Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Adult Non-Fiction: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother A.K.A. Ambitious Bully

Posted on August 4th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Adult Non-Fiction: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother A.K.A. Ambitious BullyBattle Hymn of the Tiger Mother written by Amy Chua
Non fiction parenting book published by Penguin Press





My husband and I are “Western parents” to two adolescent boys. We live in a very diverse community where the most commonly reported ethnic origin is Chinese. In fact, in 2006, 45% of the citizens in my city reported having a Chinese background. When Ms. Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was making headlines earlier this year, I decided to make time to read it over the summer months…

“Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they are capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

Ms. Chua is a law professor at Yale University. She grew up in the United States, married an American and had two daughters. As evidenced by the foregoing quote from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she is compelled to make broad generalizations about “Western” parents and the Chinese. She characterizes herself as a Chinese mother although “ambitious bully” would be a more apt description.

Relentlessly demanding (and proud of it), Chua expects her daughters, Sophia and Louisa, to earn consistently high marks and master either the piano or the violin while shunning sleepovers, extracurricular activities and socializing with their peers. Chua’s firstborn, Sophia, is compliant but her second child offers resistance. She does not want to devote every waking hour to school work and violin lessons; she objects to outrageous harrying by music teachers and she wants to learn to play tennis well.

If Ms. Chua’s depiction of their family life is accurate, one wonders what would drive her and her husband to foresake spending enjoyable, leisure time with their girls. It seems to me that there are many, many parents of Chinese origin who are able to find balance and moderation in their parenting. They may demand academic focus and want their child to study music but they do not spend hours yelling and screaming at their children and then write a sensational book cheerfully detailing the experience.

“The truth is I’m not good at enjoying life. It’s not one of my strengths…The girls barely had time as it was to do their homework, speak Chinese with their tutor, and practice their instruments.”

Whether your approach is “Western” or “Chinese”, parenting is never an easy road. All parents need to be prepared to look themselves in the mirror on a regular basis and evaluate and adjust. What works with one child, won’t necessarily suit another circumstance. It is important to remember that, while on a parent-chosen path to academic and musical “success”, children can miss the opportunity to discover other talents and interests and to make social connections.

It would be interesting to revisit this family in twenty years, when Ms. Chua is no longer dictating to her daughters. What will she do with her strong opinions and ambition? What will her daughters do when given freedom and choice? Will they be good at enjoying life?

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother at Amazon.com

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother at Amazon.ca



Finding a Balance – Looking at a Child’s Reading Level and Maturity When Selecting Books

Posted on August 3rd, 2011 by Jody

Finding a Balance - Looking at a Child's Reading Level and Maturity When Selecting Books





As a teacher and a mom, I want to see kids succeed. I want to see them achieve success and push past it to the next level, particularly in reading. When getting kids to fall in love with reading you have to keep a couple things in mind:
a) You have to (help them) find books that interest and appeal to them
b) You need books that they can read and understand independently without frustration

Once you have done both of these things, the chances of success in reading, and in turn, the love of reading, increase greatly. My favourite moment is when it clicks~ they understand what they are reading and they want to read more. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch our eight year old develop not only a love of reading and books, but to become a strong reader. However, she is now reaching a difficult stage; one I didn’t expect to encounter even though I have watched her excel in reading. What happens when children know what interests them but what they are capable of reading academically and independently surpasses what they should be reading emotionally?

Striving for independence, my daughter recently convinced me to let her go to our school book fair alone, with her own money to make her own choices (By on her own, I mean I didn’t go into the book fair with her but since I work there, I was close by). When she showed me what she had chosen, I knew I was stuck with a dilemma. She had chosen a book that dealt with adolescent friendship, middle school, and a crush on a boy. She used my ‘a/b’ theory and found something that appealed to her and was within her reading range. For some kids though, like my daughter, what she is able to read and what she should be reading are two entirely different things.

While we are ecstatically proud that she is reading at a grade six level in grade two, it does present some problems, even if the grade level and ability level gap is smaller. An author’s goal is to speak to their audience; to engage and captivate them. They build their plots and characters based on their (anticipated) audience. Therefore, an author writing books for the typical grade two/three student would appeal to their developmental stage. Some great books in this age range (at least for my girls) are the Daisy Meadows Rainbow Fairies collections, the Nancy Drew Clue Crew series, or the Bailey School Kids. These books appeal to this audience with their age appropriate characters solving problems, working on mysteries, and going up against mythical or magical figures. In grades two and three, the problems our kids are facing (hopefully) include getting out for recess fast enough, snagging one of the three skipping ropes available, or not being it for tag. It’d be nice if problems could stay this simple, but they don’t and as kids mature, so do the books that appeal to them.

A grade six student, by contrast, is caught up in an entirely different world that includes best friends that come and go, crushes on boys, and dealing with self-image. Accordingly, books that appeal to this age range deal with these issues. Coming of age classics like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott or Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume perfectly highlight some of the trials girls this age face. And while I truly want my daughter to read these books, or even the one she chose from the book fair, I’m not ready for her to wonder about these ‘issues’. So, I’m faced with deciding whether or not to let her read books past her maturity level to accommodate her ability level.

I suppose it’s like anything else with parenting; I take a look at her choices and make the best judgement call I can. For me, I’m hoping that keeping the conversation doorway open is the answer to finding balance. Discussing what your child is reading is a key to helping them develop as fluid readers. So, while I don’t want her to have a crush on a boy, I’m fine (so far) with explaining what it means and talking to her about the issues her characters are facing. Perhaps it’s a plus that right now she’s hooked on the Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about any boys from the Underworld popping up with their three headed dog any time soon.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success – A Thought-Provoking Beach Read

Posted on July 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts takes a look at Outliers The Story of SuccessOutliers: The Story of Success written by Malcolm Gladwell
Adult nonfiction published by Little, Brown and Company





We’ve just returned from a camping trip and I am still feeling somewhat lazy. I have a number of projects that I ought to tackle but am not very motivated to knuckle down. While camping, I managed to read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. It was a perfect pick – I found his ideas fascinating and thought-provoking. Gladwell’s comments regarding the selection of “star” hockey players at a young age touched a nerve – I am a hockey mom and my left winger was born in October (shudder!). A remarkably good “beach read” from my perspective. Now, back to work!

Outliers: The Story of Success at Amazon.com

Outliers: The Story of Success at Amazon.ca

Encouraging Us to Rethink Boys and Reading: Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys

Posted on June 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Dialogue is key... Storytime Standouts recommends Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys My thirteen year old son knows exactly how to extend his bedtime. It involves picking up a book, turning on his bedside lamp and gazing at us with puppy dog eyes. “Please let me finish this chapter. I know you want me to read.” He’s right. Reading has always been a priority in our household and enjoying a chapter or two at bedtime is pretty tough to argue with. Tomorrow, we are off to pick up Rick Riordan’s latest because, due to my error it is not yet in the house. I’m not complaining, I know that raising boys who love to read can be a challenge. We’ve had our moments but, thanks to Rick Riordan, Michelle Paver, Kenneth Oppel, J.K. Rowling and others, we are fortunate that both our sons love to read (especially at bedtime).

Storytime Standouts looks at Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys This afternoon, before the boys arrived home from school, I had a chance to check out Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys – How to engage Boys in Reading in Ways that Will Change Their Lives

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director of LitWorld and the author of a number of books including What to Read When. These are both books that should be on every teachers’ bookshelf and tucked into every parent’s bag of tricks. In Best Book for Boys, Allyn answers frequently asked questions about boys and reading, she also describes the keys to raising children who love reading; ritual, environment, access and dialogue.

After making a strong case for rethinking widely accepted ideas about how children ought to read and what they ought to be reading, Allyn provides an extensive, annotated reading list that has been labelled for emerging, developing and maturing readers. Whether seeking a title for a boy who enjoys action and adventure, humor or mechanics and technology, there is something for even the most reluctant reader.

This is a great resource for families and teaching professionals, highly recommended.

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives at Amazon.com

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts suggests 35 ways to engage reluctant readersYou may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.


Five Ways to Support a Beginning Reader…

Posted on May 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

5 Ways to Support a Beginning Reader from StorytimeStandouts.com

Following these steps when your child is a beginning reader will help him to become fluent and will enable you and your child to enjoy the learning to read experience together.











Click on the book covers for our post about using word families with a beginning reader.

image of cover art for Bug in a Rug, a good book for a beginning reader1. Make reading part of every day. Without exception. Committing to share this special time with your child each and every day will help your child to see reading as valuable. Have your child read to you and make sure that you continue to read aloud to your child.

Remember: becoming a great reader requires practice and some children need more practice than others do. Don’t despair when reading doesn’t happen quickly or easily, learning to read is like learning to ride a bike or becoming a swimmer. If you choose to make reading a priority, your efforts will be rewarded.

2. Keep the read aloud experience happy, relaxed and comfortable. Cozy up near a good light and enjoy a snuggle. If your child is too tired to read aloud, let it go (for one day) and spend a couple of extra minutes reading aloud to her.
image of cover art for Dog in the Fog, a good book for a beginning reader
3. Help your child to find appealing books to read. Be sure to check out the selection at your public library or stop by your child’s classroom for suggestions. Do your best to find books that are “just right” for your child. You will be better at evaluating books than your child is so take an active role in assessing the level of difficulty.

In my experience, some of the “best” books are the ones that other children recommend. Positive “word of mouth” advertising can be a great motivator for a young reader.

4. Celebrate your child’s success with reading. Being able to read twenty words or a chapter book is a big deal! How about celebrating with a book worm cupcake or a trip to the library or a special bookmark or a new bookshelf? Perhaps the readers in your household are allowed to stay up fifteen minutes later than the non readers…
image of cover art for Fat Cat, a good book for a beginning reader

5. Remain patient and supportive. When your child encounters a tricky word, help with some strategies. If your child can’t manage the word, tell her the word and move on.

You will also be interested in our page about beginning to read


Some of our Favourite Posts About Supporting Beginning Readers

Hover over the picture to read the post title. Click on the picture to read the entire post

Learning games for beginning readers6 Ways to help a child read an unfamiliar word from Storytime StandoutsBeginning Readers should use these strategies to read difficult words15 tips for Parents of Young Readers and Writers from Storytime StandoutsStorytime Standouts Explains How to Help a Child Read Unfamiliar Words9 Ways to Help a Beginning Reader Succeed from StorytimeStandouts.com

15 Tips for Parents of Young Readers and Writers

Posted on April 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

15 tips for Parents of Young Readers and Writers from Storytime Standouts

Raising a child who reads well and loves to pick up a book is a team effort. Parents can support young readers’ and writers’ formal learning by being involved and enthusiastic, providing encouragement and tools. Here are some ways you can help set the stage for reading success.

Download a free, printable PDF of this information

image of PDF icon  15 Tips for Supporting Young Readers and Writers





    Be a reader and a writer – make sure your children see you reading books for pleasure and information as well as writing letters or making lists.

    Read aloud to your children every day – even once they have learned how to read.  Make it a priority to find great articles and engaging books to share with your family.

    Be flexible.  Read when, where and how it suits your child.  If your child won’t sit still, it is okay to play quietly or color a picture while listening.

    Write silly notes to your children.  Print out  riddles and add them to a  lunch bag or hide them under a pillow.

    • Have Grandma or Grandpa send emails, encourage your child to reply.

    • Try a new recipe, read a map, solve a mystery, check out the comics or learn magic tricks together.  Help your child realize the value of being a good reader.

    • Hook your child with wonderful series books or look for more books by a favourite author or illustrator.


    • Encourage your child to notice and read environmental print (stop signs, entrance,  exit, push and pull signs as well as labels on groceries or names of familiar stores).

    Listen to your children when they read (or when they pretend to read).  Offer lots of encouragement to readers and writers of every age.

    • If possible, have a basket of  books, a well-placed reading light and a comfortable chair inviting young readers to curl up and enjoy a story.

    Keep writing implements; coloured pencils, erasers, rulers and paper handy.  A stapler is also great for children who want to make their own books.

    Visit your public library regularly.  Encourage your children to borrow fiction and non fiction books.

    Get to know your child’s school librarian and make sure the librarian knows your child’s ability and interests.

    Explore your community with your child.  Background experiences help readers to understand.  A child who has been to an aquarium or a farm will make connections when reading about sea creatures or baby piglets.

    Ask for recommendations and suggestions.  Most libraries have lists of book recommendations.  Check with friends and teachers and look at our picture book and chapter book recommendations.   If you need help, send an email. We will gladly give you suggestions.

For further information, check out our page on early literacy.

Helping a Beginning Reader – Let’s Make a Plan

Posted on April 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

9 Ways to Help a Beginning Reader Succeed from StorytimeStandouts.com

If you are helping a beginning reader, I’m hoping some of these ideas will be of assistance to you and your child.





I want to begin by saying some children don’t want to read aloud to an adult. They may feel too “exposed” and may worry about making mistakes. If your child doesn’t want to read aloud to you, suggest that she read aloud to a favourite doll or teddy bear or even the family dog. There was a study, not long ago, that found reading aloud to a dog was effective in improving reading skills.

image of cover art for Jen the Hen, a good book for a beginning readerI also want to mention that parents should continue to read aloud to children long after they learn to read for themselves. So, don’t stop reading aloud just because your child has started to read. Hearing you read more challenging stories will encourage them to improve their own reading skills.

Click on the book covers for more information about each book and follow this link for more information about Beginning to Read.


Anyhow, back to the “plan” for helping a beginning reader…

Choosing a book is alot like tasting porridge. We don’t want a book that is too difficult and we want to move past the ones that are too easy. We want a book that is “just right.” Some people suggest using The Rule of Five. If your child has difficulty with five or more words on a page, have your child choose a different, easier book to read. Then, offer to read the “too tough” book aloud so your child has the opportunity to enjoy it.


Keep in mind that just because a book is labelled “level 3,” does not mean that the level of difficulty is consistent with other books with the same label. Take time to check out the text.


Once your child has selected a book, talk about the cover. What sort of story will it be? Does this cover remind you of anything else we’ve read? Who wrote the book? Who illustrated it?


If the book is non fiction (a fact book), ask your child what he hopes to learn and what he already knows about the subject. Warm up the book.


Decide how best to share the book… does your child want to read it silently and then aloud? would your child like you to read together with him? will you alternate pages or paragraphs? or will your child read the passage and then listen while you reread it? Please keep in mind that some memorizing and guessing is “normal.”If your child makes a mistake or gets mixed up, pause and give him a chance to self correct. If he can’t solve the problem, suggest that he try to read it again or read to the end of the sentence and decide which word would make sense.


image of cover art for Mercy Watson, a good series for a beginning reader

If he makes a mistake that does not make sense, ask him, “Did that make sense? Did it sound right?” If he tries twice but can’t decode the word, tell him the correct word.


If possible, as you are reading together, pause to discuss what is happening, what might happen next, how the story might end.


Remember, your praise is incredibly important to your child. There are all sorts of things you can say to a beginning reader

“I loved your expression when you read that story.”
“I’m so glad you are checking out the pictures for clues about this story.”
“I like the way you figured out that tough word.”
“I’m glad you asked me to help you read that tricky word.”
“I am so proud of your reading!”


image of cover art for Houndsley and Catina, a popular book for a beginning reader

Keep in mind that your child does not have to read perfectly. If she substitutes a word and the sentence still makes sense, ignore the mistake and let her continue. If she makes a mistake and the sentence does not make sense, wait for the sentence to end and then ask, “Does that make sense?” Encourage her to correct her own mistakes.


My own person advice is to relax. Learning to read is not a race and becoming an early reader does not ensure a love of books. Reading is like so many other milestones in childhood. Some children become readers quickly and almost effortlessly, while others require encouragement and lots of extra help. Your child will become a reader – I am sure of it – and, if you can keep the experience positive, relaxed and happy, I believe you will be playing a critically important part in raising your child to love to books and reading.

Please share your ideas, questions and suggestions about helping a beginning reader.

