Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Artificial Food Dyes, Behavior and My Son – Dealing with Intolerance

Posted on July 3rd, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

Artificial Food Dyes, behavior and my son -

Carolyn shares details of her son’s sensitivity to artificial food dyes

About five years ago, I managed to figure out what was “wrong” with my youngest son. Some of the time he was a happy, relatively polite, relatively well-behaved, active kid but (and this was a huge issue), some of the time he was unpleasant, miserable and defiant.

We were at a loss to understand what was happening with him. It was completely illogical and sometimes scary. Frankly, at times, my husband and I worried it was a mental health issue. We consulted our family doctor and attended family counseling.

After one particularly miserable evening, I sat at my computer and started searching “kids and anger”. I think the first website that gave me hope was that of The Feingold Association of the United States. My son’s symptoms couldn’t be described as ADHD but there seemed to be “overlap” in some of their descriptions and our experiences.

Anyhow, we decided to try a one week elimination diet. We removed all coal tar food dyes from the foods he ate. Although we had planned to experiment for seven days, we knew in three or four that we had identified and solved the problem. He was a completely different boy when not consuming artificial food dyes – especially those derived from coal tar.

Now, fourteen years old, happy and healthy, he does not eat any artificial food dyes derived from coal tar or petroleum and he also avoids Annatto (which is technically considered “natural”).

Artificial Food Dyes and How they can impact childrenRed dye derived from coal tar can be called Red Dye 40, Red Dye #40 or Allura Red. In addition to eliminating Red Dye #40 from his diet, my son also avoids Yellow Dye #5 (also known as Tartrazine) and Blue Dye #1 and #2.

Basically, if a food, medicine, toothpaste or beverage has an artificial dye or Annatto as an ingredient, he does not ingest it.

Interestingly, after we figured his intolerance out, we had one professional say to us that kids who are sensitive to artificial food dyes are likely very sensitive to alot of things. It is part of their “make up.”

On the “good news” front, the issue of sensitivity to color is now much better known than it was five years ago. President’s Choice (Real Canadian Superstore) has recently announced that they are eliminating artificial dyes from their products by the end of this year. McCain also seems to be moving in this direction. Some products, especially in the United States are now specifically labeled “No Artificial Colors.”

We have also discovered a few rather interesting differences between Canadian and American products. Miracle Whip produced in Canada has artificial food dye in it, American Miracle Whip does not. Jug chocolate milk, sold in Canada, has artificial food dye in it, American jug chocolate milk usually does not.

We don’t trust anything – we have found artificial dyes in vanilla ice cream, in chocolate pudding, in French fries, in cheese, in salad dressing and in snack crackers. I read every label before I put a product into my shopping cart or before he eats it. We have even asked to see labels when eating in restaurants.

We are very fortunate because he is equally committed to avoiding the artificial food dyes. He never asks to eat anything with dye even when tempted by cupcakes decorated with sprinkles or the cherry on top of a milkshake. Obviously, artificial food dyes and Annatto make him feel terrible.

There is not a day that goes by without me feeling grateful that we solved the mystery of my son’s behavior. What once seemed illogical and frightening is now completely understood and avoidable. We wonder, how many other children and their families are unknowingly dealing with sensitivities like his. We wonder how many children are having difficulty sleeping or managing their anger because something they ate was made to look “pretty” by adding an artificial food dye. This desire to create a more attractive food at less cost is unnecessary and is hurting our children. I continue to advocate for (at minimum) better food labeling but I would much prefer an outright ban of coal tar based artificial food dyes.

Some products we purchase (in Canada) because they don’t include artificial food dyes or Annatto:

Cavendish Farms frozen potatoes, Fanta soft drinks, Colgate regular toothpaste, (some) Sudafed cold tablets, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes but not Kellogg’s Vector (seems crazy), Smarties, Bryers’ Natural Ice Cream, Powerade Clear and Kirkland Organic Chocolate Milk, available at Costco.

Our Artificial Dye Pinterest Board

Websites with helpful information about Artificial Dyes and Behavior

Red Dye 40

Center for Science in the Public Interest – Urges FDA to Ban Artificial Food Dyes

Artificial Dyes and Behavior on YouTube

Tiffany Kenney’s report

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. It is one that I am passionate about.

A Way for Parents and Children to Connect Through Books

Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by Jody

Making connections with preteens and teens by reading the same books that they are reading.As a want-to-be writer, I find it fascinating that some authors can slip back and forth between genres and age groups. It shows a wide range of talent when an author produces a best selling thriller and then follows it up with a highly entertaining graphic novel. James Patterson and John Grisham are powerful examples of authors who show this flexibility on a regular basis. What really shows their strength as writers, however, is that the books they write for their younger audiences are so appealing to adults as well. Aside from providing more great reading material, authors such as these are also providing a unique way for parents (or teachers) and children (or students) to connect.Storytime Standouts suggests a Way for Parents and Children to Connect Through Books

Patterson’s latest young adult novel is Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life. The quick and fun chapters, along with the sketch graphics and the humor of two friends trying to get through their first year of middle school make it a great read. I laughed out loud at parts, remembering my own middle school days. While it connects with many of the students in the upper elementary grades, it definitely reaches out to boys.

