Bite-Sized Reading Resolutions with Oversized Results

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New Year’s resolutions have their ups and downs. They are as easy to break as they are to make. For this reason, more and more people prefer to shy away from making them rather than deal with the disappointments of breaking them.

This is especially true when it comes to reading resolutions. We can certainly guarantee falling off the reading wagon at some point during the year, more times than we’d like to admit. Typically, we do when our expectations either exceed or fail to measure up to our abilities and level of commitment.

Truth is, we all mean well and have good intentions. The problem is we sometimes set the bar too high and become overwhelmed and discouraged before we even begin;  our goal then becomes seemingly unreachable. Other times we set it too low and become under-challenged and bored; our goal then becomes dull and meaningless. The solution is making sure the bar we set for ourselves align with our abilities and level of commitment. See how well these align with your abilities and level of commitment:

1. Read daily. I read daily, no matter how lengthy or short the reading material is. On a busy day, I read something short. On a less busy day, I read something lengthy.  Reading doesn’t necessarily have to consist of reading a book. Reading a newspaper or magazine article is indeed considered reading.

2. Visit a library weekly. Even when I don’t have a book in mind, I go anyway. Usually, I end up with a book or two that are well worth the trip. I also find that my weekly trips to the library amount to me reading more books, considering the fact that I am borrowing and returning books on a weekly basis.

3. Organize a family book club monthly. Select a book the entire family can read and discuss it on a monthly basis. This has been especially simple and doable for my family because our family book selection usually falls in line with Book Kids’ Book of the Month.  We encourage you to use this as your book selection guide as well.

4. Purchase a book quarterly. Treat yourself to a book you’ve always wanted and simply can’t wait to dive into. I use this as a reading reward for my kids and they love it.

5. Visit a book event biannually. Check your local event or community calendar for book events. These are usually held at schools, libraries, bookstores, community centers, etc. Moreover, these are held throughout the year so you’re bound to find one you and your family can attend.

6. Meet an author annually. Authors are touring year-round. Track down your favorites. This can also be a great opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of a book by your favorite author, a great supplement to your quarterly book purchase.

Keep in mind that, like any resolution, these reading resolutions aren’t one-size-fits-all; particularly taking into consideration the daily demands of life pushing and pulling us all in various directions. What works for one may not work for another. These, however, are easy-to-follow suggestions that will help keep you from falling off the reading wagon. Remain persistent and the rewards will be well worth the efforts. Happy New Year! Happy Reading!

What are your New Year’s reading resolutions? We would love to hear about them. Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

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Never Judge a Book Solely by Its Cover

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During a recent conversation, a good friend of mine couldn’t stop bragging about a book she’d recently read and would highly recommend I read as well. The title sounded very familiar. Upon googling it, I recognized its cover illustration and soon realized this to be one of many books I’d previously stumbled upon at the library and totally undermined because I wasn’t all that impressed with its appearance.

Fortunately, I revisited my local library and checked this book out, and it turned out to be one of the best written books I’d ever read. It still troubles me to think that I could have missed out on a really great book simply because I chose to judge it solely by its cover. Needless to say, that incident became an aha moment, prompting me the become more conscious of how I select books based on appearance.

Clearly, it is never okay to judge a book solely by its cover, nonetheless, we all too soon find ourselves in situations where we feel the pressure or need to. If ever you are unsure of a particular book and feel the need make a swift decision based primarily, if not solely on its appearance (perhaps due to time constraints, limited information, last minute gift shopping rush, etc.) keep these basic reminders at the tip of you conscience:

1. Not every book with a faulty cover has a faulty storyline. We all know outer appearance can be misleading. Using the example above, while the book’s appearance was unappealing to me, the storyline turned out to be one of the best I had ever read. I could have easily missed out on a great book because I misjudged its content based on what it looked like on the outside. While I was given another chance at it, be mindful that opportunities are not guaranteed to knock more than once, therefore choose wisely.

2. Not every book with a fancy cover has a fancy storyline. I’m sure we all have our share of stories of books that were amazingly attractive on the outside, and turned out to be a total misuse of reading time. Some, we forced ourselves to read just because… While others, we decided to simply just “let it go!” Keep in mind that, while reading is never a misuse of time, reading the wrong book is. There are many great books out there for everyone. Don’t miss out on them as a result of chasing down “pretty” books.

3. Our young readers are taking mental notes. Kids have the tendency to emulate adults; and the last thing we’d want our kids doing is deciding the value of books based on appearance. Whenever my kids pick out books from our library, the first thing I do is ask them why they pick that particular book. When it becomes apparent that appearance has clouded their judgment, I usually follow up with, “Why don’t you read a bit more to get the scope of the book,” including, preface, headings, table of contents, a few sentences etc., as time allows. It helps that we are rarely in a time crunch when we visit our library, allowing us ample time to skim through book pages rather than just book covers.

4. Our book picking practices extend beyond books. I can be an overthinker at times so let’s hope I’m overthinking this one. Let’s hope I’m simply overthinking to think that selecting books based solely on appearance feeds into society’s obsession with outer appearance. Every time I catch myself making a book decision based on appearance, I stop, pause, and wonder whether I am indirectly teaching my kids that outer beauty carries more weight and value than inner beauty. Perhaps, not. However, it is a risk that I am not willing to take. I would especially love to hear your feedback on this.  

5. Practice makes progress. Realistically, no one is fully immune to this and no one can fully perfect this. However, the more we make conscious efforts to look beyond the cover of a book, the less likely we are to judge it by its appearance.

Of course there are the obvious influence of media buzz, reviews, and recommendations;  new releases, best selling, and award winning lists; and simple word of mouth,  just to name a few. However, if we don’t apply basic discernment on a regular basis, the influence of appearance will surely creep in and override the rest. Stay on guard!  

We would love to hear from you. Tell us about situations where you felt the pressure or need to judge a book solely by its cover. What were the outcomes? Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

5 Great Ways to Put a Literary Spin on Halloween

Halloween

If you’ve been following Book Kids, you probably know by now that we put a literary spin on every holiday, and of course that includes Halloween. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it:

1. The Costumes. I’d admit, Halloween is the least of my favorite holidays. It can get a little spooky and eerie. However, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to flaunt literature and literacy than during Halloween. What little girl wouldn’t want to flaunt her favorite literary princess’ dazzling tiara and beautiful gown? Similarly, what little boy would turn down an opportunity to sport his favorite literary superhero’s majestic armor, cape, or crown? I couldn’t imagine anything more magical than the scene of literary characters parading our streets on a Halloween night. Most importantly is making sure the kids have fun in the entire process of choosing, purchasing, or creating the costumes. Need ideas? Read this

2. The Treats. Kids tend associate Halloween treats exclusively with candy. If it isn’t candy, then it is automatically thrust into the “trick” category. Well, I’m here to tell you that books and educational toys can be tasty too, for the brain of course. I dare not insinuate that you eliminate all candy; the kids definitely won’t take that well! I simply suggest a healthy balance between the two. Let candy be a supplement to other (educational) treats, rather than a substitute. We’d want our children to get the idea that we value books as much as (if not more than) we value other “treats” and that we consider books great treats as well. Now that’s a real treat! Need ideas? Read this

3. The Events. Whether you’re into hosting holiday parties or simply attending them, a great way to incorporate literature and literacy into the holiday event is simple – host or attend those that focus on literary and literacy themes. The costumes, treats, decor, etc., you select for your party can be based primarily on literary characters. Similarly, take your kids to holiday parties or other theatrical performances or events that highlight literature and literacy. I have yet to meet a kid who would turn down an opportunity to see a play or performance based on his or her favorite book character, especially around the holidays. Need ideas? Read this

4. The Arts & Crafts. Oh, this is truly where Halloween fun meets literary fun. This is really where the magic begins. Calling all crafty and not so crafty kids (as related to arts and crafts) to carve and shape pumpkins into the image of your favorite book characters. You can solicit the help of adults of course. The beauty of it all is that the images don’t have to be perfect; just have fun throughout the process. We draw, we paint, we color, we cut, we paste, we sew …any and everything possible to keep our kids minds stimulated and constantly in learning mode. In the short and long run, the results are fun and educational. Need ideas? Read this

5. The Books. You didn’t think I would leave out books, did you? I deliberately saved the best for last. I’ve said this numerous times and I can never cease to say it: Books are some of the most powerful and effective tools to educate and entertain all at the same time. I often use books to supplement any and every holiday event. They just seem to go hand in hand. My kids and I read all kinds of books pertaining to each holiday prior, during, and post-holiday. We discuss the who, what, when, where, why, and how, regarding each holiday. Ultimately, they come out with a greater sense of background knowledge, interest and, enthusiasm for that particular holiday. Books are essential, educational, and entertaining. Need ideas? Read this

I would like to conclude with a bit of information regarding a program we are extremely passionate about, as it relates to Halloween; a program that sets the stage for adults to raise food allergy awareness and ensure that kids with food allergies are safer during Halloween. I am referring to The Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages adults to offer non-food treats to trick-or-treaters during Halloween. Halloween can be a bit spooky enough for any child, let alone for a child with food allergies. Here’s to a great campaign, making Halloween safer and less scary for children with food allergies. Need ideas? Read this

As always, we love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how you make Halloween a literary event. You may leave a comment or two below. Have a safe and book-filled Halloween! Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

5 Speed Reading Tactics to Get Kids Reading More Books in Less Time

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Throughout my childhood and young adult years I considered myself a slow-paced individual, in the sense that I loved taking life slowly and savoring all essence of it. I loved soaking it all in…every second of every minute of every hour of every day. This wasn’t and still isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it became a great concern of mine when my reading habit began to follow suit.

My fear of overlooking any given aspect of a story resulted in my feeling the need to dissect and digest every single sound of every letter of every syllable of every word of every sentence of every paragraph of every page of every book. While this isn’t necessarily problematic in the early stages of reading, when one begins to tackle hundreds of pages chapter books and novels, speed becomes crucial. Needless to say, weeks and months would go by and I would still be stuck reading the same book.

In case you are wondering, this was neither a case of disliking a book and not wanting to read it nor was it the case of being extremely busy, where reading becomes a far-fetched reality; clearly those will definitely stall the reading process or progress. However, this was a direct result of my slow reading habit. I loved the books, I loved reading them, and I had a reasonably amount of time to read them, I was just simply taking way too long to finish them.

Note, this is by no means an anti slow-reading blog. I understand and realize that there are adults and kids alike who love to or have to read at a slower pace for various reasons, and that is perfectly okay. Having said that, I must share these great speed reading tactics that my kids and I have used over the years to boost our reading pace and help us read more books in less time than we would otherwise read. Here they are: 

1. Read in Chunks. Teach or encourage your child to read in chunks -the process of taking individual units of information (chunks) and grouping them into larger units (Psychology Dictionary). I used to fear skipping words because I thought I would miss a main point or idea. Little did I realize I was doing the exact opposite. Grouping my words together into chunks, rather than reading word for word, gave me a clearer and quicker understanding of the overall concept, thus increasing my reading speed. It took some brain training and some getting used to, but the more I did it the better chunk reader I became. I now teach my kids to do the same. It is important to note that chunking is not a “one size fits all.” You must be familiar with your child’s reading level in order to determine how many words your child is capable of grouping together at once. Also as reading levels advance, the length of chunks increases as well.  Again, it takes some amount of brain exercises and lots of practice, but the end results are highly remarkable!

2. Eliminate Distractions. By all means, eliminate distractions. I used up all energy and every fiber of my being convincing myself and others that I could read perfectly well with the television on or music booming in the background. That turned out to be one of the biggest fibs I had ever told myself. My kids, more times than I can count, have tried to pull this off as well, “Mom, I can study…do homework…read with ‘America’s Got Talent’ on.” Not! This has never worked in the past, doesn’t work in the present, and certainly not expected to work in the future. This in no way diminishes their multitasking capabilities. It simply emphasizes the fact that their minds simply cannot be fully focused on what they are reading with these distractions. Eliminate distractions…get through the book faster.

3. Avoid Looking up Every Unfamiliar Word. Okay, I know some of us were taught or told to look up every unfamiliar word. That can be a very brilliant idea if you don’t mind adding another month or two to finishing up your book. Instead, I suggest building the unfamiliar word around the rest of the sentence and more than likely you will figure out the meaning or implications of that word. I learned all too quickly that looking up every word I did not know prolonged my reading way longer than I intended or anticipated.  If you are not comfortable moving on without knowing the meaning of the word, quickly jot it down and look it up later.  If you follow the chunking method, you are less likely to do this anyway. Note, it is okay to look up a few unfamiliar words,  just not every one.

4. Set Reading Goals. I quickly discovered that setting reading goals became and still is one of the most effective ways to get those pages thumbed through quickly. Reading goals can become some of the most reliable accountability partners there are. They hold you accountable to whatever reading standards you set for yourself and then constantly nudge you into achieving those standards. Imagine a child or adult who sets a goal to read 50 pages an hour, or one book a week, or four books a month. Now, imagine a child or adult who sets no reading goals, approaches reading in a nonchalant manner, and decides to read whenever he or she can get to it; with all life’s daily demands pushing and pulling us in every direction, who is more likely to wear out those pages and who is more like to neglect them? I recommend keeping your reading goals simple and practical. Our household goal is ‘a book a day’ at each child’s reading level.