Richmond Child Care Resource and Referral – Social Responsibility Workshop Tuesday May 31, 2011

Posted on March 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Upcoming Social Responsibility Workshop for Richmond CCRR

Supporting Social Responsibility with Great Read-Alouds

In this professional development workshop we will look at a variety of new picture books that support and encourage social responsibility. As well, we will explore ways to enhance the read-aloud experience with songs, games and activities. Workshop attendees receive a multi-page summary of all important content and an extensive book list featuring cover art, title, author/illustrator, ISBN codes and tags.

Register with Volunteer Richmond

Follow this link for Social Responsibility quotes.

Follow this link for a sample list of books that highlight social responsibility

10 FAQs About Reading Aloud to Children

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Here are our answers to 10 frequently asked questions about reading aloud to children


10 FAQ About Reading aloud to young children - StorytimeStandouts.com

Simply put, reading aloud to your children will positively effect them for the rest of their lives.

Reading aloud and sharing wonderful stories will make them laugh (and cry), expand their vocabulary, broaden their view of the world, teach them lessons, prepare them for formal reading instruction and create long lasting memories.

Here are my answers to ten frequently asked questions about reading aloud to children…

Goodnight Moon is a great readaloud for babies and toddlers
When should I start reading to my baby?
Some people would say, “Start while the baby is still in the womb.” For me personally, I think six months is a good age. Ideally, starting to read to your child should happen before the baby is really mobile. Snuggle up and enjoy a couple of board books every day.

Harry Potter is a terrific readaloud for eight year oldsWhen can I stop reading to my child(ren)?
My personal opinion is that you should continue reading aloud daily to your children (at least) until they are teens. We know that as children get older, the words, paragraphs and chapters become longer, there are fewer illustrations and the content is often more complex. If you continue to read to your child – even after he becomes an independent reader – you and he can enjoy books that are too challenging for him to read independently. This provides great motivation for him to continue reading

Who should read aloud to our children?
Everyone! I would love to have parents, grandparents, babysitters, aunts and uncles read aloud to children. Each adult can bring something special to the read aloud and/or storytelling experience. For boys, it is very valuable to have a male role model for reading. I know of one family where Dad reads the stories while Mom sits nearby and enjoys her own book. This is great for the children to observe.

What if my child won’t sit still for a story?
Hearing the story is more important that sitting still for the story. Allow your child to bathe or colour or bounce a ball while you read aloud.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is good fun for Preschool Age Children

My child wants to hear the same story over and over again… I’m bored. What should I do?
Read your child’s favorite story and then offer an incentive to listen to something different… “We can turn the light out now and you can go to sleep OR you can stay up late tonight and hear this new story!” My prediction is 9/10 children will want to stay up late to hear a new story.

I have two children, aged six and three. Can I read the same stories to them or do they each need their own stories?
Ideally I would try to read stories to each BUT that may only be possible occasionally. Just do your best.

What if a book includes a word or idea that I object to?
Rather than avoid the book altogether, use this as an opportunity to explain your objection to your child. Books can be great springboards for frank discussions about behavior, language and more.

Puzzle books like Spot Seven help children learn to notice small details
My child likes those puzzle books but I find them really boring. What’s the point of those books?
I Spy, Spot Seven, Can You See What I See? – type books help your child to notice small details and will also introduce new vocabulary. Enjoy in moderation.

Some of these fairy tales can be awfully scary… Is it okay to read them to my child?
You’re right, witches and potions and monsters can be scary. Be guided by your child. If your child wants to hear you read a scary story, trying it while sitting comfortably with you enables them to enjoy a shiver of excitement in a safe setting, One of my fondest camping memories involves a campfire, a book of ghost stories and a flashlight!

Wordless picture books like Breakfast for Jack are great for multilingual families
English is not my first language. I am uncomfortable reading English to my children. What should I do?
Books on tape or CD could help you and your child enjoy books together. Look for these at your local library. While you are at the library, find out about storytimes, many libraries offer several opportunities for children to hear stories read aloud. Wordless and almost wordless picture books may also be a good choice for you and your child. Finally, you will spend many years encouraging your child to try new things – I would encourage you to try reading at least one book to your child every day even though you may make mistakes.

Our page about Wordless and Almost Wordless Picture Books

For book recommendations, check out our picture book and chapter book suggestions.

If you have a specific question about reading aloud to children, leave a comment. We promise to reply with our best ideas to help you read aloud to your child.


Picture Book Fun with Daddy – I’d Know You Anywhere

Posted on February 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

I’d Know You Anywhere written by Hazel Hutchins and illustrated by Ruth OhiI’d Know You Anywhere – written by Hazel Hutchins and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Picture book about a child’s relationship with his father published by Annick Press Ltd





Read our interview with Ruth Ohi

This story is especially suitable for a Dad’s Day at preschool or for celebrating Father’s Day. Young Jeremy attempts to hide amongst the toys in his bedroom. Daddy finds Jeremy and reassures him that he would know him anywhere and in any form. The father-son game continues as Jeremy imagines wonderful hiding places and disguises. He could disguise himself and hide near a creek or in the ocean or up in the sky…

If I became a sheep
upon a mountainside,
one of many thousand sheep,
a woolly, moving tide-
If I became a sheep,
would you know me then?

Daddy reassures his son that no matter where Jeremy might hide, he would find him.

Reminiscent of The Runaway Bunny, I’d Know You Anywhere concludes with Daddy and Jeremy disguising themselves and sneeking up on mom.

Ruth Ohi’s illustrations do a lovely job of depicting the playful relationship between father and son.

The story is best suited to very young children, aged two and up.

24 pages


I’d Know You Anywhere at Amazon.com

I’d Know You Anywhere at Amazon.ca



January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada and this year’s theme is “Play for Literacy.” I hope you will join in making family literacy a priority by participating in a community event or planning some special activities at home. Next Thursday evening, how about turning off the television, computers and smart phone and dusting off a board game or two. Why not challenge your children to a game of Scrabble, Life, Monopoly, Skip-Bo or Blokus?

In our household, Scrabble is the current favourite. We play as individuals or form two teams. During the holidays, we awarded double points to any “sort-of Christmas-y” word – just to change things up a little.

When the boys were younger, we played countless games of Skip-Bo. Skip-Bo is a fantastic game for developing math sense – without anyone realizing that is what’s happening. It is great for children and adults to play together and it has a “junior” version for younger kids.

Blokus is not as well known but it is another game we have played many times. It really encourages players to think and plan. An enjoyable strategy game, Blokus is also great for kids and adults to play together.

Blokus Classics Game at Amazon.com

Blokus Board Game at Amazon.ca

You will find more information about Family Literacy Day at ABC Life Literacy Canada

Please check out our many free printables that support family literacy and our Pinterest Family Literacy Board.

Please share your thoughts about Family Literacy Day and favorite board games.

Scrabble Crossword Game at Amazon.com

Scrabble Crossword Board Game at Amazon.ca

Solving Problems With Reading Aloud to Young Children

Posted on December 13th, 2010 by Carolyn Hart

Almost every time I present Ready for Reading at least one very brave individual will explain that his or her child does not “cooperate” when it’s time for a story. Here are some common challenges that parents face when reading aloud to young children:

My child only wants to hear stories about Thomas or Olivia or My child wants to hear the same story every night

If your child is very reluctant to listen to new or unfamiliar stories, I would suggest the following…Arm yourself with some great picture books from the library. Read your child’s favourite bedtime story and then say, “I know we usually turn the light out now but, since you are getting older (or since it is Friday night), I thought you might like to stay up a bit later and hear this story. If you don’t want to listen to it, we can turn the light out and you can go to sleep now.”

Is there any child, anywhere who would rather go to bed early than enjoy an extra story? Of course, I realize this means an extra story for mom or dad to read but with any luck you will expand your child’s horizons to include some new characters (and relieve your boredom).

Another strategy may be to introduce some other stories about trains (or pigs) but, personally I favour the “stay up later” approach.

I have two children. They are aged two and five. Can I read the same stories to them or do I have to read different books to each? or My oldest child loves to listen to the books I read aloud but my younger child won’t pay attention. What should I do?

I hate to say this because I know how exhausting child-rearing is BUT, ideally you should read different books to each child. The five year old is ready for more text (longer) books and more sophisticated illustrations. He or she might even be ready to hear a chapter book read aloud. The younger child probably has a shorter attention span and different interests. At least some of the time, I would try to read books specially selected for each.

What do you think about audio books or books with accompanying CD or tape?

I think they’re great BUT keep in mind that the best ‘read aloud’ experiences include some discussion about the book: which character do you like best? what do you think will happen next? does this remind you of another book? Audio books don’t promote discussion or reading between the lines.

We are a multilingual household. My English is not great. Which language should I use when reading to my child?

I think it is fantastic that your child is able to speak more than one language. If your child is going to learn to read English, your child should hear English read aloud on a regular basis – even if you make mistakes occasionally and your accent is not perfect.

My child won’t sit still for a story

Hearing the story is more important that sitting still for a story. If your child won’t sit still, allow him or her to play quietly nearby. Your child could do a drawing, build something or even bounce a ball while you read. The read aloud experience is so important, be create in finding ways to share books with your child and don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to sit still for a book.

What do you think about ‘rude’ books?

There are some very popular books that don’t appeal to me because of the author’s choice of words. Walter the Farting Dog is a perfect example of an immensely popular book that just never made it onto my bookshelf. I don’t use the word, ‘fart’ so I never felt inclined to choose to read the book aloud to my kids. Would I have read it to them if they had asked? Yes BUT I would also have talked about the language and why it is not part of my vocabulary (and I don’t want to hear it in my home). Having said all that, we have several Captain Underpants books in the house. In my opinion, that series encouraged many young boys to move into chapter books and I am grateful it did. I just never read it out loud.

For further information about reading aloud to young children, check out our 10 FAQs About Reading Aloud to Children.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment on this post or send me an email. Best of luck!

How to Help a Child Read Unfamiliar Words

Posted on November 20th, 2010 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Explains How to Help a Child Read Unfamiliar Words

There are all sorts of ways we can help children to read unfamiliar words. When children struggle to decode an unfamiliar words, here are some strategies to suggest.





  • Picture Clues – Almost all books for beginning and emergent readers are generously illustrated. We want children to “read” the pictures and use what they see in the illustrations to help them read the text. Encourage your child to look at the illustrations and see if there are clues in the illustrations that can help.   Remember, even before children start reading independently, we can pause to discuss and investigate illustrations for story clues.  We can encourage children to think about the relationship between the illustrations and the text. Wordless picture books are a great resource for pre-readers and children who are beginning to read. They offer opportunities to practice reading and interpreting illustrations.
  • Blending Letter Sounds – Many of the words that children encounter in books for beginning readers can be decoded by “sounding out.”  Encourage your child to begin with the sound made by the first letter in the word. Continue with subsequent letters and sounds.  Finally, mush the sounds together until they blend.  Note:  we can help children to learn this skill (before they start reading or once they have begun to read) by giving them sounds to mush or blend together.  For example, “Blend these three sounds and tell me what word they make /c/  /a/  /t/.”
  • Using Word Chunks – Some words that beginning readers encounter will have familiar parts or chunks.  A child may be able to use his knowledge of other words to identify chunks within a new word.  If your child can read “dog,” he should be better able to decode “hog.”  Familiarity with word families and rhyming words supports this approach.
  • Context Clues -Some sentences and paragraphs provide clues about words that might make sense.  For example, if a child encounters this sentence:  The brown dog jumped up and _______.  If the first letter in the unknown word is “b,”  what might be a logical guess? Keep in mind that sometimes a child uses clues and makes a logical guess that is not correct. For example and child might substitute “house” for “home.” When a child makes a guess that is logical (given the clues) but incorrect, we usually would not interrupt his reading to correct the mistake.
  • Some more of our posts about reading and learning to read…

    5 Reading Comprehension Tips for Parents15 tips for Parents of Young Readers and Writers from Storytime StandoutsGetting Ready to Read While in the Car10 Great Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Child



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