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Toddlers Love Reading Too!

Toddlers Love Reading Too!

It’s almost the end of a year.  Well, school year that is. In just 7 days, I will wrap up a school-year long journey with my sweet third graders.  They’ve grown.  In many, many ways.  They’ve grown taller.  They’ve grown smarter and wiser and they’ve grown in their reading--many of them by leaps and bounds.  It is so satisfying to watch and hear their growth in reading.  Makes my heart happy.  I venture to say that much of their growth has come from reading and reading and reading...a lot. 

And I remember during the year that I told many parents at parent teacher conferences:  “Don’t stop reading with your child.”   I told them that they are the best model for building expression, rate, and fluency.  Wait.  What?  These kids are 8 years old – some of them 9 years old.  They don’t need someone reading to them.  Oh – yes, they do.  Yes, they do.

Reading fluency begins at a very early age.  My husband and I read to our girls every night.  I can even remember reading Goodnight Moon and reaching the part in the story where the bunny is saying goodnight to everything in the room.  He reaches the part where he says, “And the quiet, old lady was whispering – hush.”  We had read that story so many times that our girls would always finish that line by saying, “hush.”  It was so cute! It was profound! They were only toddlers on our lap and yet fully aware of when that line was coming.  Every time they would finish it.  They were reading!

I found a great site that talks about the benefits of reading to your toddler.  I love what the writer has to say, because every single point is spot on.  I can tell you from a teacher’s perspective that the kids who have been read to and who read are ahead of the curve in spelling, language, and comprehension.  Their mental schema – the files in their brain – is more vast simply because they have been exposed to more things.  More pictures – more words – more language -  more scenarios – just more and it builds their little computer files.  Reading has a profound way of doing just that.  Expanding the base of knowledge.  And believe me – that’s a good, good thing.

Enjoy reading the site about 7 Benefits of Reading to Your Toddler

http://www.babble.com/toddler/7-benefits-of-reading-to-your-toddler/

Until next time, some food for thought:

"The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand the joy the material."

 

--Charles Clark, "Building Fluency: Do it Right and Do it well!" (1999)

It's a Date! (with my baby)

It's a Date! (with my baby)

This past week I tried something new as a mother—scheduling dates with my toddler. This may seem silly or redundant since we’re together so often, and quite literally attached. She’s wrapped around my legs in the restroom; she’s pulling out the dishes I just stuck in the dishwasher. Her fingers splay across my cheek while we sleep beside each other. We’re the epitome of attachment parenting.


But, here’s the catch: she’s attached to me, and therefore to my adult existence. My daily routine consists of bills and writing and scraping up the messes left by this tiny human and her furry siblings—and she is glued to this daily ride. But it’s my ride, my to-do list. What about her day? Sure, her basic needs are met—I mean, we even have two lunches now!—but childhood isn’t simply built on bare sustenance and survival. It’s supposed to be built on magic and discovery and the pure awe that only exists during this fleeting stage of life.


That’s why I started scheduling us dates. The goal is one date for each day that I’m home—that’s a minimum of four dates per week. This last week we successfully had three. There was the park, where we marveled at fuzzy ducklings, squealed on the swing, and smeared dirt and sawdust all over ourselves and the metal slide. She giggled until she could barely breathe. The second date was a local indoor playground. I cheered when she slid down the plastic slide without my help. She befriended other minis. Our third date happened without ever leaving the house. We played with buckets of blocks and wooden puzzles and read her favorite stories without hesitation. And I ignored the dishes, the litterbox, the paragraphs I wanted (needed) to write. This was her time. Her childhood.


Baby dates don’t need to be extravagant events, they just have to be focused on the child. This means dedicating an hour or two to something that they will enjoy, like the simple act of playing with toys. Sometimes it’s easier to go elsewhere, to get out of the home and office to truly separate from adult responsibilities. Parks are a perfect setting for a baby date--no computer or vacuum cleaners there! During these dates, put away that phone. Because they are baby dates. They aren't simply a new interpretation of distractions for efficiently completing an adult’s to-do list; you know what I mean—the colorful pile of toys that you hope will occupy your child so you can get just a few more tasks accomplished. Those aren't baby dates.


It’s a relief to push away adult anxiety and relish life through the eyes of a small child—and not just for her. Here’s a secret: parents benefit from these dates, too. Everyone thrives off play and laughter and a brief abandonment of the mundane. After our dates, I come back to adult life with a vigor I’d stifled with stress. I’m more creative, energized, and thankful for what I have. And, my daughter? She’s smiling, relaxed, and more likely to let me distract her so I can get stuff done.


Take that little one’s childhood off the back burner. Replace it with all that other adult stuff that can wait for an hour or two.



HOW TO LISTEN TO A CHILD

HOW TO LISTEN TO A CHILD

Really listening to someone is hard.  Sound is always in the air around us, and because most of us are able to hear it, we think we know how to listen, simply because we have ears.  That is categorically untrue.

Most of us grow up not knowing how to listen.  Active listening is a skill that takes practice to master, and there is no more important reason and way to practice than listening to our kids.

Our children need us to listen to them.  They are emotional sponges who soak in all the attention we can bestow upon them.  A bonus for us is that they are often our best teachers.  When we listen to them they let us know if they are alright, what they need, and if their world is working for their growth and wellbeing.  What they say with words and sounds it very important for us to hear.  And you don’t want to miss out on your child’s words.  So often they are funny and entertaining, as well as wise beyond their years.


There are endless tasks for parents, and because of that, listening to your child takes time and planning.  According to the American Counseling Association, attention and focus are crucial, and the main skills to master for active listening to be successful. You can hear when you’re making lunches or helping a child get dressed for the day, but brain research tells us that we are not actually very good at multi-tasking…even when we think we are.  We are usually hearing at these times, but not listening.


Your child needs to see your eyes, needs to see that he is important enough to capture all of your attention, at least once every day.  Our children need us to bend, kneel or sit down on their level for good, positive communication to have a chance.  Many parents and grandparents do this at bedtime, when the work of the day is done and it is quiet.  Sitting together in a chair or on a bed with a story in your laps is a wonderful time to focus on the child.   She will feel important to you and worthy.  (If the story is about them, as the StorieChild books are, that’s even better!)


Listen to your children.  If you do that daily, they will be happier and healthier, and you will be more successful at creating a loving environment at home and in the world you are creating together.


--Ann

Ann Sparling White, MS, LPC, NCC, is a Family and Children’s Professional Counselor and has worked with children for over 30 years.