Finding things in common with our kids (and students) is extremely important. They live in a fast-paced world of texting, Facebook, and instant messages. They are “connected” in ways that we never were. We need to jump on the opportunities to share meaningful conversations with them whenever we can. Taking an interest in what your kids are reading can be a way to start these conversations.

I had a Teacher on Call come in for me last week for a half day. I showed up right before the lunch bell and we were discussing how the morning went. I asked about a few students in particular and she made a comment that got me to thinking about this post: she had brought in the book The Mocking Jay, the third in the Hunger Games trilogy, so that she could read it while waiting for a friend after work. When a few of the students noticed she had it, they began asking her whether she liked it, had she finished it, did she like the others. The fact that she was reading a book that many of them are absorbed in right now created an instant connection, which is not always easy to do as a teacher on call.

Kids always find it a bit surprising when they realize that you may enjoy some of the same things they do. I have had wonderful conversations about Harry Potter, Holes, Twilight, Hunger Games, and a variety of other books that kids are hooked on. My enthusiasm is real and the kids respond to that. They want to know what you think, what you liked, and if you got to a certain part yet. I tell the kids how I feel about the books that we have in common and they feel open to sharing their thoughts. My class knows that even though I really liked Hunger Games, I stopped reading the trilogy because, for me, it was too sad. We ended up having a conversation about what makes us put down a book, what makes us go back to it, or what makes it so we absolutely cannot put it down.

I believe that connecting with kids strengthens our relationships with them and makes teaching them more successful. Try reading something your child is reading; aside from connecting with your child, you’ll likely find yourself reading a great book as well.

10 Great Reasons to Read Stories Aloud to Your Child

Posted on March 27th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

10 Great Reasons to Read Stories Aloud to Your Child

Storytime Standouts shares ten great reasons to read stories aloud to your child

<5>Reading aloud to my sons has been one of the highlights of being a parent. My boys are both teens now and have pretty much outgrown picture books (Christmas Eve is always an exception) but shared memories of trips to the library and hundreds of great bedtime stories read aloud will remain with us forever. Having said that, reading a couple of bedtime stories aloud, every night for seven or eight years is hard work. There were definitely nights where I would have happily ‘skipped’ and had a little more time to myself. I clearly remember, on more than one occasion, my younger son being wide awake at his bedtime while I was falling asleep as I attempted to read aloud to him. He would say, “Mommy, your voice sounds really strange.” I would rouse myself enough to finish the story and then head off to my own bed.

image of Curious George by H.A. Rey

Curious George written and illustrated by H.A. Rey shows us that bold, uppercase letters mean the words are loud.

Let’s take a look at ten great reasons to read aloud to your child(ren)

When we read aloud to children, they (1) get to know books. They learn that books have front covers and back covers. The covers can be hard or soft/flexible. Books have spines and sometimes they wear jackets.

Sharing stories with children also helps them learn (2) how to hold and manipulate a book. When we read aloud to children, they discover how a book “works.” They come to understand that a book written in English is read from front to back and that we (gently) turn the pages as the story unfolds. They discover that, if we want, we can go back and reread a page, we can also skip a page.

Occasionally running a finger along the printed text will also help children learn that (3) pages are read from top to bottom and the text is read from left to right. With a little help from us, children will discover that bold words are often important to the story and usually we think of bold words or words shown in uppercase letters as LOUD WORDS.

If we read lift the flap books or pop up books, children will learn that (4) sometimes books have flaps or other features that hide the solution to a riddle or some other surprise.

Reading aloud also exposes children to the (5) beauty and richness of our language. Children will also gain (6)phonemic awareness as they discover how to play with words and sounds through rhyming and alliteration.

When hearing books read aloud, children (and adults) learn (7) new words and all sorts of wonderful (8) facts (especially when the children are wild about dinosaurs!)

Hearing a selection of books gives children an understanding of (9) what a story is , how a fairy tale is different from a fable and how tall tales exaggerate.

Hearing picture books read aloud can also enable children to (10) safely explore worrisome or difficult topics like going to the hospital or coping with illness, disability, bullying, or even the death of a loved one while safe in a loving and comfortable environment.

Weeding and Organizing My Personal Library Isn’t Easy

Posted on January 15th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

Organizing My Personal Library and Deciding on Discards Isn't Easy

This year I am determined to find the best way to organize my personal library. At the same time, I hope to “weed out” a few titles. After all, there is only so much space I can devote to picture books – especially as my boys are now fourteen and sixteen.

But going on a “book diet” is no easier than reducing carbs or eating low fat. Most every book I pick up has a memory attached or has some redeeming qualities: I love the illustrations or the narrative promotes diversity and acceptance, the animals are charming or funny, the rhyme is clever or the lesson imparted is an important one.

After careful consideration, I finally think I have arrived at the perfect measuring stick for picture books: ‘Will I want to read this book to my grandchild?” Of course, grandchildren are unlikely for the foreseeable future so the books that are permitted to “stay” need to have a timeless quality. Also, since I have no idea whether my grandchild will be a boy or girl, I will have to keep books for boys and books for girls as well as those that appeal to both. Since I don’t know whether my grandchild will be an only child or one of many, books about family life and siblings are definite “must haves.” Anything, anything that hints at a loving relationship between grandparent and grandchild will definitely stay.

At the moment, my personal library includes close to three thousand children’s books, chapter books and young adult titles. I have it organized as follows:

Picture books (excluding seasonal) arranged alphabetically by author
Concept picture books (alphabet, counting, time, etc.)
Wordless and almost wordless picture books
Seasonal and holiday picture books – arranged by month and then by title
Chapter books and young adult novels – arranged alphabetically by author
Easy Readers and books for emergent readers – arranged according to difficulty

Of course, this sounds really quite well organized but it fails to include the various “piles” that dominate my office floor, waiting to be read. It also ignores my “workshop” books which are always “at the ready” in easy-to-transport Rubbermaid totes.

This month, I am hoping to reread about one hundred of the picture books and decide which of them should stay on the picture book shelf but, then again, maybe I ought to tackle one of the “piles.” At least the former books are currently on a shelf! If I deal with a “pile,” I will have more floorspace and will feel just a tiny bit better about my ability to organize. I might actually “reduce” my library footprint.

Stay tuned as I work on this project throughout 2012 and post about it monthly.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you want to read, thank a parent.

Posted on November 6th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

If we want to engage children in reading and grow great readers, we need to make daily practice with age-appropriate books a priority.

If you can read this thank a teacher.  If you want to read thank a parent. from

I’m just back from a quick trip to the library. I had three books due today and didn’t want to rack up a fine. As I walked from the library, I passed a car with a wise bumper sticker: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” It reminded me of a lunchtime conversation I had with some friends earlier today. We were talking about kids (actually boys) who read and kids (also boys) who don’t. One of the men at the table remarked that his parents didn’t express any anxiety over whether he would read, it was just assumed that everyone in the house enjoyed reading and so they all read together. One of the women remarked that she has a friend whose kids don’t read at all. Both children are boys and they never pick up a book. Apparently, even TV Guide is a challenge for one of them. As a booklover, I view this as a tragedy, as a teacher, I am suspicious. (Actually, the teacher part of me also sees it as a tragedy.) Becoming a good reader requires at least two things: instruction and practice. Virtually every child receives instruction but I’m not convinced that every child receives adequate practice.

If we want to engage children in reading and grow great readers, we need to make daily practice with age appropriate books a priority. The trick is to find increasingly challenging books that captive and inspire. I will do my best to alert you to my favourites – please “chime in” with your own.

By the way, my rewrite of the bumper sticker would look something like this:

“If you can read, thank a teacher. If you want to read, thank a parent.”

The Value of Child’s Play – challenging us to reconnect with children

Posted on November 4th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Child's Play written by Silken LaumannChild’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and CommunitiesSilken Laumann
Parenting book published by Random House

In her book, Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities, Silken Laumann, challenges parents to reconnect with their children and to build safe, supportive communities.

Ms. Laumann suggests that neighbors (parents and children) get together once a week, at a neighborhood park, to allow children opportunities to enjoy unstructured time together – ride bikes, skip, kick or throw balls, play tag, road hockey or basketball or enjoy the swings. She points out that unstructured play helps to keep children healthy, creative and active. Enjoying the park together gives parents and neighbours opportunities to meet, talk and get to know each other.

Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities at

Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities at

Kids and EBooks a guest post by ER Yatscoff

Posted on October 30th, 2011 by E.R. Yatscoff

Kids and EBooks a guest post by ER Yatscoff

If you think eBooks are popular now, consider the new generation of kids whose parents have smartphones, laptops, eReaders, and every other electronice device. More and more parents are handing off their iPhones with apps to entertain young children or simply shut them up. The youngest of the bunch get apps with music and animals and stuff to keep them occupied. The older ones get more printed words and simple games. Up the ladder we go until each child will have their own eBook device. Already people are reading more because of eBooks. Ebooks are cheaper than their print versions and far more available.

In this technological age children under eight are spending more time than ever in front of screens. Those with access to technology are more affluent while low income groups are still watching TV. For kids under two, experts have found no educational benefit to watching television, and, in fact, believe TV could actually delay language development. Reading remains the best path to developing language skills.

Common Sense Media , a San Francisco non-profit group, has just released the first study of children and screen time from birth. Almost half of affluent families downloaded apps specifically for their young children, while lower income families were far less likely to do so. Only one in eight low income families downloaded apps. As technology gets cheaper, expect more and younger children to have screen devices. Presently, the study found half of children under eight had access to a mobile device like a smartphone, a video iPod, or an iPad or other screen device.

Television is still the number one screen device but that will likely change as interactive programs will no doubt challenge children more, keeping their interest much more than static television programs. Even with the current state of the economy, 30% of children under 2 have televisions in their bedrooms. I can’t comprehend a TV in a two year old child’s room. My children had no TVs in their rooms and, I believe were much better readers for it. As incomes rise, the preponderance of TVs in kid’s rooms drops.

In regards to another screen, the computer; preschoolers are using them more than ever. Putting your child in front of a computer or other screen has to be better than the TV, education-wise, anyhow. Parents do like their laptops and iPhone and games and we all know children copy their parents.

So, given that children are attracted to screens, it’s a good time to wean them from TV and get them specific apps to encourage reading and interaction. When this new generation of eKids grows up we hope they will be better readers and subsequently do better in academics. They will have access to humungous online libraries directly from their rooms. I just don’t think they’ll be as excited going into a bookstore or library as I was. Better readers will find this technology easier to use and have advantages over others. Technology may even result in children reading at younger ages.

Read more: Screen Time Higher Than Ever For Children

This article was written by E. R. Yatscoff, retired fire captain with Edmonton Fire Rescue. Widely traveled, Edward has won several writing competitions and awards for short stories. His writing credits include travel articles, short stories, non-fiction, and mystery novels ranging from juvenile/middle grade to adult. He wrote the very first firefighter mystery in Canada in an eBook format. Edward manages a writers group in Beaumont, AB. His hobbies include fishing and camping, boating, home renos, and writing.

For more information about Edward Yatscoff and his books, please visit his website.

Selecting great stories and the importance of reading aloud to kids

Posted on October 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Suggestions for selecting great bedtime stories from Storytime Standouts

When making presentations to parent groups and professional organizations, my goal is always the same: to inspire adults to read good books to children on a frequent basis.

I have two children and I began reading aloud to them when my oldest boy was 6 months. I continued reading two stories a day until the youngest was about 7 years old. (We still enjoy chapter books together.)

Believe it or not, I actually did the calculation:
8.5 years X 2 stories per day X 365 days = 6,205 bedtime stories! Unbelievable!

Choosing Great Bedtime Stories

We know as parents that we are going to read some books over and over again because our children will insist we do. The rest of the time, let’s do our best to find books that are worth reading.

Whether through this website or a Parent Ed session at your preschool, I want to help you discover some new books that will help your child…
• substantially grow his vocabulary. Remember, we tend to use the same words over and over again when we talk with our children. When we read aloud to them, they encounter new vocabulary. Here are some suggestions for picture books with rich language
• gain and awareness of rhyming and alliteration. Also known as ‘Phonemic Awareness,’ discovering that words are made up of sounds will help your child read and spell. Here are some suggestions for you to support your child’s phonemic awareness.
• learn about places and situations. Whether reading about Madeline’s life in Paris or Ping’s home in China, books take us to new and exciting places. They introduce situations that our children do not encounter personnally.
• explore the language and conventions of print. Children learn that English is read from left to right and from top to bottom. They may also learn that exclamation marks and bold print send a message to the reader.
• discover new information and ideas. Books are a great way for your child to learn about topics that interest them: dinosaurs, castles, robots and undersea creatures! Here are some non fiction picture books that we particularly recommend.
• become a good listener. Ah yes, you can be sure that your child’s teacher will be grateful for his attentiveness.

When selecting books for children we should look for
• respected authors and illustrators and their well-reviewed books
• good matches for our child’s interests (in my case it was, ‘Books about trucks!’)
• ways to connect books with life experiences (i.e. an upcoming trip or planting a garden)

Keep reading, I will do my very best to help you with selecting great bedtime stories.

You may also enjoy…
Answers to 10 FAQ About Reading Aloud to Children from Storytime StandoutsStorytime Standouts guest contributor writes about reading aloud to children10 Great Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Child

Beyond Bedtime Stories, early literacy can Include more than reading

Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

A look at Beyond Bedtime Stories, a valuable resource for young families, daycare, homeschool and preschool and kindergarten settings.Beyond Bedtime Stories by V. Susan Bennett-Armistead, Nell K. Duke and Annie M. Moses

Beyond Bedtime Stories is a very thorough exploration of ways parents can promote early literacy with young children. The authors address dozens of important questions like “What if a book contains words or ideas that I find offensive?” and “Should I teach my child to read before kindergarten?” Beyond Bedtime Stories also includes suggestions of ways to fill your home with books even if you are on a budget, how to improve comprehension and ways to promote literacy inside and outside your home.

This is a very worthwhile resource for young families, daycare and preschool settings.

Beyond Bedtime Stories: A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5

Beyond Bedtime Stories : A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5 at

Family Literacy Program Development Part 3 – We share helpful tips

Posted on October 19th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Family Literacy Program Development Part 3

I have a firm belief that everyday experiences represent tremendous opportunities for children to learn and grow. Whether hearing a nursery rhyme during a diaper change, chatting while doing grocery shopping or laughing about a fun picture book, interactions between family members and with other caregivers provide many opportunities for language development and growth.

Almost all parents and caregivers want their children to flourish, they want to be involved, effective parents and they want to create a healthy, nurturing environment for their children. In my opinion, a good family literacy program will support parents and caregivers without intruding. A good family literacy program will be responsive to the needs identified within the community. An important aspect of responsiveness is a willingness to listen to parents and other caregivers and to ensure that services are delivered when, where and how they are needed.

A good family literacy program will be empowering, it will help adults understand the pivotal role they can and should play in developing their child(ren)’s literacy. It will encourage parents and other caregivers to make time for reading aloud, playing with and talking to children. A good family literacy program will encourage adults to consistently enrich the lives of young learners with a variety of spoken and written language and experiences.

As an aside, learning does not need to be an expensive proposition but it does require commitment. It is easier to put a child to bed without reading a story, it is easier to let the child watch television than to sit and do a puzzle with him, it is easier to text with a friend than to chat about fire fighters and their equipment. for the tenth or twentieth time. A good family literacy program understands this and acknowledges it. A good family literacy program will encourage parents and caregivers to make the extra effort each and every day with their youngsters. A good family literacy program will ensure that participants understand how chatting about fire fighters, sharing a bedtime story and doing a puzzle can have a tremendous impact on young children.

Have you filled a bucket today? Encourage more positive interactions

Posted on October 9th, 2011 by Jody

Have you filled a bucket today? Encourage more positive interactions in your classroom with this picture book.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? written by Carol McCloud is a story that offers children a creative way to recognize the impact we all have on each other.

Based on Dr. Donald Clifton’s “How Full is Your Bucket?”, McCloud’s book allows younger audiences a bright and colorful way to understand a unique metaphor. The book explains that each of us has an invisible bucket. When the bucket is full, we feel happy and good about ourselves. When our bucket is empty, we feel sad. People can be “bucket dippers” or “bucket fillers”. What I liked about this part is that she explains that when you fill someone’s bucket, by being kind or thoughtful, you also add to your own bucket. Likewise, if you dip in someone’s bucket, by being unkind or hurtful, you are dipping in your own bucket as well. I think that’s a powerful way to explain to children that being mean or unfair to others does not make you feel good about yourself but being kind to others does. The language is simple and straightforward, making it understandable for even preschool children. Though I think the illustrations are more suitable for younger students, the theme is one that is especially powerful for students of all ages.

Children need to be taught behavior and social expectations along with everything else. Sometimes we take it for granted that they might already know that their actions affect others. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a few incidents where some students have spoken quite harshly to other students. When I’ve asked, “why are you speaking to them like that?” the response has been “I don’t know”. Their first response is to react to others with whatever emotion they are feeling at that moment. Offering the suggestion, “try telling them like this…” allows students the opportunity to learn how they can express themselves without hurting someone else. And while this direct instruction is still going to be necessary, establishing a classroom language based on a book such as McCloud’s, is a simple way to weave the concept of more positive interactions into your classroom community.

How we treat others is how we are treated in return. We need this lesson to resonate with our children and with our students. We need them to understand that regardless of how well you do on a test or how high your reading level is, without the ability to interact positively with others, you are at a disadvantage. To be honest, it’s not a bad lesson to impart to adults either. It’s just as easy to offer a kind word as a negative one. The difference is, the domino effect of kindness makes us feel better about ourselves and the world around us.

McCloud also has the books Fill a Bucket and Growing up with a Bucket Full of Happiness.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? at

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? at

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell – Discover Ways to Help Teen Readers

Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Do you share my concerns about inspiring preteen and teen readers?

Storytime Standouts looks at suggestions for inspiring preteen and teen readers from The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell The Reading Zone written by Nancie Atwell
Professional teaching/parenting resource about teen readers published by Scholastic

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to enjoy reading Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers.

I am always interested to read and hear leading educators suggest ways to ensure that children, preteens and teens become “Skilled, passionate, habitual, critical readers” because for so many teen readers this does not happen. Ms. Atwell’s approach to reading reading is practical and passionate. She reminds all parents of teens that everyone has reading homework and there is no more important homework than reading.

She identifies the key ways a teen reading ‘class’ can be transformed into a teen reading ‘zone.’ She also discusses the three categories of book difficulty: Holidays, Challenges and Just Rights. Her chapters on teen reading include Choice, Ease, Comprehension, Booktalking, Boys, Commmunicating with Parents and High School. The book’s appendix lists How to Create a National Reading Zone.

This is a book that every parent of a preteen or teen reader and most teachers should read. It is both informative and inspiring.

Link to the Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine

The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers at

The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers at

Meet Nancie Atwell in The Reading Zone

The Home and School Connection – Middle Grade Reading

Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Jody

Middle Grade Reading, connecting school and home

Middle Grade Reading Depends on What Happens Outside the Classroom

My students have already figured out a few things about me, which they happily shared with my new student teacher today. They told her that I like diet Pepsi (to the point of obsession), that I’m 35 (not sure she needed this information), and that I love to read. I can’t really complain, since they were correct and also because I was glad they already figured out how much I value reading. From the way they’ve been raiding my book bins, I would say they value it as well. So far, so good. The boys are gravitating toward the graphic novels, making me glad I have plenty. The girls are really seem drawn in by the classics (Oliver Twist, Alice in Wonderland). I love those first few weeks of seeing their preferences. While things feel like they are off to a good start inside the classroom, the importance of what happens outside the classroom cannot be underestimated.

As much as I would truly LOVE to spend the entire day reading and writing with the kids (and I would), there’s not enough hours in a school day. In a typical day, the students will get to hear me read aloud to them for 15-20 minutes and get to read to themselves for about 25-30. This sounds like a lot of reading in a day but it’s not if you consider that it’s academically directed. The read aloud tends to lead to learning strategies, such as predicting, questioning, and making connections. The 30 minute silent reading block is well liked by students, but hardly ever without at least one or two interruptions.

It is important that students know reading is not a “school activity”. We teach them how to read, how to connect with what they read, and how to write about what they’ve read. At home, a perfect compliment to this routine, is encouraging them that reading is a great option for down time, car rides, before bed, or in the middle of a rainy day (or a sunny one). Kids need time to read that is uninterrupted. They also need time to read that is not leading to activities that will show what they know. When my oldest daughter is absorbed in a book, it’s amazing what kinds of connections and conversations we have. I know that in school she can perform the reading strategies both orally and on paper. However, it is truly engaging to listen to her rave about a book or character she loves or to see her smile when I agree to “just one more chapter.”

It’s our job as parents to pass on our values to our children. Perhaps if you are not a reader, there are other ways to support and encourage your child. Take your lap top to the library while they read or ask them to cuddle on the couch, reading, while you do the crossword or watch tv. If you are a reader, READ. Your kids need to see you read. They need to see that you make time for reading and for yourself. This shows them the value, and pleasure, of reading.

As in many other areas of life, maybe it’s time to go back to basics. Switch family movie night to family reading night. I want to say, show them they don’t need technology to be engaged, but it seems hypocritical since I’m wrapping up this blog now so I can go read my Kindle

Start a Kids’ Book Club – Inspire Readers and Discover Great Books

Posted on September 11th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Start a Book Club - Why Not? Storytime Standouts Recommends The Kids' Book ClubFor all families, schools and libraries, finding ways to create a literacy-friendly environment should be a top priority. I feel fortunate that my boys have been surrounded by books since infancy and they both read enthusiastically and without difficulty today.

The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs written by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
Parenting and Professional Resource for Teachers and Librarians published by Penguin Group USA

When The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs arrived on my doorstep, I was at once curious about the contents and the authors’ approach. For so many young people, a kids’ book club could be a fantastic way to boost enthusiasm for reading and books.

After suggesting ways to organize a group and choose books, the authors focus on fifty titles. They recommend books for grades 1-5, 4-7, 6-8 and 9+ . For each book they provide a summary, information about the author, recipes for treats that tie-in with the selection and more. Engaging headings like “Make It!” “Try It!” and “Ask It!” lead to enjoyable ways to make reading and discussing the books meaningful and fun.

Selections for younger children include The Boxcar Children; Sarah, Plain and Tall and Because of Winn-Dixie .

For middle grade readers they look at Holes, The Breadwinner, Harry Potter, Eragon and more.

For young teen readers, one of the suggested books is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Suggested topics for discussion (paraphrased here) include how the four girls deal with their problems, what each girl learns, which character you most identify with and why the girls’ bonds are so strong.

Authors’ Website

The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs is a user friendly, upbeat and comprehensive resource for any parent, teacher or librarian looking for ways to establish and nuture a young readers’ book club

The Kids’ Book Club Book at

Kids Book Club Book at

The Grade Four Reading Slump – Steps to Avoid It

Posted on September 8th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Avoiding the Grade 4 Reading Slump Advice from

The Grade Four Reading Slump – parental awareness and action can have a huge impact

Children, when they reach about grade four, are vulnerable when it comes to reading. Typically, the books grade four children want to read are longer, the print may be smaller, there are fewer illustrations and readers may encounter tougher and/or altogether unfamiliar words.Amulet is a graphic novel that may appeal to otherwise reluctant readersAll of these factors may deter these children from wanting to read.

To avoid having middle grade children stop reading (or choose to read books that are meant for younger children), remember that it is best for you to continue reading books aloud even when your child is eight, nine or ten years old. Find an exciting children’s novel to share with your child and either alternate reading with your child or let your child sit back, listen, relax and savor the story. Drawn in by a great book and your enthusiasm for it, your child will be motivated to read increasingly challenging books. Series are especially great choices because children will often decide to read subsequent books independently. To a parent, the choice for a child to pick up book 2, 3 and 4 of a series signals, “Mission Accomplished.”Wolf Brother is the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. It has short, exciting chapters and strong appeal for reluctant readers

I once shocked a group of parents when I said that if I had a choice of reading to my child or listening to my child read, I would choose reading aloud to him (fortunately, the choice should never be necessary). The fact is, if we read aloud to our children, we will foster an appetite for great books and we will introduce fascinating characters, unusual settings, little-known historical and/or scientific facts and spectacular new vocabulary that will serve our children well. Also remember, the more your children observe you reading, the greater the likelihood that your child will reach for a book when he has an opportunity, successfully avoiding the dreaded Grade Four Reading Slump.

Inkheart is a very popular series for middle grade readersFor further information on reluctant readers and the grade four reading slump, check out our page about reluctant readers .

Reading Aloud to Children and Why It is Very Important

Posted on September 6th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

The importance of reading aloud to children - even once they can read independently

It is almost impossible to believe that the 2011/12 school year marks the tenth anniversary of Storytime Standouts. Indeed, I have been writing about the importance of reading aloud while introducing wonderful picture books for families for nearly a decade. My first column was dated April 2002 and included a review of Stella, Fairy of the Forest. I love letting parents and teachers know about wonderful children’s books just as much today as I did ten years ago. As well, I remain committed to sharing the importance of reading aloud to children whenever I have an opportunity to do so.

Given that this is a special anniversary for Storytime Standouts and since it is the start of a new school year, I want to share my suggestions for ensuring that young children mature into young adults who love to read…

Start ’em young
Beginning at six months of age, every child should hear at least two picture books read aloud every day. If we begin when a child is still an infant, the baby gets used to the idea of snuggling close and enjoying a story. If we introduce stories when children are older and ‘on the move,’ it may be more difficult to entice them to cuddle with us, enjoy the story and the illustrations.

Every day, no matter what
Making time for stories, whether at bedtime or during the day, should be sacred. Even on busy days, when we are on holiday or when a babysitter is involved, enjoying two picture books every day is essential for youngsters. It is for this reason that bedtime stories should never be withdrawn as a form of discipline.

Help your child learn words, concepts and lessons
When children hear two stories a day, they will enjoy 730 stories in one year and 3650 stories in five years. Hearing more than three thousand stories in five years will introduce all sorts of delicious vocabulary, fascinating concepts, wonderful artwork and important lessons. If we delay reading aloud to our children, perhaps waiting until they are two years of age, we miss the opportunity to expose them to the vocabulary, concepts, artwork and lessons in more than one thousand picture books. If each story introduces just two new words… that means your child will have missed the opportunity to add more than two thousand words to her vocabulary.The Importance of Reading Aloud to Children - Keep Reading Even Once Children Are Able to Read Independently

There is something for everyone
Exploring the vast array of children’s books will be fun and rewarding for both you and your child. Visit your local library or book store and dive into the wealth of fairy tales, fables, tall tales, concept books, alphabet books, nursery rhymes, poetry, humor, lift the flap, wordless, fiction and nonfiction picture books. There is truly a picture book for every occasion.

Make connections
Encourage children to make connections with the books they hear read aloud. Whether starting school or visiting a pumpkin patch, dealing with a sibling or learning to ride a bike, there are picture books to match a young child’s experiences. Parents can enrich the read aloud experience by pausing to ask questions, “What do you think Little Red Riding Hood should do?” “Which version of The Three Bears did you like best?” “Which story book character do you like best? Lilly, Wemberly, Olivia…”

Continue reading aloud
Even once children have become independent readers, they will benefit from sharing a great book with you. Although it may be tempting to step aside when your child is eight years old and is reading chapter books independently, there are all sorts of wonderful novels for you to enjoy together. You and your children will remember and reference these shared books for years to come.

For additional information, read our 10 FAQs About Reading Aloud to Children and Why Sharing a Bedtime Story or Two is Not to Be Missed.

I don’t know about you, but I”ll gladly accept one of these paycheques.

Posted on September 6th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Like so many moms, my job description is a long and complicated one. I am self-employed and work outside the home four days each week. I also volunteer and am currently the chairperson of our school Parent Advisory Council. My most important jobs are here at home. As a wife and mother, I garden, decorate, clean, launder, tutor, cook, transport, counsel, organize and cheer. Add ‘Elder Care’ to the mix and my days are full to the brim.

I was intrigued to hear about a recent study by They have created a Mom Salary Wizard. They surveyed more than 40,000 mothers and discovered “ that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $138,095 for a stay-at-home mom.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly accept one of those paycheques!

Here’s wishing you a happy Friday – how ’bout taking a “day off” from your endless “to do” list and choose something from your “want to do” list?

Parenting: What Exactly Am I Expecting – of Myself?

Posted on September 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts looks at I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern MotherhoodI Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood written by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Mobile
Parenting book published by Chronicle Books

Back after an all-too-short “Spring Break.” The boys returned to school this morning and I scrambled around doing some of the chores I’d put off while they were home. Well, actually, “home” is a bit of a stretch — six hockey games in four days meant we weren’t actually at home very much.

I did manage to read quite a number of (mainly kids’) books during the break (after arriving at the rink 60 minutes prior to each game). My favorite of the week was not a children’s book. I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kidsreinventing modern motherhood was such a compelling parenting title that I couldn’t wait to delve into it. I was not disappointed – it was thought-provoking, funny and reassuring.

The quizzes, commentary and quotes encouraged me to consider (and reconsider) my own ‘Never-Ending To-Do List” and My Expectations for Myself. I am still thinking about how I can match my expectations with the real world and, at the same time, honor my whole (not just parenting) self.

In the meantime, I have decided to form a GET A GRIP CLUB – especially for hockey moms — because really, we all need to GET A GRIP and enjoy each and every day. Beating ourselves up because we haven’t crossed every last thing off our “to-do” list or met an inflated list of parenting expectations, is far too destructive to ourselves and our family life.

I Was a Really Good Mom website (including blog)

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids at

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids at

Really reading – Effective Reading Strategies for Your Child

Posted on August 30th, 2011 by Jody

What Does Reading Involve - Effective Reading Strategies for Your Child

Looking at effective reading strategies for your child

Being able to read encompasses more than you think. With your child getting ready to go back to school, it’s good for parents to know exactly what it means to be a ‘good reader’

The benefit of being a ‘good reader’ is that you don’t even think about all of the actual strategies and tools you are employing to make sense of the words on the page.

No Pets Allowed and Effective Reading Strategies for Your Child When I ask my students “What do good readers do?” they can state any or all of the following: Read ahead, Read back, Look at the pictures, Ask questions, Make Predictions, Summarize, and Re-Read. All of these are powerful strategies that ‘good readers’ use naturally. For a student that doesn’t naturally use these tools, reading is more difficult.

The Loser List and Effective Reading Strategies for Your ChildEach of these strategies is taught both independently and with the other strategies until students don’t even realize they are using them. You can reinforce your child’s reading by supporting these tools at home. Reading is the ultimate example of multitasking. For the child that is missing certain tools however, they will feel overwhelmed. Obviously, this is addressed at the classroom level, but at home, reading every day is essential to helping your child become a solid, fluent reader. Ask your child to summarize what is happening, pose questions of your own about what you are wondering, and make guesses with your child about what could happen and why you think that.

The Lemonade War and Effective Reading Strategies for Your ChildYou can make these book talks fun and brief; basically just a check in that your child understands what they have read. These strategies can be applied at any reading level, including pre-kindergarten books with no words. When looking at books like these, I’ll ask my youngest daughter what she thinks is happening or if the character seems happy or sad. Start these talks young so your child feels comfortable talking about what they are reading. Oral language is a huge part of reading successfully.

You should be able to tell if your child has picked a book within their reading range by asking them to read aloud to you. Can they read the words without getting stuck on more than five on a page? Do they self-correct when they make mistakes? Do they seem engaged and curious about what they are reading? Do they want to know more? Do they ask questions and make predictions?

Reading is more than identifying words on a page. Books are meant to be read, enjoyed, and understood. Working with your child’s teacher, you can make reading more than acquiring information; you can make it a journey, an adventure, an escape and a lifelong pleasure.

Dads Reading to Boys – Raising Young Men Who Will Want to Read

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Dads Reading to Boys - Raising Young Men Who Will Want to Read

Dads reading to boys – making the difference between reluctant male readers and voracious readers

I’d really like to take credit for the fact that both my boys love a good book. My almost-twelve-year-old is a enthusiastic reader. He is currently reading one of the Lord of the Rings books. He is especially fond of history and knows far more about World War II than I do. Most of the information has been gained through reading; fiction, non fiction, magazines and newspapers.

Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel a great book for Dads reading to boysMy younger boy (9 years) is more of a “doer” than a “reader” but he knows a great story when he hears one and we still make time to share a book or a puzzle at bedtime.

I read books aloud to the boys from the time they were six months old. We trekked to storytime at the library and were constantly borrowing books “about trucks.” There is little doubt that I was the one who planted the reading seed and carried enough stacks of books back and forth, to and from the library, to nourish it.

I’ve always had an interest in children’s literature and read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter for myself when the boys were toddlers.

Harry Potter is a great book for dads to read to boysJust a few years later, reading the first Harry Potter book to the boys was truly magical. We all loved the experience as a family but there was one particular moment I will always remember. My husband was headed out of town for a week and was most concerned that he might miss hearing part of the story read aloud. He cautioned us that we were not “allowed” to read ahead while he was away – he couldn’t bear the thought that he might miss even one minute of the read aloud experience.

The boys and I solved the problem by rereading four or five chapters of Harry Potter and then we all charged ahead when my husband returned.

I will always be grateful for the message my husband gave his boys; he has always been eager to enjoy a good book with them (another favorite series was Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing). But that particular incident was evidence of just how important reading with the boys is to him.Storytime Standouts recommends getting Dad involved in reading to children. #parenting #reluctantreaders

It is not at all unusual for parents of preteens to be frustrated by their boys’ lack of interest in reading. To those parents, I would say, get Dad involved in reading aloud and find wonderful books you can enjoy together. In some families, mom always reads the bedtime stories from a very young age. It can be very beneficial to change this up and for boys to observe men reading and enjoying great books. After all, we’d like our sons to choose to sit down with a great book from time to time.

Additional information about Dads Reading to Children from Brigham Young University.

Jim Trelease has inspired many, many adults to ramp up the read aloud experience for their children and students.

You may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.

Harry Potter at

Harry Potter at

Silverwing at

Silverwing at

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