn’t look the same, and that is OKAY! You have been raising and teaching your child since the day they were born. You are more than capable of teaching your child during this crisis. I understand that some of us are parents to younger children as well. I have a very active 2-year-old daughter. Some days we’re working together, others she’s learning through play. I am a parent who uses YouTube all the time for learning. We use puzzles, she plays with her dolls, blocks, and more. I recently purchased an Elevated Learning binder from Momi Swap. If you have a preschooler thru 1st-grade child, it is one of the best investments. The owner is Majidah Muhammad, a beautiful mother of two, who is an educator, but also homeschools and owns a homeschooling co-op. You can learn more about her and what she does through her website Momi Swap.

Be sure to subscribe and turn on your notifications. I will be posting a follow-up video where I speak a little more on what’s mentioned here and show a little bit of the changes that have taken place in our household.

Happy teaching!

When Should You Teach Your Child About A Good Touch vs. A Bad Touch?

When I became pregnant at 20 years old, my biggest concerns were graduating from college on time, the fear of birthing her and being able to get a great job after her first year of life. Even though I was young, I knew I didn’t want to send her to daycare before the age of 1. I wanted her to be capable of pointing and communicating hurt if it had ever been done to her. The fear of someone abusing my child mentally, verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually did not come late in the game for me. It was immediate. My goal was to protect her as best as I could and to educate her on her body parts as early as possible.

Many people have a problem with teaching children nicknames for their private areas, but I am an advocate for it. I believe your child should learn and hear the name of the private areas early on, however, you should teach them a word that they can pronounce. I knew that saying the word “vagina” would be difficult for a child who was still learning English, so I chose a different one that she would be comfortable with. I vowed that once her language grew more advanced, I would teach her the correct saying, and I did. I remember seeing a post that talked about a child continuously telling her teacher about her uncle eating her cookie. The teacher thought it was harmless. The child’s mother learned about it at the parent-teacher conference and knew exactly what her child meant. The message of the post was to teach your child the appropriate name so that an adult or law enforcement will know to understand them. I think that is extremely important. But what about the kid that knows how to speak, but not well enough to say the word correctly? That’s why I teach my children by age or maturity.

Since the age of one, we’ve repeatedly gone over the names of her body parts and which ones were considered private parts. My husband and I always stressed the importance of telling either one of us if she ever felt uncomfortable or was touched inappropriately by anyone, including US. Still to this day, I tell my oldest daughter that if her father or I ever make her feel uncomfortable with our touch, please let us know, or tell the other parent if you’re scared to express your feelings.

The thing about little girls is you have to teach them how to wipe themselves correctly and how to properly clean themselves for a while. They may know the process, but you have to spend a lot of time checking behind them to make sure they are doing a good job. This is a job that I’ve taken on with my daughters, but I’ve educated my husband on what to do just in case anything ever happened to me. For a mother, it is routine to just check and wipe our children, but I don’t want my children to feel muted just because it’s mommy touching down there. I openly ask my oldest daughter to tell me if and when I make her feel uncomfortable. I continue to teach her that her private areas are not toys or playgrounds and should not be played with. So if anything ever tickled, she knew that it was an accident and that I never intended to make her feel played with or “good” down there.

As my daughter grew older and more aware of her body, I explained to her that her entire body is considered her private parts. If she doesn’t like the way someone touched her arm, say something. Someone made you feel uncomfortable with a touch to your back, say something. “It’s your body, and it is completely private. It is not a public object that anyone can touch without your permission.”

Good touch vs. bad touch is a continuous conversation in my household. My husband and I upgrade the conversation the older our oldest daughter gets. We’ve explained that a man or a woman could be inappropriate, and a child or teenager. We’ve taken the conversation from just a touch but to someone showing her their private parts, asking her to get into inappropriate positions or taking pictures of her. Also, it’s not just a touch, but putting their face, hands, and genitalia in places they don’t belong. We’ve shared with her that the person who could hurt her isn’t always a stranger, but someone that is close to our family or is family. When she was younger, I gave her soft examples of the evil things someone could say to make her afraid of telling us. For example, “No one will believe you,” “This was your fault,” “If you tell, I’ll kill you, and ” If you tell, I’ll kill your parents.”

When we were younger, my husband was a lot more aggressive with the conversation as expected. “Let daddy know, and I’ll take care of it.” Our daughter knew what that meant. However, I learned that was an issue and told him he had to change the tone of that comment. I learned that some children don’t tell because they are afraid the people they love will get in trouble. Whether it be the person that hurt them, or the person trying to protect them. He then changed his response to, “Please let mommy and daddy know so that we can have the opportunity to help you and make sure that the person doesn’t hurt you again.”

In addition, I continue to teach my daughter to respect other people’s space and bodies as well. I would never want my daughter to be the person who makes someone else feel uncomfortable. She knows that no means no, stop means stop, and don’t means don’t. Those words are complete sentences when it comes to someone’s needs, including hers. The answer is no unless she chooses to change it. Not by the influence or force of someone else.

Most importantly, we’ve taught our daughter that no matter what, we will believe her and do what is necessary to protect her. So many children tell their parents that something has happened to them, and the parent fails them by not believing or do nothing about it. There are some who also allow the abuser to still be around the child. I hate to say it, but I learned so much from a Facebook group filled with mothers. A member asked survivors if they had ever been molested or raped, please share why they did or didn’t tell in order to help us be better mothers to our children. It was so painful to read these women’s stories. There were hundreds of women with completely different stories. It was super eye-opening and educational. I appreciate those strong women.

There is no age too young to teach your children about their bodies, the names of the body parts, and good touch vs. bad touch. You don’t have to have a sexually based conversation. Speak to them in the way they understand and communicate. As the child grows older and mature, the conversation should as well. It’s not something you only talk about once, it’s continuous. It’s also vital that you create an environment where your child isn’t afraid to come to you. I’ve created a space with my daughter where I share personal thoughts and feelings with her so that she feels comfortable with having detailed conversations. She feels like it is a two-way street. Of course, I keep it age-appropriate.

Now that I have another daughter, I’ve begun the process with her. She just turned two and is already trying to say “vagina.” If I’m blessed to have a son in the future, the conversation will continue with him as well. I feel like our boys are forgotten in the conversation about molestation, but that’s a conversation for another day…

As usual, I’m no expert and what works for me and mine may not work for you and yours. The main point of this post is to get us parents and/or guardians in the habit of educating our children on their bodies and self-awareness in addition to their ABC’s. I hate the subject, but try to stay educated on it. I’ve seen articles where the abuser(s) were convicted, and others where the families were failed by the system. If you have any additional, helpful tips, please share them in the comments for others to learn from as well. If you have personal experience with this topic and are open to sharing, please feel free to send an email. It allows for anonymity and will help myself and others.