The Gift of Reading and Wellness

May was a busy blur of book talks and presentations. While they’re still happening virtually, life does seem to be opening up. Hopefully, soon more of these will happen in person!

One of my favorite audiences to speak to are the parents of young children. Earlier this month I had a great time visiting and sharing with my friend and former colleague Ji Wang’s Saturday morning PTA Wellness group at the elementary school where she is principal. The sign above hangs on the fence right next to their parent drop off/pick-up circle. How clever is that?

Here’s a quick excerpt from my presentation:

If you’re interested in setting up a presentation, book talk, or class for your school or parenting group, I’d love to hear from you! Soon-to-be and new parents, it’s never too early to learn about one of the greatest gifts you’ll every give your child.

Too Cool for School No More

Tweaks Parents Can Make to Help Their Struggling Readers

My fifth grade students were just settling into our literature and writing class one day when Sammy slipped out of his seat, walked up to my standing desk, stuck this post-it onto the surface right next to my computer, and without a word, turned and sat down again.

Nothing could have surprised me more. Or warmed my heart more. Sammy had begun the year doing everything he could to remain invisible and detached. Lack of engagement, almost zero class participation, little homework completion. I knew he felt vulnerable as his skills were poor.

But somewhere along the way, he experienced a turn-around. Had my class suddenly become more engaging? My teaching more inspiring? It would have been gratifying to think I’d made such a difference, but I knew that wasn’t it.

Something else had made a difference though. Here’s the story of what happened.

Many thanks to Don Winn, leading dyslexia expert and award-winning author, for inviting me to share this story.

Hope for the Struggling Reader

Parents, you are more powerful than you know…

Did you know that according to the latest NAEP—our nation’s report card that tests students in fourth and eighth grade every two years—65% of fourth graders and 66% of eighth graders in the United States did not perform as proficient readers? (NAEP 2019)

Equally as concerning, research tells us that 75% of students who do not read on grade level by third grade will never catch up. (Children’s Reading Foundation)

Why is it that 3 out of 4 students will remain behind? And what is happening with students in the 25% who do manage to make gains and become proficient readers?

Observations I’ve made in over three decades teaching elementary school children convince me that there is one variable that’s most powerful and effective in moving children into reading success.

In our latest conversation, author and dyslexia expert Don Winn and I discuss these issues: why children struggle and how they can be helped.

Stories as Sanctuary During Times of Stress

Plus: How Reading to Your Child Literally Builds an Internal Infrastructure in the Brain that Becomes the Foundation for All Learning

Part Two of My Interview with Author Don Winn

We discuss how stories can be a sanctuary for your child and you, particularly during difficult times…and what it means to build your child’s “invisible toolbox.”

If you prefer to watch instead of read, scroll down to the full interview, “The Power of Stories During Difficult Times,” posted December 2020.

Connection. Escape. Imagination. Calm.

Part One of “The Power of Stories During Difficult Times:” My Conversation with Author Don Winn

Last month author Don Winn hosted a chat with me about the comfort reading can bring to children (and the rest of us) particularly during hard times. 2020 may be in the rearview mirror, but our challenges don’t seem to be letting up just yet. A daily dive into a good book with your child can be just the thing to bring you both comfort—and pay longterm dividends.

Here’s the video interview you can watch again or, if you prefer, read.

The Power of Stories During Difficult Times

A Zoom Interview

Author Don Winn invited me to join him for a discussion recently. Have a watch to learn about…

  • the power of literature to comfort and connect us
  • the brain science behind what we experience when we read
  • how to encourage your child to become a lifelong reader
  • what the phrase “The Invisible Toolbox” actually means
  • why I was inspired to write the book

Hope you enjoy!

Buy The Invisible Toolbox: The Power of Reading to Your Child from Birth to Adolescence now:

Escape through Reading

As the stressors of 2020 continue to increase—COVID-19, distance learning, an election, and a brutal fire season—filling our children’s and our own need for a daily space of respite is vital…

It’s more important than ever for (our children) to spend a part of their day lost in the pages of a good book.

LA Parent Magazine, November 2020

I had no idea, when I wrote “Escape through Reading” for the current issue of LA Parent Magazine last month, how deeply the truth of it would resonate this past week.

As my homeroom checked in via Zoom during morning meeting last week, fires were raging nearby and the tension and anxiety my fifth graders were feeling was palpable. One student and her family had evacuated their home at dawn, and so she joined our class from a hotel. Other students’ families were packing essentials and awaiting possible evacuation orders.

Fortunately, this is a group that feels safe with one another, so they could talk about what was happening and express their feelings fairly openly.

I don’t think I ever felt so grateful for the subject I teach as I did that day. The plan that morning was to finish reading a chapter together from the John D. Fitzgerald novel The Great Brain in which Tom, the novel’s title bearer, hatches a plot to get the harsh new teacher fired by framing him as a secret drinker. Talk about a great escape.

It was a relief for all of us, I think, to disappear into small town Utah of the 1890s to find out whether Tom could pull off his outrageous caper. He always seems to show the adults what’s what, which, of course, the kids love.

Diving into the story we learned that life wasn’t necessarily easy for kids back in the 19th century either. You’d have attended a one-room schoolhouse with kids of all ages and, if you got into trouble the teacher would paddle you—right in front of everybody! And so we rooted for this audacious and brilliant ten-year old hero who never fails to entertain and astonish us.

For a brief time we were transported far from our own troubling reality and enjoyed a respite from the fires, the virus, and even the distance that separates us.

What I’ve been reminded of again and again during this season of remote learning is that shared literature has the power to bring comfort and bridge the gap. It not only provides a welcome oasis from our current difficulties, but it also makes possible a sense of connection among us, even through Zoom.

Check out the November issue of LAParent Magazine on page 12 for my article “Escape through Reading”…5 tips for creating a shared reading experience in your family that will provide a powerful buffer through these challenging days.

Words Alive! Authors Auction

Book talk on THE INVISIBLE TOOLBOX is up for auction!

“Bid on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to bring acclaimed and engaging authors on virtual visits to all the places that readers gather in your life!

Look for opportunities for facilitated discussions, readings, workshops, and demonstrations by a remarkable collection of authors to enrich your next book club, family gathering, or loved one’s classroom!”

Words Alive, a San Diego literacy nonprofit, connects children, teens, and families to the power of reading.

In support of their important work promoting literacy, I’m thrilled to offer a book talk on The Invisible Toolbox: The Power of Reading to Your Child from Birth to Adolescence. Find out why reading to your child is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give.

Because my talk will take place over Zoom, anyone can bid via silent auction.

Bid now and throughout the month of October and enrich your book club, classroom, or parenting group with a book talk on The Invisible Toolbox. Learn why reading to your child is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give!

Over 40 authors and their work are represented this year in Words Alive’s annual fundraiser. I have to admit I’m fangeeking out a bit to be in such awesome company. Check them all out at the link below.

http://www.wordsalive.org/authors2020

Thank you for supporting literacy!

Why Reading to Your Child Matters Now More Than Ever

Originally printed in L.A. Parent Magazine, September 2020

In this highly digitized climate of remote learning, reading to your child matters now more than ever. Check out my article in the September issue of L.A. Parent to find out why. Follow the link below.

https://www.laparent.com