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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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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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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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Conquer Reading Log Stress

My ideal family evening is a winter night, all of us snuggled on the couch with a good book. There’s a fire going and no one is in a hurry. Our bellies are full, the dishes are put away, lunches are made. When bedtime approaches, teeth are brushed, hugs and kisses are exchanged, and sleep comes quickly.

Our current reality looks nothing like that. Winter is the busiest time of the year for my family. Both of my kids are playing a sport (basketball) and both have a time-consuming hobby (robotics and horseback riding). Many evenings feel more like a carefully orchestrated circus than a cozy evening of calm. I take solace knowing that the rest of our year isn’t this busy, but that doesn’t help with the stress of the current moment. So when the topic of reading logs comes up, my first thought is, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Am I right?

As a teacher AND a mom, I urge you to trust your parenting instincts and opt for quality over quantity.

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Parents as Reading Role Models: Modeling Book Selection

One of the most eye-opening facts in Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report was that 91% of kids ages 6-17 said that their favorite books are the ones they’ve picked out for themselves and 90% said that they are more likely to finish a book that they have selected.

Here’s what we make of this: we, as parents and caregivers (along with educators) need to do a better job helping our kids learn to pick out books independently, so that they, in turn, will read, enjoy, and finish more books. How do we do this? Just like any valuable life lesson, the approach with the longest-lasting impact is modeling what we do as real readers ourselves. 

Would you send a young child out into the backyard with a baseball mitt and ball, and provide no explanation? Of course not. You’d show them how to put the mitt on, how to toss the ball, and you’d model throwing and catching.

Just like kids need to see you read, they also need to see how you decide what to read.

Easy Strategies for Modeling Book Selection to Your Kids

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Parents as Reading Role Models: How to Find the Time

One of the greatest things parents can do to influence their children as they grow up is to model the very behaviors and values they hope to instill in their children. Reading is one of the best examples of this: every study shows that children who see their parents reading and writing are more likely to engage in those activities as well. So we’re kicking off a series of posts about how parents can be the best reading rode models for their children.

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Never Have I Ever: Confessions from Real Parents and Teachers

Social media is full of perfect families, right? They sit down to a healthy meal each night, enjoy meaningful conversation, and then calmly tuck their children into bed. Is that what your house looks like? We’re usually scarfing down grilled cheese sandwiches as we run out the door to sports practices, my children laughing about burps and farts and me rolling my eyes. Sometimes bedtime is sweet and snuggly, and sometimes it looks like a game of whack-a-mole.

Despite our imperfections, we can all wake up each morning and try to do a little better than we did the day before. Sometimes we will, often we won’t.

We’ve always wanted this website to be a real reflection of real families and their day-to-day routine, and how reading can fit into that lifestyle in a manageable, enjoyable way. In that spirit, here are some confessions, both from the perspective of a parent trying to do her best, and a teacher acknowledging where she has fallen short.

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Books as Treats: Halloween-Inspired Book Recommendations and Reading Ideas for Every Age

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. Love the decorations, the thrill of deciding on and putting together costumes, the chatting with neighbors as we trick or treat. Hate the extreme sugar rush my kids come home from school with, come home from trick or treating with, and the fights over how much candy they can have each and every day after.

One way to alleviate a bit of the candy coma is by treating your children with books, and encouraging family (like those spoil-them-rotten grandparents!) to do the same. We typically get our kids a Halloween book each fall, or we’ll check out a stack from the library. Over the years, we’ve built a nice collection without ever spending more than $10-15 each October. It’s fun to read one or two each night in the week leading up, and sometimes for days after if we’re still in the spirit.

Books are a way to extend enjoyment of this holiday in a way that doesn’t give kids cavities.

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