READS - Really Easy and Dynamic Strategies - Reading Comprehension Tool

Different Ways for Your Kids to Say “Thank You” for Gifts.

Posted on: Thursday, December 19th, 2013 in Activities for kids, Conversation with kids, Holiday, parent involvement, talking to kids, Writing

T’is the season for gift giving.  What could be better than having your kids send a thank-you message to their generous relatives or friends?  Imagine how happy the thoughtful gift givers would feel when they get your child’s message.  Imagine their smiles.  Now try to imagine how you will get the kids to send their thanks without them complaining.


Try following these steps:

  • Have a conversation about why thank you messages are important
  • Discuss what the message should include
  • Offer up creative ways to say thank you  –
    • Email
    • Skype
    • Creative art project
    • Traditional written note
  • Provide fancy pencils, markers or crayons
  • Send the kids to their “office” to prepare the message

For the traditional note writer you may want to include Speedy Speller so the kids can look up the spelling of words without having to ask you.  This helps to develop independence.

Just in case your kids selected Skype encourage the kids to follow up with a short note.  Research shows that better writers make better readers.  Remember that even though the kids are on winter break, it’s important to keep them busy with “school stuff”.  Creating thank you notes for family and friends is one way to do this without letting them know that what they’re doing is also educational.  And finally, once again, think about the smiles those notes will produce.

Leave a comment

Some Holiday Thoughts from the Kids!

Posted on: Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 in Cognitive Skills, Holiday, Listening to kids, parent involvement, winter

We originally posted this blog a couple of years ago but continue to appreciate its significance in this holiday season and felt that it is worth reposting.
Even without the change in the weather, beautiful decorations and never ending bargains, the kids would know that the holidays are just a few days away.  Their anticipation is evident with every breath.  So, of course, teacher that I am, I had to officially ask what they were thinking about.  There was only one surprise as I listened to responses from different age groups.  Read below and see if you are as impressed as I was with the level of maturity as the kids got older.  Congratulations parents – they’ve been listening!!


  • I get toys.

First Grade

  • Santa is coming and we need to make him cookies.

Second Grade

  • It’s nice because you get stuff, decorate and eat a lot.

Third Grade

  • It’s about giving.

Fourth Grade

  • It’s the time of year when we get to think about how lucky we are.

When I showed this list to my husband he looked at me and said “Did you make any of this up?”  He was surprised when I told him that those were real statements from the kids.  I think that’s because, big kid that he is, he likes toys too.

Leave a comment

Share Some Interesting Facts About December with the Kids – Other than the Holidays.

Posted on: Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 in Activities for kids, Conversation with kids, Family Activities, parent involvement, Winter Activities for Kids

Ask any kid to tell you one interesting fact about December, that has nothing to do with the holidays, and I can almost guarantee you that the best they’ll come up with is that it’s the last month of the year.  To give them a greater appreciation for the month, and to encourage them to do some research on their own, here are some interesting facts to get them started.

  • December comes from the Latin word decem which means ten.
    • It was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar which began with March.  When January and February were added to the Roman calendar, December became the twelfth month of the Gregorian calendar
  • December has several birthstones – turquoise, lapis lazuli and zircon.
  • December’s flower is the narcissus which symbolizes self-love, self-esteem and vanity
  • Sagittarius and Capricorn are the astrological signs for December.
  • In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice or shortest day of the year occurs and winter begins.  This takes place on December 21 or 22.
  • The first flight by the Wright Brothers was made on December 17, 1903.
  • The United States Bill of Rights was passed on December 14, l791.
  • The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773.
  • Many famous people were born in December.
    • Two presidents: Andrew Johnson and Woodrow Wilson
    • Several actors and actresses: Kirk Douglas, Jane Fonda, Katie Holmes, Susan Lucci, Brad Pitt and Denzel Washington
    • Authors: Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen
    • Singer/Musicians: Jimmy Buffet, Bette Midler, Donny Osmond and Frank Sinatra

Once last interesting and important fact – the entire month of December has been designated as Stress Free Family Holiday Month.  I’m not sure who came up with that idea.  It’s a good one but probably isn’t working out that way for a lot of people.  Maybe January would be a better month for that.  Wait, then the holiday bills come in.  Oh well.

Leave a comment

With Report Cards Just Around the Corner, What’s a Parent to do?

Posted on: Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 in Conversation with kids, Conversations with kids, Listening to kids, parent involvement, Report Cards

With all of the holidays coming, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, its natural for us to think about shopping for presents, family gatherings and countless calories from all the delicious food we will be eating.  The uppermost thought in our mind may not be about our kids’ report cards – but in most schools around the country children are receiving their first formal evaluation for the academic year.
A long time popular belief in our country has been to build our child’s self esteem.  If a poor test grade came home, we were supposed to respond in a positive fashion and reassure the children that they are “smart.”  In the October 2011 issue of “American Psychological Association journal “Emotion”, Youn-Hoon Kim reported that accurate feedback is better than undeserved praise.  He found that “the happiest students were the ones who knew how good or bad they were and were told the truth”.

As a reading specialist, many of the children that I work with need some extra support.  Step one, for me, has always been, asking their opinions about how they think they are “doing” with reading.  Believe it or not, rarely is a child, unaware of what they need help with.  Most times they seemed relieved to admit that they could use some assistance.

My first hope is that when your kids’ reports cards arrive that there are no surprises. My second hope is that a positive conversation takes place.  Listed below are some suggestions for how to make this happen.

  • Let your child tell you how he feels about the grades and comments
  • Encourage them to talk about some new things learned over the past marking period
  • Give praise for the highest grade and most positive comments
  • Ask what they would like to change going into the next report period

Remember to

  • Reassure that a ”bad” grade is not the end of the world
  • Discuss options for improving
  • Ask if you may help and how
  • Set realistic goals (A “C’ could become a “B”)
  • Be positive!

Leave a comment

Some Tasty Thanksgiving Day Facts for the Kids to Gobble Up!

Posted on: Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 in Activities for kids, Conversation with kids, fall, Holiday, parent involvement, Seasons, Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just a week away, everyone is getting ready for the big day.  Schools have been teaching kids about the pilgrims, the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock and, of course, turkey.  But, there’s more to this holiday than what the kids learn in school.  So, for this week’s blog, I’m serving up some lesser known facts about Thanksgiving.  I hope that you and the kids find them to your taste and, most of all, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving

  • About 46 million turkeys will end up on U.S. dinner tables this Thanksgiving—or about 736 million pounds of turkey meat, according to estimates from the National Turkey Federation.
  • Minnesota is the United States’ top turkey-producing state, followed by North Carolina.
  • U.S. farmers will produce 735 million pounds of cranberries, which, like turkeys, are native to the Americas.
  • The U.S. will also grow 1.9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.
  • The first Thanksgiving dinner in the Plymouth Colony in October 1621, was attended by some 50 English colonists and about 90 Wampanoag American Indian men in what is now Massachusetts.
  • The Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast, and that the colonists shot wild fowl—which may have been geese, ducks, or turkey. Some form, or forms, of Indian corn were also served.
  • It’s the 1621 Plymouth Thanksgiving that’s linked to the birth of our modern holiday.
  • But it wasn’t even a Thanksgiving, which in the 17th century was a day of fasting.  It was a harvest celebration.
  • Everything we know about the three-day Plymouth gathering comes from a description in a letter written by Edward Winslow, leader of the Plymouth Colony, in 1621.
  • The truth is the first “real” Thanksgiving happened two centuries later.
  • The letter had been lost for 200 years and was rediscovered in the 1800s, In 1841 Boston publisher Alexander Young printed Winslow’s brief account of the feast and added his own twist, dubbing the 1621 feast the “First Thanksgiving.”
  • U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863.
  • In 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt established the current date for observance, the fourth Thursday of November.
  • Each year at least two lucky turkeys avoid the dinner table, thanks to a presidential pardon—a longstanding Washington tradition believed to have originated with U.S. President Harry Truman.
  • This year’s birds will live out their days at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.

Other Trivia you may gobble up

  • For many U.S. citizens, Thanksgiving without football is as unthinkable as the Fourth of July without fireworks.
  • NBC Radio broadcast the first national Thanksgiving Day game in 1934, when the Detroit Lions hosted the Chicago Bears.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City was originally called the Macy’s Christmas parade, because it kicked off the shopping season.
  • The tradition began in 1924, when employees recruited animals from the Central Park Zoo to march on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Helium-filled balloons made their debut in the parade in 1927 and, in the early years, were released above the city skyline with the promise of rewards for their finders.
  • The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, first televised nationally in 1947, now draws some 44 million viewers—not counting the 3 million people who actually line the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) Manhattan route.

Leave a comment

American Education Week and 10 Tips for Parents.

Posted on: Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 in Activities for kids, American Education Week, Conversation with kids, Family Activities, parent involvement, Parent/Teacher communication

This year we celebrate American Education Week the week of November 18 – 22.  American Education Week presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education.  As always we at READS like to recognize not only your child’s classroom teachers but YOU, the family members that are actually the ultimate teachers.  The weeklong celebration features a special observance each day of the week.  They include:

  • Monday, Nov. 18: Kick-off day
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19: Parents Day - Schools will invite parents into the classroom for a hands-on experience of what the day is like for their child.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 20: Education Support Professionals Day - Individuals who provide invaluable services to schools are recognized for their outstanding work.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21: Educator for a Day - Community leaders will be invited to serve as educators to get a glimpse at a day in the life of a school employee.
  • Friday, Nov. 22: Substitute Educators Day - This day honors the educators who are called upon to replace regularly employed teachers.

NEA offers resources to help you make each day of this year’s celebration unique.  Visit to learn more.

As an educator I thank all of you wonderful parents for the job you do with your children.  We are all members of the same team working towards the same goal which is, the best all around education for our kids.  So, in honor of American Education Week, here are “10 tips for parents” to help both kids and teachers achieve that goal.

1. Create a smooth takeoff each day.  Give your child a hug before she ventures out the door and you head to work.  Look her in the eye, and tell her how proud you are of her.  Your child’s self-confidence and security will help her do well both in school and in life.

2. Prepare for a happy landing at the end of the day when you reconvene.  Create a predictable ritual such as 10–20 minutes listening to your child talk about his day—before you check phone messages, read the mail, or begin dinner.  That way you are fully present to listen, and your child has a touchstone he can count on between school and home.

3. Fill your child’s lunchbox with healthy snacks and lunches.  Have dinner at a reasonable hour and a healthy breakfast.  A well-balanced diet maximizes your child’s learning potential.

4. Include calm, peaceful times in your children’s afternoons and evenings.  Maintain a schedule that allows them to go to school rested, and if they are sick, have a system in place so they are able to stay home.

5. Remember it’s your children’s homework, not yours.  Create a specific homework space that’s clutter-free and quiet.  Encourage editing and double-checking work, but allow your kids to make mistakes, as it’s the only way teachers can gauge if they understand the material.  It’s also how children learn responsibility for the quality of their work.

6. Fill your child’s life with a love for learning by showing him your own curiosity, respecting his questions, and encouraging his efforts.

7. Fill your home with books to read, books simply to look at, and books that provide answers to life’s many questions.  The public or school library is an excellent resource.

8. Be a partner with your child’s teacher.  When you need to speak to him or her in reference to a specific issue with your child, do it privately, not in front of your child.  Make a point never to criticize your child’s teacher in front of your child.

9. Set up a system where routine items are easily located—such as backpacks, shoes, signed notices.  Create a central calendar for upcoming events to avoid the unexpected.

10. Tuck a “love note” in your child’s lunch bag to let her know how special she is.  Knowing they are loved makes it easier for children to be kind to others.

Leave a comment

Kids Activities for Veteran’s Day

Posted on: Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 in Activities for kids, American Flag, Conversation with kids, History, Listening to kids, parent involvement, Veterans Day

This year Veterans Day is on a Monday, November 11th to be exact. Wow – a three day holiday for so many of us! . No doubt the thought of a long weekend is something to look forward to – BUT – let’s make sure the kids understand why Veterans Day is so important that our nation has made it a legal holiday.
Start the conversation by asking them to tell you what they know about Veterans Day. Maybe they do know what it’s all about.  In case they don’t here are some interesting facts to talk about.  You can also have the kids do their own research on the Internet and, just maybe, they’ll turn up some facts that will surprise you.

  • On a Veterans Day we thank and honor those who served in our country’s military.
  • Veterans Day is observed on November 11th of each year.
  • It was decreed a national holiday in 1938
  • This day used to be called Armistice Day.
  • It was called Armistice Day because on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month an Armistice ended World War I.It was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 in honor of every veteran who ever served the United States Armed Forces
  • There were 23.6 million military veterans in the U.S. in 2007.
  • Flying a flag on Veterans Day is traditional.

Here are some sites for the kids to learn more about veterans and Veterans Day.

Veterans Administration site for kids

American Flag Etiquette for Veterans Day

Decoration ideas for Veterans Day

Ways to celebrate Veterans Day

Leave a comment

Some Pre-Halloween Fun for the Kids.

Posted on: Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 in Family Activities, Games, Halloween, Holiday, parent involvement, Word Search

Just two more days until Halloween.  By now most of the costumes are ready to wear and the treats are waiting to be given out to all the trick or treaters. Our treat for the kids is a “tricky” word search.  It’s not easy but don’t let it scare anyone.  It will keep the kids busy for a while.  You can make the word search more challenging by having the kids invite their friends to do it also and see who can solve the whole puzzle first.  Boo the way, this could be a challenging for Mom and Dad too. Oh, and don’t tell the kids that they will be practicing their spelling while they’re solving the puzzle.
Happy Halloween!
Halloween Word Search

Leave a comment

Siblings Reading Together: a Great Experience for Both of Them.

Posted on: Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 in Conversation with kids, Conversations with kids, Family Activities, parent involvement, Reading, Reading tips for kids, Reading with kids, Sibling involvement

Tell me what you’re reading is one of my favorite questions to ask kids.  Amazingly – I have yet to hear the word “nothing.”  Sometimes, however, a younger child may struggle to answer, SO – I have learned to ask “Have you heard any good books lately?”  The following question is; “Who did you hear them from?”  Little kids may not be able to decipher print, but the real meaning of reading is having the ability to attach meaning to the printed word.
Teaching toddlers to read is really about teaching them that reading books is fun.  How do you achieve that?  Simple – by modeling the behavior.  Research has shown that the size of the home library has a significant effect on educational attainment.  The journal, Research In Social Stratification Mobility, reported that “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.

Below are a few tips to encourage early interest in books:

  • Have books available – family room, bedroom, bathroom, and car are some great places to keep books.
  • Find a minute or two for yourself, but make sure “someone” is watching, and sit down with a book or magazine.
  • Encourage your little one to sit with you and read along.
  • Use your finger to track as you read, and make the left to right sweep.
  • Turn pages carefully and talk about what you have read. Like “hmm , I really like the story I’m reading, I wonder what will happen next.”

Before you know it, “someone” will be doing the same thing.

Ask your oldest child to read a story to a younger brother or sister.  Siblings reading to each other is a wonderful experience for both of them.  The older one can read to the younger one and feel good about bei ng the grown-up for the moment.  The younger one will enjoy the attention and the story.  Both kids will benefit from the message that reading is special.  Oh, by the way, even if the “older” one can’t really read the words and makes up the story as they go along, that, too, is special and can help to develop a love or reading.

Leave a comment

Some Tips For Reading With Your Kids

Posted on: Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 in Conversation with kids, Conversations with kids, Halloween, parent involvement, Reading, Reading tips for kids, Reading with kids

I’m sure we don’t have to tell you that Halloween is rapidly approaching.  Today we thought we would conjure up some  different thoughts on how to read with the kids. Reading together does not necessarily mean that you sit together and share a story by taking turns page after page.  Today’s blog reemphasizes the importance of the parents’ role as being the “ultimate teacher” for their children.  Reading together, as a family, helps to guarantee a developing young reader’s success in becoming an independent reader.  Some suggestions are listed below and a detailed report can be accessed at Reading Tips for Parents, U.S. Department of Education.  The strategies are simple to implement and will be significant in helping your child learn the love of reading.

  • Invite your child to read with you every day.
  • When reading a book where the print is large, point word by word as you read.  This will help your child learn that reading goes from left to right and understand that the word said is the word seen.
  • Read your child’s favorite book over and over.
  • Read many stories with rhyming words and repeated lines. Invite your child to join in on these parts.
  • Point, word by word, as your child reads along with you
  • Discuss new words (For example, “This big house is called a palace.  Who do you think lives in a palace?”)
  • Ask questions about pictures and what is happening in the story.*
  • Read many different types of children’s books
  • Read on line

*Check out READS for many more interesting questions which promote comprehension and conversation

Leave a comment