Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading Readiness

It used to be the norm for kids to start learning to read in First Grade. Now reading instruction often starts in Kindergarten or Preschool.
While some children are ready to learn to read at early ages, others are not, and trying to teach them before they're ready can do more harm than good.
In order for human brains to read the myelin coating of their nerves must be complete and, just as babies get their teeth and older kids reach puberty at various times, myelinization can develop at different ages. Usually kids' brains become ready to read when they're between four and six years old, but it can happen earlier or later. And the age of reading readiness is not necessarily an indicator of intelligence.
If people try to teach children to read who aren't yet ready, those children come to believe reading is something too difficult for them ever to learn. They may think of themselves as stupid and give up trying. Pressuring them does more harm than good.
On the other hand, kids who are ready and eager to learn shouldn't be denied the opportunity.
There is a method that works for almost everyone. I'll share information about it in my next post.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Kids Need to Learn

What is the most important thing kids need to learn in school?
The public school system was established in America so kids would grow up to be adults who could make wise choices as voters in a democracy.
When they begin attending school, children must learn to function as part of a group, to share, obey rules, and listen to those in authority. But they can learn those things in other situations.
By learning to read and write kids gain access to vast amounts of information that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives.
Arithmetic is essential for handling money and other tasks needed by all adults since calculators and other devices might not always be available.
As the saying goes, those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, so Social Studies are certainly important.
Since many modern kids no longer just "go out and play" Physical Education is essential for their health.
Science helps them understand how the world works and provides practical information they'll certainly need as adults.
Art and music open their minds to appreciate the world around them and help kids discover and develop their talents and creativity.
Of course as they get older they'll learn more about all these subjects and get to explore others.
So, if kids schools could teach only one subject, which of these should it be? In my opinion, it would be reading because all the others, even how to participate in physical activities, can be learned through that skill.
What do you think is the most important thing kids need to learn in school?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes, etc.

Any kids who have been scared or just became interested in earthquakes because of the recent one in the state of Virginia might enjoy reading Earthquake by Susan J. Berger.
Maybe it's just because with all the modern technology we're much more aware of things happening in parts of the world far from our homes, but it seems to me there have been more earthquakes and volcanoes than usual in recent years.
Somebody told me that might be because of all the petroleum and minerals humans have removed from underground, but I find that difficult to believe because our planet is so big. I'm reminded of another book I used to read to my classes, Is A Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is? by Robert E. Wells. (It was published in 1993, but copies might still be available.) That book shows how small we humans really are.
But if there actually are more earthquakes and volcanoes happening lately, what could be the cause? Or are we just hearing more about them?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simply Salsa

I don't usually review this sort of books here, but couldn't resist sharing about Simply Salsa, Dancing without Fear at God's Fiesta. It was written by my friend, Janet Perez Eckles who has dealt with multiple problems and tragedies in her life, but has a joyful attitude. Her book is a Christian one that will help other people going through difficult times. I found it encouraging myself and it's not surprising that the book became Amazon's #1 best seller.
One thing about Simply Salsa that does make it appropriate for this blog is the frequent use of Spanish words and phrases, with translations. I never took Spanish in school, but as a California resident I've picked up a little by 'osmosis.' After reading the book and looking through the glossary at the end I've learned quite a bit more.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Muscles Make Us Move

Bill Kirk sent me a PDF of his newest book in The Sum of Our Parts series, Muscles Make Us Move. I have a feeling lots of kids who read this book will become doctors or scientists when they grow up because, like the other books in the series, it makes scientific information about how human bodies work fascinating.
It's a picture book and the rhymes are amusing and simple enough for young children to understand, but the factoids tell things older kids and even adults will find fascinating. (Confession: I'm a grown up and I discovered a lot of information in this book I hadn't known before.)
I can see parents and teachers reading the rhymes out loud to children, middle graders reading it themselves, and older kids - maybe even some in High School - using the book for research to use in term papers.
Eugene Ruble's illustrations are educational, too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Complicated Families

There are lots of complicated relationships in my family such as second cousins, first cousins twice removed, etc. But many young kids today have far more complex ones and there are no generally accepted terms to describe them.
Step-brothers and step-sisters are a clear relationship, but what if the parents get divorced but the kids still keep in touch? Do the kids remain step-siblings?
What if the parents live together but never marry? And what about their other relatives? What should kids call the parents of their mother or father's domestic partner? Grandpartners?
Changes in families are difficult enough for children without the need to figure out terminology for relationships. It's too bad they must deal with things like that at all, but it might make their lives a tiny bit easier if we could come up with appropriate vocabulary.
Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maurice Sendak

During all the years I taught preschool and read picture books to the kids one book stood out from all the rest as the most popular. Except for one little girl who was afraid of the monsters, every child loved Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
I guess every little kid has misbehaved and had nightmares so they could all identify with the story, which is just scary enough to be exciting but has a comforting ending.
I recently learned that a new book by Maurice Sendak will be published soon. It will be called Bumble-Ardy and is based on something Sendak, who is now 83 years old, once wrote for Sesame Street. Will it be as good ads Where the Wild Things Are? We'll have to wait and see.
I learned about Bumble-Ardy on Nancy Stewart's blog and you can find out more about it by following this link: