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3 Books for Parents to Read in 2020

I like change.

I like anticipation. 

I like thinking about the year 2020 and all its possibility. 

The keeping of New Year’s resolutions have traditionally not gone well for me (i.e., not ever worked). However, I’ve spent the last few months tucking away ideas to construct a vision for 2020 by reading books that target core areas in my life that I’m hoping to improve upon in the new year.  If you’re hoping to do the same, I have three book for parents to read in 2020.

Perhaps best of all, these books will help you model for your children how to find more balance in your life, and that includes making time for reading.

Indistractable by Nir Eyal

Description: In today’s digital age of dings, beeps, and instant gratification, getting distracted is inevitable. Nir Eyal breaks down the problem we face and helps the reader put a plan in place to find traction, not distraction. 

How Indistractable helped shape my 2020 vision: 

  • Designate times for social media scrolling, reading, writing, and lesson planning
  • Protect time most evenings for family reading
  • Establish family food budget guidelines to encourage less waste and fewer meals out

Choose the Life You Want by Tal Ben-Shahar

Description: Tal Ben-Shahar lists 101 choices we often have each day that are worth noticing. After describing each choice, he shares a short story illustrating the power each choice can contribute to our lives. 

How Choose the Life You Want helped shape my 2020 vision: 

  • I can choose to complain about the low teacher pay in Indiana or I can choose to write, march, and be a voice. I can choose to answer emails when my students are occupied or I can engage them in conversation about their book selections. I can choose to attack my reading list while my own kids use their allotted screen time for the day or I can get on the treadmill. My vision includes more awareness of the role of my choices. 
  • My 2020 vision includes students in our school library that exercise the power of choice in book selection, but with an increased focus on using these choices to create more happiness in their lives. The right words at the right times can prove to be armor when we need protection. 
  • My poor decisions often happen in that split second after someone asks me a question. This book taught me to change my language. Instead of having to make a decision, I will choose to simply state that I don’t drink soda, for example, when offered one. 

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Description: Greg McKeown breaks down what we all know deep down and don’t often care to admit it: the more we try to do it all the more we feel dissatisfied and don’t perform well. 

How Essentialism helped shape my 2020 vision: If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one book, this is it. I’ve read it 3 times. I want to read it again as soon as I finish it.  It’s a reminder to slow down and think through how a decision will impact my ability to do the work that matters most to the best of my ability.  

What does your 2020 vision look like? I’d love to hear! 

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

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Book Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Over the course of my adult years, I’ve dipped in and out of a few book clubs. One of the reasons I love participating in book clubs is that it inevitably inspires me to read books I might not otherwise select myself. Such is the case with Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together. I typically enjoy reading young adult books, but I’m not sure I would have stumbled upon this title without the encouragement of my book club.

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Fact vs. Fiction: Learning What’s Real and What’s Not Through Reading

I was a journalism major, graduating in 2002. Thousands of miles away, at the exact moment I was practicing how to craft compelling, accurate newspaper headlines and write engaging magazine articles, Mark Zuckerberg was inventing Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard and changing how we get our news forever. I often wonder how drastically different my journalism education would be if I was a student now and not pre-social media.

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Why You Need Books to Like Books

If our readers take anything away from this website, we hope it’s the importance of access to books. We’ve written about it from various angles over the past year, like this post about placing books around your home, or this post about letting children choose their own books. Let’s approach book access from a viewpoint that might make some uncomfortable: privilege.

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Family Favorite Reads from 2018-2019

The 2018-2019 school year is in officially in the books for our part of the country and nearing the end for most everyone else. As classroom teachers helped kids collect memories for yearbooks and best of lists, we wondered what books members of our families will remember most. And be sure you’re following us on social media this summer: we’ve taken the #bookaday challenge and we’re sharing book recommendations each and every day! (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)

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Tips for Making Spelling Practice Easier

It’s always around late April and May when our after school homework routine starts getting more than a little unruly. Motivation is lacking and warmer weather outside beckons. Practicing spelling week after week is high on the list of boring, routine tasks for my kids… dare I say most kids?

We can debate the merits of assigning weekly spelling lists, but the reality is it is still prevalent as a common assignment. (We don’t mean to be dismissive of spelling altogether; there are studies that suggest that as students’ spelling improves, so does their reading and writing skills.)

Keep these three words in mind as you help your child work through spelling: manageable, personal, and fun.

Practicing spelling shouldn’t take hours and it certainly need not look like a Pinterest project. I did a quick search and was astonished at the complexity of some spelling activities floating around out there on the internet. Yikes. For my family, half the battle is finding the time, so don’t get bogged down by anything complicated.

Here are some simple ideas to take the drudgery out of spelling practice.  

Make Spelling Manageable

Focus on the words they struggle with. There will likely be words on the weekly list that they are already spelling confidently. Don’t feel obligated to keep drilling your child on those words!

Work on a few words each day instead of all the words the night before. This is especially important if your child struggles with focus and attention span (what kid doesn’t struggle with that after a long day at school?) Try making it a small part of your daily routine. A few examples:

  • Every morning at breakfast, go over 5 words while you slurp cereal or wait for the toast to pop up.
  • Write the tricky words on the bathroom mirror so children see them while brushing their teeth.
  • Keep a copy of the list in your car, and go over words while you wait in the drive thru, sit through siblings’ sports practices, or as you run errands.

Make Spelling Personal

Customize your study habits around their preferences. For example, my first grader hates to write, so we usually practice his spelling words out loud. My fourth grader struggles to spell his longer words out loud, so he always writes them out.

Allow open book practice. To be a great speller, repetition is the most important component. Let your child copy the words straight off the list, especially at first when they’re seeing them for the first time.

If giving your child a bunch of practice tests isn’t working well or you just need to mix up the routine, let your child quiz you. Have them grade you. They won’t even realize they’re “studying” the words by doing so.

Make Spelling Fun

Try plugging the weekly list into a crossword or word search puzzle generator (there are lots of free options online). Older children can probably do this themselves!

Test out some spelling apps. Your child’s teacher may already be using tools like this. Ask if your child can sign in from home for extra practice.

Use manipulatives, like letter blocks, or allow your child to type the words on a keyboard.

If they’re struggling with a particular word or letter pattern, teach them little tricks to master it, like silly songs or rhymes.

How do you practice spelling words with your child? Leave us a comment and let us know what works well in your house!


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Bedtime Reading: Common Struggles and Simple Solutions

We love getting feedback and questions from you, our readers. One of the hottest topics in our inbox and on our social media channels is about bedtime reading routines. Not surprising, as it’s one of those staples from childhood that has stood the test of time, from generation to generation. I imagine (perhaps naively) families gathered around candlelight reading aloud together from treasured books centuries ago, and I know many parents still make reading together at night before bed a daily priority, even in the era of screens.

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Advice for Handling Disappointing Test Results

My Child Didn’t Pass the State-Mandated 3rd Grade Reading Test. Now What?

Do you live in a state with a mandatory 3rd grade reading test (in Indiana, it’s called the IREAD-3)? More and more states are requiring a test to address reading proficiency in 3rd grade. Here is a map of the states and their stance on these tests from The National Conference on State LegislatorsWhile research tells us there are mixed reviews on the benefits of these reading tests, many states now require it. It began with the idea that by 3rd grade, students need to “read to learn” and have moved past “learning to read.”

Features of a typical mandatory 3rd grade reading test: Read More

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Book Review: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My 9-year-old son recently asked me, “what’s the name of the genre of books that are about people who have had difficult lives?” He had just finished the book “Wish,” by Barbara O’Connor and was doing some self-reflection as far as what to read next. The writer nerd in me loved that he was making the connection between books like “Wish,” “Wonder,” etc., with some of the interesting biographies he’s read (like the Who Was series and the True Tales of Childhood series). The next book I’m going to suggest he read? “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I don’t think there is a named genre as my son described it, but this book certainly fits his interest in this type of main character.

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Parents as Reading Role Models: Eliminating Distractions and Building Stamina

This is the third and final installment of our series Parents as Reading Role Models (Part 1 and Part 2, if you are catching up). Let’s talk openly and honestly about all of the distractions in our lives and how they often prevent us from modeling good reading behaviors for our kids. Whether you’re the parent or caregiver of a newborn or a teenager, it’s so easy to become distracted by dings, vibrations, and alerts. We are very guilty of this ourselves. Flip on CNN and you’ll see 4 scrolling bars at the bottom of the screen, as if our bodies were built to absorb a constant stream of stimuli. Newsflash? They’re not.

Tips For Building Reading Stamina and Eliminating Distractions

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