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Building literacy one children's book at a time…

Wow! That’s A LOT of Reading!

I have been meaning to write about children needing 1,000 hours of “lap time” before they’re ready to read so it was sort of serendipitous to see Read Aloud Dad‘s recent blog about kids (and adults) needing 10,000 hours of practice to become the best of the best at anything – including reading.

Long before our kids can start logging those 10,000 hours of practice reading, they need to learn how to read and that’s where the 1,000 hours of lap time comes in.

The National Institute for Children’s Health and Development has said that young children need 1,000 hours of lap time before they will be ready to learn to read. So what counts as lap time? Reading books aloud counts, but so does talking, singing, rhyming and chanting.

Wow.

1,000 hours is difficult for me to get my head around.

So how about we break this down into manageable chunks…

  • If you are smart enough to start while your baby is just weeks or months old, your child will be ready to read (by kindergarten) with only about 1/2 hour of lap time every day.
  • If you wait until your child is 2 years old (about 3 years before kindergarten), you will have to play catch up and invest 1 hour every day.
  • If you wait until the year before kindergarten, you’ll need about 3 (yes, that’s THREE) hours of lap time every day for that entire year! Yikes!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that parents who haven’t invested any lap time in their child for the first four years are probably not going to invest 3 hours per day in that magical year before kindergarten. Starts to shed some light on why some kids are so unprepared to learn when they enter school.

So back to Read Aloud Dad… If a child needs 10,000 hours to become a best of the best reader, that could mean

1 hour of reading per day for 27 years

2 hours per day for 14 years

3 hours per day for 9 years

Double WOW!

I think the message here is START TODAY! Read aloud to your children no matter how old they are. And be a fabulous role model – let them see you reading books, newspapers, magazines, and online content.

You say you’re already doing this? Good for you!

Could you be doing more?

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Kids Want to Go to Space Camp? Try Smarty Pants!

Do your kids want to go to space camp, but you can’t fit it into your schedule or budget??

Are you worried about summer brain drain??

Smarty Pants Space Camps to the rescue!

Studies show that kids can lose up to 30% of their school skills over summer vacation, but Usborne’s new Space Explorer Camps will keep kids actively reading, writing and exploring up until the new school year begins and they will have FUN doing it!

These standards based programs are scaled for different age groups (pre-K through 6th grade) and include a series of challenges, missions and hands-on experiments for children to explore and solve collaboratively with friends and family.

Each camp kit includes a student lab notebook (see an excerpt) and a set of fiction and non-fiction books for reference, reading and exploration. Get the neighborhood kids together – the kits work with groups of all sizes.

It is hands-on-literacy fun that is perfect for the summer or for enrichment anytime. It is all the FUN of camp at your house!

Junior Astronaut Kit Junior Astronaut Kit (Pre K – 1st Grade) How High is the Sky?, On the Moon, Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon, First Encyclopedia of Space, Living in Space, 100 Science Experiments, Junior Astronaut Official Camp Notebook  order now »
Discovery Astronaut Camp Kit Discovery Astronaut Camp Kit (2nd – 3rd Grade) How High is the Sky?, Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon, Space, Living in Space, What’s Physics All About?, 100 Science Experiments, Discovery Astronaut Official Camp Notebook  order now »
Apollo Astronaut Camp Kit Apollo Astronaut Camp Kit (4th – 6th Grade) Science Encyclopedia, Story of Astronomy and Space, 100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky, What’s Physics All About?, 100 Science Experiments, Apollo Astronaut Official Camp Notebook  order now »
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Books are Good for You!

Quote for the day:

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

— Maya Angelou

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Raising Readers

Quote for the day:

“If you want to raise readers, you must provide them with books as soon as humanly possible. This is a parental obligation on par with vaccinations.”

– Deirdre Donahue, children’s book reviewer, USA Today 

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5 Ways to Get Books on the Cheap

The research says that books in the home can be just as important as having college-educated parents when predicting the future education level of a child. I believe that every family should have a library card (and use it often!) – and that children should have their own library cards when they reach an appropriate age. However, there is something special about owning books that you can enjoy over and over and writing your name in them. So how do we get more books in our homes to ensure that our children will develop a life-long love of learning?? Here are five inexpensive ways to build a home library for your children:

  1. Gifts and “hand-me-downs” from friends and family. Hint: Suggest books the next time someone asks what your child wants/needs for his birthday.
  2. Thrift stores and consignment shops often have inexpensive books for purchase.
  3. Used bookstores. Trade your unwanted books for children’s books.
  4. Library sales, rummage sales, and garage sales.
  5. If you want NEW books, consider hosting an Usborne Books & More show (online or in person) and get FREE books as host/hostess incentives! Better yet, join Usborne and get all your books at wholesale prices or less!

If you have other ideas for building a home library, I’d love to hear them!

Disclaimer: Yes, I am an Independent Educational Consultant for Usborne Books & More. And it is so much fun! Imagine what it might be like to earn additional income and vacations for your family plus have access to fabulous books at great prices, while also helping others, promoting literacy and meeting new friends. With Usborne, you can do fundraisers, grant-matching, bookfairs, reading incentive programs, home shows, direct sales, and so much more! Have you ever considered doing something like this? Email me or click here if you’d like more information.

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Value Education? Give Your Child Books!

Here is yet another article mentioning the link between books in the home and  increased education levels and improved socio-economic mobility. This has been a hot topic since May 2010 when an international study was published that showed that books in the home are as important as parents’ education level in determining the education level a child will attain. The research results indicated that as few as 20 books can make a difference, but the magic number is 500 books to be about equivalent to university-educated parents. So let’s see here… Say each book is about $7 on average x 500 books = $3,500. That is much less expensive than the university education I received! Not meaning to be flip here, but seriously… How can we get books in more homes and to the kids that really need them? Please share your ideas… I have some of my own that I’ll share in future posts. 🙂

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“Seasons” by Anne Crausaz

Hooray for Spring!! And Seasons by Anne Crausaz is a great way to experience the changing seasons.  Crausaz will have you and your children smelling, listening, tickling and tasting all through the spring, summer, autumn and fall. I love the simple, bold and colorful illustrations in this unique Kane Miller book from France.

Seasons

by Anne Crausaz
Recommended for ages 4 years and up (my 3 year old likes it!)

40 pp

Hardback $15.99

“With simple, poetic words and accessible, energetic images, this small, square, joyful picture book celebrates the five senses through the four seasons…The shelves of picture books about the seasons are crowded, but this one stands out for its direct invitation to children to notice and wonder about the changing natural world around them.” – Booklist Online (February 24, 2011)

“The simple, understated illustrations along with the descriptive prose give a rich, evocative earthy sense: smell the blossoms of spring and lay back in the tender young grass listening to the birds singing; in summer breathe in deeply and enjoy the aroma of fresh tomatoes on the vine and basil, pad barefoot in the rich garden soil…and so on through the seasons.” – Biblio Reads (February 24, 2011)

“ The graphically designed, flat-dimension illustrations are both attractive and subtly effective in pairing the senses with the seasons as the girl enjoys the special moments of nature year-round.” – Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011)

“The illustrations are a style unlike I have seen before – they are simple and yet the striking contrasts in color are beautiful. What a wonderful and unique look at the seasons!” – In the Pages… (February 15, 2011)

“Seasons is my Frederick at the moment, giving me wonderful memories of each of the four seasons.” – NC Teacher Stuff (February 2, 2011)

“Exuding an overall serenity, the book should have children seeking out the sights, smells, and sounds of the passing seasons.” – Publishers Weekly (January 17, 2011)

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More Reasons to Read Aloud

We read to children for all the same reasons we talk with children: to reassure, to entertain, to bond, to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity, to inspire. But in reading aloud, we also

Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
Create background knowledge
Build vocabulary
Provide a reading role model”

From the Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure. This line caught my attention. Isn’t it amazing how we are conditioned to enjoy certain things?? (Now if only I could condition myself to despise chocolate.) And isn’t it interesting how easy it is to fall into old habits – even when we think we’ve conditioned ourselves to enjoy new habits (regular exercise, for example, comes to my mind). So let’s all start our children on the right path and condition them to enjoy reading!

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Interactive Read Aloud – Quick Tips

I admit as a first time and busy parent (with zero experience around young children in my adult life) that I thought reading aloud was about getting through the story. Check! One more book finished! (Maybe it’s the engineer in me?)

Since I’ve been learning more about the importance of reading aloud and how to foster reading comprehension, I’ve made some easy tweaks to my read aloud methods over the past few months that have reaped big rewards. I can already tell that my kiddo is more engaged while we’re reading and more eager to read when we’re not. (“I want to read a book!” has become a common request.) Here are some quick tips from the experts that have helped me:

  • Talk about the book before reading it – especially the first time. Look at the illustrations on the cover, title page and back cover and ask what the book might be about. Then maybe  say “Hmmm…. I think this book might be about sea turtles. What do you think?”
  • Ask the child to turn the pages. This may seem like a “duh” suggestion, but I was interested to learn that my daughter didn’t even know when to turn the page and I still have to prompt her in many books. It is my understanding that the timing will eventually come naturally to the child.
  • Allow the child to finish lines. This works best with rhyming books and books that are familiar to your child. Start using this technique with his favorite books so that it will be easier for him to “get it right”. For example, “Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the…” [pause for child to say “clock”].
  • Ask questions throughout the story such as “What do you think will happen next?” and “Why do you think the fox did that?”
  • Define vocabulary words as you go. For example, “Canine is another word for dog.”
  • Discuss the story afterward and ask questions such as “What was your favorite part of the story?” and “Why did you like that story?” and “What would have happened if…?”

It’s OK if you don’t make it all the way through the story the first time or two. Pick the book up again tomorrow and you’ll breeze through the parts you already discussed. Another option is to just start incorporating one or two of the techniques until the timing feels right to add more. Sometimes I only use one or two and other times I use them all depending on which book were reading, how much time we have, and our moods.

Try these suggestions and I’ll bet your child will gain big dividends in vocabulary and reading comprehension. Have more tips?? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you…

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Top 5 Reasons to Read Aloud to Younger Children

There are oodles of reasons to read aloud, but these are the current top 5 reasons why I read aloud to my 2 year-old:

1. Bonding, quality time together – What better way to spend quality time with my kiddo than to snuggle up on the couch with a few great books and share my love of reading!

2. Calming effect when kids are climbing the walls – Anyone out there have an active child?? Oh yes, books are the great “calmer”. Reading aloud is especially useful before nap time and bed time or any other time when we need to reduce the energy level in the Miller household.

3. Expands basic knowledge of the world(s) – I have been amazed time and again at concepts that appear in children’s books that I either hadn’t thought to point out or discuss or that took the material to a new level of understanding. For example, I love On the Moon‘s real NASA photos (with cartoons added) that show Earth from the moon’s perspective. We’ve talked about the moon since Maddie was a baby, but how do you explain what it’s like on the moon without some visual aids?

On the Moon

4. Expands vocabulary, understanding of language – The beauty of books is that written language is more complex and varied than spoken language. Some self-reflection has made me realize that I tend to use the same sentences and phrases over and over again with my daughter – usually along the lines of “No! Stop that!”  I understand that a lot of repetition is necessary for kids to learn language, but it’s also a good idea to expand their horizons. And lucky day! Books can do that for us without us having to think too much.

5. Foster love of books, learning – I want my daughter to love books and learning as much as I do. ‘Nuff said.

If you read aloud to your children, what are your top reasons?? I’d like to know! Please leave a comment…

Stay tuned for more reasons to read aloud, how-tos, book reviews and whatever else I can think to write about… Read on!

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