5. Read a Lot. Most are probably familiar with the phrase “Use it or lose it!” It is a simple phrase that holds a tremendous amount of volume when it comes to reading and brain development and enrichment. Research has proven over and over again that continually exercising the brain (reading, among other healthy habits) leads to increased functionality and sustainability. Simply put, the more you read the better and faster at reading you become. Read>  Extensive Reading: Speed and Comprehension and The Brain…Use it or Lose It.

Lets face it, we live in a fast-paced society and world that basically require fast-paced living. Ideally we want to slow it down, soak it all in, catch every breath of fresh air, and savor every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Realistically, the world is not waiting for us to catch up, and that includes the literary world. Thousands and thousands of books are published each day. Indeed, we cannot possibly read them all, but we can read more than we are reading currently. A familiar phrase comes to mind, “So many books, so little time.” While this holds great truth, there is more time than we think…if we’d pick up the reading pace, we’d be surprised how many books we can get through. Happy Reading! 

*What strategies do you use to help you read better and faster? We’d love to hear your comments!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

 

 

5 Great Gifts to Encourage Reading

 

Book Pile

When it comes to getting kids fired up about reading, the possibilities are endless. Every child is unique in his or her own way. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” method. What works for one child may not work for another. That is why it is extremely important to try as many methods as possible; and when you’ve found one that works, don’t stop there. Keep exploring many others. Kids are constantly growing and changing. What may have worked last year may not work this year.

 

In light and awareness of our forever-growing and developing kids (physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, etc.), we at Book Kids are constantly exploring and sharing many different ways to get kids not only reading, but loving every minute of it. One that we wholeheartedly swear by is the giving of gifts that encourage reading. We are a gift-giving society (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, just because, etc). Adults and kids alike love giving and receiving gifts. In the midst of all the gift-giving practices, I highly recommend giving gifts that encourage and promote reading.  Here are five:

 

1. Books. Yes, books. If you want to motivate a child to read and love it, buy him or her some books. There is a book out there for every child, even the ones who claim to dislike reading. Investigate what his or her favorite books, kinds of books, or book characters are and jump at that opportunity. You may even take your child out on a book shopping spree. Make it fun and exciting. Have your child pick out his or her own book; that way you can ensure that he or she will most likely read it.

 

2. Magazine Subscriptions. These make excellent gifts to get kids reading. In 5 Reading Tips to Ensure Your Book Kids Are Achieving the 20 Minutes A Day Reading Recommendation, I mentioned two of Book Kids’ favorites. However, it is best to subscribe to the ones in which your kids have interest. Find out what topics interest or fascinate your child and subscribe to magazines that focus on those topics.

 

3. Bookmarks. Always jump at the opportunity to give your kids bookmarks. Yes, even the older ones love some cool bookmarks. Every time we visit our local library, my kids are grabbing bookmarks. You may make them, buy them or get them free from the internet or libraries. I suggest getting the ones that highlight reading (reading images, poems and quotes) or ones with your child’s favorite book characters. Check out Free Printable Bookmarks from Book Kids.

 

4. Kindle. Purchase a kindle device or subscribe to kindle unlimited, where your kids have access to numerous (over 700,000) titles and audiobooks on any device for $9.99 a month. We at Book Kids swear by free and inexpensive ways to get kids reading, therefore this may or may not suit your budget. However, I will say that it is well worth the investment.

 

5. A Bean Bag Chair and a Blanket. Okay, so I combined these two because they just seem to go hand in hand. Just writing this makes me want to go and grab a book. I’m guessing it will do the same for your book kids as well. Try getting these for your kids and see whether they turn them down. I believe not!

 

These gifts may cost a buck or two …okay, maybe a little more, but the end results are priceless, seeing your child develop and maintain this deep love, passion and appreciation for reading. Now let’s get out there and treat our children to some gifts that encourage and promote reading, tangible gifts that ultimately evolve into the ultimate intangible gift that keeps on giving -the gift of reading.

 

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

7 Practical Ways to Minimize Cost of Reading Materials for Your Book Kids.

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Oh, how we wish books grew on trees. The reality is that they cost dollars and cents. Let’s face it, times are difficult economically for many.  Buying books then becomes one of the last things on the minds of many, especially when it has to compete with meeting the bare necessities. Books can become costly, however there are ways to minimize the cost. Here are seven:

1. Create it. Have your kids create their own books. This is highly advantageous on so many levels. Creating the books allows your kids to exercise their sense of creativity; to sharpen up on their writing and illustration skills; to dig deep and utilize their ever-expanding imaginations; and to take pride and joy in their new creations. Not to mention, your book kids now have new books to add to their home library, without you having to break the bank.

2. Borrow it. Borrow books from your local public or school library. Libraries have numerous titles from which to choose, and they are free. Take advantage of this opportunity to ensure your kids always have reading materials available. We cannot emphasize this enough.

3. Swap it. Organize and host a monthly, quarterly, biannual, or annual book swap party for kids. Collaborate with other parents and have the kids gather books they are willing to get rid of, compile these books and swap them. Everyone then ends up with free books. Can’t beat that! A great way to make the party unique is to organize and display the books as they would appear in an actual bookstore. Give the kids artificial money and have them purchase the books. This is a great way to sharpen up on math skills as well. Alternating locations (various homes, library, park, etc.) will work as an added bonus.

4. Download it. The online resources are endless. There are tons of free children’s books online that are only a click away from your home computer or printer. Your child can either read them online or download and print them. If you don’t have access to a home computer, check with your local libraries. They usually have them available for your use. Here are some great sites to explore: Children’s Storybooks Online, Storyline Online, Free Kids Books, Children’s Books Online, Magic Blox International Children’s Digital LibraryWe Give Books, and many others.

5. Request it. Ask for free books for your kids. There are numerous literacy organizations that help provide free books to families in need. You can contact them directly or through your local library or children’s schools. Here are a list of a few: First Books, Heart of America Foundation, Kids Need to ReadLibrary of Congress Books Surplus Program, The Literacy Empowerment Foundation, Books for Kids Foundation, Scholastic Book Grants, Reach Out and Read, Reading is Fundamental. For a list of more programs click here.

6. Win it. Interestingly enough, your book kids can win free children’s books through various reading programs at school, online, or at your local libraries. Many require your kids’ participation in their reading programs. Sign them up, have them read the required number of books, and they win free books. The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is one of the largest reading programs currently underway. Check your local listings for others.

7. Buy it. There are times when there may be no other way around it. You may have to buy some books. For such a time as this, know that there are many bargain bookstores that sell discounted children’s books. Check your local listings for them. Some local libraries sell used books for little to nothing. Scholastic Book Fairs is also another great resource for obtaining great books at a very reasonable cost. Again, check your local listings, kids’ schools, and local libraries for information on these book fairs and discounts.

All in all, while books may not grow on trees, these penny-pinching tips, put to great use certainly will make them appear as if they do. Let’s do all we can to make sure our kids have sufficient reading materials, without us having to break the bank in the process. Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

 

 

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Does the phrase “I’d rather watch the movie” or “I’ve already watched the movie” sound familiar? Kids have a way of trying to bypass reading, especially when it involves a lengthy book.  Some parents succumb to the idea while others dismiss it totally. We suggest parents compromise. In other words, do both. Incorporating movies into the reading process can be a great motivational tool to get kids reading. Here’s how:

1. Use the idea of “watching the movie after the book is read” as an incentive to reading the book. Let your child know that you will reward his or her effort by treating him or her to the movie adapted from that particular book. Kids get excited knowing that they will actually watch a movie made from the book they are reading, especially if it is a new release that they can watch at the movie theater.

2. Participate, not just delegate. Read the book, along with your child. This is particularly encouraging for children to see their parents reading the same books as them. Furthermore, they gain a sense of assurance knowing that they have you to count on or come to when they have questions regarding the book, and that you will be able to answer their questions, since you’re reading the book yourself.

3. Discuss the book. Having a book discussion is a great way to encourage kids to read the book. They love and look forward to spending time with family anyway, hence the book discussion is an added bonus. Note, this works perfectly well alongside a book club for kids. If you don’t already have one, this a great opportunity to start one.

4. Watch the movie. Remember, your child has been looking forward to this from the moment the idea of reading the book came about in the first place. This was one of the motivating factors to reading the book. Needless to say, the movie can also serve to revitalize, clarify, simplify, and summarize the book. Follow through. Reward your child to a great movie to the book you both have just completed, and consequently, you end up rewarding yourself.

5. Start the process all over again, with a different book, of course. Your kids are now excited and motivated and can’t wait to dive into another book. Note, while movies cannot substitute books, they can supplement them. Here’s a link to other great movies that were inspired by or adapted from children’s books. Happy reading and watching!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids