This week is Children’s Book Week, an opportunity for parents, caregivers, and educators to reflect on how healthy reading habits are instilled in children. With so much competition from technology and well-marketed toys, reading often and unintentionally takes a back seat at home before we even know it. And while schools teach decoding and comprehension skills, the value of reading is learned at home.
A love of reading is a quality that needs to be planted at an early age and nurtured over time—true nurturing is what education really is about. When encouraged to interact with books from the start (and perhaps in an ideal world), children wouldn’t need to be coerced to read as much as they would need to be pressured to play video games. At the heart of my teaching and parenting educational philosophy, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the fact that parents and caregivers should constantly work towards inspiring a passion for reading in their children. One way to do so, is to help them bring the text to life (imagination and funny voices are welcome).
Books should be devoured in your home on a daily basis! This will look different depending on the age of your child. It will begin in the early stages with you doing all of the reading (I even placed books in the crib to develop a level of instinctual comfort). It will then transition to shared and choral reading. This is when you model appropriate reading style, as well as a love and passion for it. Finally, it will culminate with the grandest style of all…independent reading. This is when you have the satisfaction of your child doing something academically purposeful, creative, and restful, while you get to do whatever you want!
You should always have a variety of high interest books at your child’s fingertips, especially those in a series. That way if the first book is enjoyed, you know there are several other books that will soon be consumed by your hungry reader, often two or three times!
But remember, fluency is not your only goal. Regardless of the stage, you should be building comprehension skills. This can be done through simple questioning techniques that allow your child to thoughtfully consider what has been read. The questions should develop skills such as summarizing, predicting, analyzing, and connecting. I often hear from parents, “What if I haven’t read the book?”. I tell them not to worry because it is not perfect comprehension that matters, but rather the electrical connections (thinking patterns) in the brain that you are inspiring and training. Here are just a few examples:
- What do you think is going to happen next in the story? Why?
- What’s the problem that the main character is facing? How do you think he/she will solve it?
- What has been your favorite/least favorite part? Why?
- How would you end the story if the author asked you?
- What lessons have you learned from the story?
As I’m sure you can see, these questions can be applied to any story at any level. I would also like to highlight the use of the Why and How questioning techniques. This is where true critical thinking exists. Your child should do much more than recite facts, but also make his or her own decisions, realizations, and assumptions about what they are discovering, whether in a book or the real world.
So maybe your child already is a voracious reader and you also consistently ask comprehension questions…so now what? It’s time to bring the text to life. To do so, we have to allow our children to make connections between what they read and what they experience. There are three types of connections regarding literacy:
Text to Text – Connecting what is read to something else that has been read. (“I remember reading about whales in my science textbook!”)
Text to World – Connecting what is read to something that is known about the real world. (“The reason why the main character needed a better jacket is because it is really cold in the Arctic.”)
Text to Self – Most importantly, connecting what is read to own life experiences. (“The dinosaur in the story is an Allosaurus, just like the one we learned about in the museum!” or “Wow, I found an igneous rock on our nature walk like the one in my volcano book!”)
So what does this mean? As parents, we should try to increase the opportunities for our children to consistently experience all three literary connections. The first is the easiest: the more books that are read, the more Text to Text connections that are exponentially possible. Text to World connections can be fostered through books, school, educational multimedia (yes, even appropriate television), the supervised Internet, intellectual discussions, and any other method that our children can learn about the world around them. Lastly, Text to Self is where true learning, the most fun, and the best parenting exist. You should try to expose your children to as many different life experiences as possible. Sure, this can mean vacations to new places to discover diverse cultures or our natural world, but there are many opportunities to broaden your child’s horizon without having to break the budget.
As a father of three on a tight budget, I have become quite the master at finding unique, yet free, weekend activities around our city. It begins with taking advantage of local libraries, parks, museums, nature trails, etc…but that can get old quick. For a little variety I scan city and community newspapers, local parenting magazines, even the AAA magazine, all of which have monthly calendars listing events that are taking place on particular weekends. Depending on the time of year, we visit cultural fairs, harvest festivals, music celebrations, science exhibitions, conventions, children’s days, you name it!
Not only do my boys have the opportunity to experience things they have never seen before, often sparking an academic curiosity for further exploration (time for a trip to the library!), but it has also helped them become more tolerant, understanding, and ethical human beings. We’ve been to Native American powwows, African dance performances, Hawaiian cultural events, Jewish children celebrations, Mexican-American parades, Japanese Taiko drumming exhibitions (we even got on stage to try them out!), pumpkin and strawberry harvests, and the list goes on and on. We’ve been on nature trails and hikes all around our city to discover insects, plants, and rock formations. We’ve caught (and released) lizards, tarantulas, countless bugs, and have collected samples of rocks, bark, leaves, seeds, and flowers (while always on the lookout for litter).
All of these activities have produced children who have a greater respect for nature and their community. They can read all the books in the world, and I hope they make a valid attempt, but it is the development of their character that makes me most proud. So whether your child attends a private school, a local public school, or is even home-schooled, your opportunity to shape intellectual curiosity, positive values, and strong character should begin in a book…and end with you.
~ Tim Benson
Tim Benson, M.Ed., is the Director of Tutoring Services for Launch Education Group (www.launcheducation.com and www.facebook.com/launcheducation) which specializes in high level academic support, mentorship, and test prep tutoring for students of all ages and needs. An educator and lifelong learner, he spent ten years with the Los Angeles Unified School District as a teacher, coordinator and administrator before entering the world of academic support. In his rare spare time, Tim enjoys anything to do with sports, nature, and science…and sharing these loves with his wife and three boys, even when they don’t want him to.
You've heard me say it more than once, I always have a closet full of nothing to wear. Why? Because no matter how hard I try to reclaim my pre-baby body, it ain't gonna happen. Even if I were to get down to my, cough, college B.L.D. (before Little Dude) weight, my body shape is just. so. different. Thankfully, stylist Robin Saperstein of High Heel in A Haystack is here to help solve most mom's sartorial problems.
How much easier would it be to get dressed in the morning if you knew exactly what pieces work best for your individual shape? Imagine trusting your own opinion, rather than relying on a friend to partially tell you the truth (mainly because they don't want to hurt your feelings). Well I am here to help you get a better understanding of your your body shape, as well as what types of clothing flatter it. There are four different shapes: Pear, Apple, Hourglass and Ruler. Stand in front of a mirror (preferably in your bra and underwear) and ask yourself the following:
Are you a Pear? Your upper body is smaller than your lower body. You typically have a flatter stomach and when you gain weight most of it goes to your hips and thighs. You have narrow shoulders, small to medium bust, a defined waist, curvier hips, thighs and butt. The best pieces for your body: wrap dresses, A-line skirts, fitted tops, V-necks, darker bottoms, clean pants or jeans with no extra pockets or zippers, boot cut or slightly flared leg, push-up bras and chunkier statement necklaces. Absolutely avoid the following: tapered pants, back pocket flaps, patterned or light colored pants, pencil skirts. Some celebrity Pears: Beyoncé and Claire Danes.
Are you an Apple? Your upper body is larger than your lower body. You gain weight in your waistline. You generally have broad shoulders, fuller waist, narrow hips, flat tush and thin shapely legs. The best pieces for your body: Looser tops, Skinny jeans, bootcut pants or jeans, mini skirts or shorts to show off your shapely legs, low slung belts, brighter colors on the bottom and darker colors on top. Avoid the following: low-cut tops, bright patterns above the waist, pleated pants, shoulder pads. Some celebrity Apples: Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie.
Are you an Hourglass? You are curvy with a clearly defined waist. If you gain weight, it would distribute evenly. You have symmetrical shoulders and hips, shapely bust, medium to broad hips (that are proportionate with shoulders), shapely legs. Best pieces for your body: V-neck tops to lengthen your upper body, flared, skinny, or bootcut jeans or pants, tops to accentuate your defined waist. Avoid wearing: baggy clothes and short skirts because they will make you look rounder. Celeb Hourglass: Salma Hayek and Halle Berry.
Are you a Ruler (or Rectangle)? Your figure is straight up and down, you are slim/athletic. If you were to gain weight, it would distribute evenly throughout your frame. You have an average bust, undefined waist, great legs and arms, undefined curves. Best looks: scoop or V-neck tops, push-up bras, jackets with a cinched waist, jeans with back pocket flats, drop waist and A-line skirts. Try to avoid: fitted blouses and high necklines. Ruler Celebs: Kate Hudson and Kate Moss.
Robin would love to offer Salt & Nectar readers a discount on her services. If you mention Salt & Nectar when booking an appointment, you'll get a 10% discount on one of her styling packages.
~ Robin Saperstein of High Heel in a Haystack
Robin is a former clothing designer turned stylist who has worked with many entertainment industry clients including some of Hollywood’s well-known moms like Denise Richards and Ali Landry. With a range of clients from celeb moms to directors, doctors, lawyers, CEOs and stay-at-home moms, her intuitve sense of style and sophisticated eye help find the perfect pieces for your wardrobe. She strives to help you find items that flatter your individual body type, lifestyle and personality so that you are able to step out with self-assurance knowing you look fantastic! The ‘High Heel in a Haystack’ motto is to “help enhance and express individual style with confidence.”
For more fashion tips, follow Robin on Twitter.
Celebrity images provided by Robin Saperstein.
When I moved from DC to LA with a ten-month baby in tow and no established mommy tribe to boot, I turned to mommy-and-me classes and local play spaces in an effort to be social and start building a community. But honestly, I quickly gave up on this idea because I never found a place that satisfied my desire for a one-stop family shop (not to mention I would’ve hated to drive zigzags all over this geographically expansive city just to go to music, gym, art, and soccer classes as my son turned into a toddler). Thankfully, I don’t have to look any further or worry about all the wear and tear on my car because Christy Desai must have divined what I was looking for in a kids’ space.
This week Christy opens the doors to Kidville Brentwood, an internationally recognized children’s facility for the six and under set, and the first of its kind in Los Angeles. When she arrived to California by way of Kansas City and New York, Christy soon found that she missed the convenience and quality of the Kidville classes and preschool alternative that her daughter once enjoyed when living in NYC. Because nothing of this caliber existed in LA, Christy saw it as an opportunity and thought Kidville would be a great complement to busy parents’ lives.
Of course, parents have many play space options to choose from in LA. But when asked what makes Kidville different than the rest, Christy explains that it is a one-stop-shop for baby and toddler classes, camps, birthday parties, retail shopping, and even hair styling at its in-house salon! And above all else, Kidville’s mission is about enrichment. “You enjoy classes for a semester and build consistency and community with a set group of children, parents, and teachers,” she says. We say, thank you.
Whether you enroll long term or drop in on classes, there’s certainly something for everyone—Rockin’ Railroad, Run Wiggle Paint & Giggle, My Big Messy Art Class, Big Muscles for Little Babies, Kidville Gymnasts, Kidville Sports—many of which feature a literacy component too. Beyond weekly classes, Kidville also offers a great preschool alternative geared toward 2 to 3 year olds. The Kidville University (KVU) program is based on early childhood education curriculum that promotes gradual separation and independence from the caregiver. In this part-time program, students lead the learning process and direct classroom content so it’s not only normal for a lesson in farm animals to lead to another about cooking or even outer space, but it’s encouraged. Perfect for toddlers and their curious minds!
We’re excited to have Kidville in the neighborhood.
Our kids are excited.
And so is Christy!
She gushes, “I’m most looking forward to Kidville being a community hub for families. Parents can meet for playdates, moms can makes friends in classes, and kids can be dropped off for free play while moms get a blow out at the nearby Drybar. It’s really a place where kids can indulge in all the things that kids want to do in a safe, clean environment.” And like any proud mom, she continues, “At Kidville, we get to experience the firsts, the milestones of kids along with them…walking, discovering they can do something new, making friends…it’s wonderful.”
Clearly, opening Kidville Brentwood is a labor of love for this mompreneur who took a leap of faith, moved out of her comfort zone, sought help when needed, and worked long hours to make it happen. But as Christy lets us know, the stress of starting and running a new business didn’t faze her because it pales in comparison when her primary concern is her children’s well being. “As scary, overwhelming, or exciting as it may be at times, it’s all okay if my kids are happy,” relates Christy. And for those really hectic days? She copes by enjoying a self-proclaimed boring night at the movies with popcorn, M&Ms, a Coke, and her husband or a girls’ night out dinner at Sugarfish. Sounds like mommy bliss to us!
Because Christy believes experiencing Kidville is the key to understanding its many components, she invites you to the following grand opening events:
- Saturday, May 12: 9:00 am to 2:00 pm (Rockin’ Railroad concert at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm)
- Saturday, May 19: Noon to 3:00 pm (Rockin’ Railroad concert at 1:00 pm)
- Sunday, May 20: Noon to 3:00 pm
- Free trial classes offered the week of May 14
Kidville Brentwood Giveaway
This giveaway is now closed.
Congrats to Anny (Comment #13), you were selected as the winner!
In celebration of its grand opening, Kidville Brentwood is also offering one LA-based Salt & Nectar reader a class of his or her choice for a semester! The giveaway prize includes:
- One 45-minute class for one full semester
- One silver membership to Kidville (If applicable for semester of enrollment)
- Cannot be redeemed for cash
- Redeem by Fall Semester 2012
To enter, leave a comment below telling us which class you'd most like to try with your child. (Please use the e-mail field provided, so we can contact the winner).
As always, we will use Random.org to select the winners. The contest will run from today until next Thursday, May 17th at 12AM PST.
No purchase is necessary. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received (duplicate entries will be deleted and only one will be counted). This giveaway is open to Los Angeles-area residents 18 and older only.
To learn more about Kidville, follow it on Facebook.
Neither Sarah nor Salt & Nectar were paid to write this interview or host this giveaway
~ The Other Sarah
Few subjects in parenting are as controversial as parenting books. Some hate them. Some love them. Some passionately support a particular book and some passionately despise another.
Honestly, I don't quite understand those who refuse to read them all together. More information is always a good thing in my opinion so I scarfed down as much parenting advice as I could take before I had Griffin. If I'm being honest, I only read books that already aligned with the pre-conceived visions I had of the mother I wanted to be. I read a lot about attachment parenting. I read a lot about breastfeeding. I even read about elimination communication.
I might not have even stumbled upon my favorite parenting book but for one simple fact - all my friends kept recommending it. Mothers I respected. Mothers who seemed in control and in love with mothering itself all recommended one book.
Over and over, I would encounter parents who spoke of Dr. Karp's technique with an almost reverent tone. They would recite the Five S's with ease and say one thing over and over again.
I had heard of the book as a solution to colic but when I sat down to read it, I found that Dr. Karp's approach made sense to me on a much deeper level. His basic philosophy is that newborns and young infants (up to about 3 months of age) are basically fetuses and therefore are deeply comforted by replicating the fetal environment. The Five S's do that with swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking.
Beyond that, I just remember feeling like the central message of his book was "Soothe that baby!" (maybe that should be the sixth S). I also felt as though he was giving me permission to do what every cell in my body was already telling me to do. Soothe my baby and end his crying.
So often parenting books seem to be about making parents feel guilty for following our most basic instincts. We are told we are giving in and spoiling. However, Dr. Karp argues that confident children become that way when their needs (not every want) are met. And while I'm not willing to give Dr. Karp all the credit, I do think my children are happy and (relatively) well-behaved. In fact, the question I most often get when I'm out with Amos and Griffin is "Are they always this happy!?!"
I've kept a few other books on my shelf. I love The Baby Book by Dr. Sears for reference and of course, I have The Happiest Toddler on the Block (which I also swear by!) but the book I recommend over and over again to expecting friends is this one.
Maybe next I'll tell you about the parenting book I wish was never written.
~ Sarah Stewart Holland