Car Time

The longer I’m a parent, the more I realize how precious time in the car with my children can be!  We are in the car a lot and I used to dread the rides when my children were little because they would mostly cry or fight.  I wanted to give them media devices or install TV screens in my car so I could just have some peace and quiet!!!  Then I decided there were better options.  I started with Books on CD.  My children were quite young when I played them the reading of “The Polar Express” for the first time. I will NEVER forget how quiet and mesmerized they were by a deep voice reading a book to them in the car.  They were a captive audience because they were buckled in and there was nowhere else they could go, but it kept them quiet, entertained and was teaching them all at the same time. They couldn’t do the really long chapter books at first, so we did some fun Disney stories, Jumanji, and other short ones we could check out from the library.  We would have the cutest little conversations after the book was finished.  As they’ve grown a little older we’ve transitioned into listening to chapter books and it has surprised me how well they listened and retained.  We have listened to:  “Old Yeller”, “Little House, Big Woods”, “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, Prince Caspian”, and several other great classics including the Old Testament (for children).  If we come to a part in the book they might not understand I pause the reading and explain and they can ask me question.  We have had so many amazing discussions in the car because one question would always lead to another. Often times I don’t even turn the book back on because we get so caught up talking. I find out so much about my children and their curiosities during these conversations in the car. I talk to them about so many things, ask them questions and they can talk to ME about anything.

Now that some of my children are older and can read on their own I love to have library books in the car next to them so they can read to themselves instead of just listening.  Some of my friends have kids who get carsick easily and can’t read in the car so that’s where the CD’s would come in handy. Did you know the public library carries a book/CD combo that enables the kids to be able to listen and/or follow along in the book?

I have learned that the car is also a great time to introduce good and uplifting music to my children. Everybody has their favorite kinds of music however I try to feed my children a variety of all kinds of music. I love playing CDs from musicals or great Broadway shows and explaining the basic story to my children. They love hearing the stories behind each song.  It’s fun to see what type of music each child prefers. I let them each choose their favorite track on the particular CD we are listening to and even my little 4 year-old has a definite preference.

Sometimes at home, there is too much going on to have a good long conversation with my children. Our car rides have become our uninterrupted conversation time. My husband and I don’t even bring a video player on long road trips anymore and my kids don’t expect it because they know we will either read, talk or listen to great music.  I never thought that could be possible!!

Our time in the car is so precious!  Listening to good books and music has completely changed the way we fell about out time in the car.

Thanks to my daugther-in-law Karlie for contributing this post!

How Many Way Are There to Read a Book?

In my current job I perform hearing tests on a children 2 ½ to 6 years old. Most of them do not know how to read yet. After I’ve completed the test they need to sit and wait for several minutes while I record and document the results. I have a few books that I offer to the child to look at while they wait (I’m amazed that the Scooby Doo book is a favorite of 95% of the children I screen! I watched that cartoon almost 50 years ago and it’s still around and popular today- amazing). It’s really interesting to me to see how differently the children look at the books.

There are the ones who flip through through all three books in 12 seconds then say, “I’m done”.

There are the kids who sit quietly and look at each page carefully.

Some kids turn down the books because, they say, “I don’t know how to read yet”.

Others look at the pictures and make up elaborated stories (pretending they are reading) while they look at the pictures, not intimidated by the fact that someone is listening to what they are saying.

And there is the group who look at each page and ask lots of questions about what’s is happening in every picture (this group is difficult for me because I have to keep saying, “I need to write so I can’t talk to you while you look at the book”).

These observations have become so interesting to me and caused me to wonder, “Why do children view and use books so differently”?

The group of kids who have difficulty separating from their parent will have their mom or dad come into the testing room with them. While they wait for the results I hear how their parent interacts with their child about the books. I’ve found there is such a big difference in the ways the parents talk with their child about the books while they wait. I’ve come to think that the way a child perceives books is, in a large part, how they have learned from their parent.

Some parents just hand the books to the kids and tell them to look at them.

Other parents lift their child onto their lap and read every word that is on the page to them.

Other parents have the child look through the book and they ask them questions that have to do with the illustrations on the pages.

Now this may all seem like small stuff to you. However, as I’ve seen hundreds of children of similar age and such a wide variety of behaviors I’ve realized that there is a vast difference in a pre-school age child’s habits and the abilities in the area of reading readiness. Another test we administer is a reading readiness screening which evaluates a child’s level of knowledge in the area of reading. Things that may seem overly simple to an adult are important stepping-stones to a child becoming a successful future reader. Things such as:

We read from left to right

Recognizing the front from back of a book

Letter recognition and sounds

Distinguishing between letters and numbers

How to rhyme

How to segment words (such as “mmm” and “oon” together say “moon”)

Understanding that the picture in a book and the words go together

Recognizing that words are separated by spaces

All these are important building blocks to reading and can easily be taught to a young child even by a novice parent.

Now you may be asking yourself what you could do to help your child prepare to be a great reader. There are lots of ways to teach your young child about books and reading to prepare them to read down the road.

Read to your child every day.

Let your children see you read.

Make reading fun or make it a reward

Talk about what’s happening in a book as you look at it together

Go to the library regularly

As you read to your child:

  • Ask questions about what they see in the book,
  • Ask what they think might happens next
  • Ask what they would do if the same thing happened to them.

Reading is a foundational skill for children to learn and a key to future success. It is the basis of so many other skills such math word problems, being able to understand written instructions or directions and reading signs and maps.

A few small changes now can make a huge difference in your child’s reading success. Help open a whole new world to your kids by setting them up to be strong, successful readers and learners.

Children’s Bedtime

“I want a drink of water”

“I need to go to the bathroom”

“I can’t go to sleep”

Are these some of the things you hear from your kids night after night when they are finally in bed, but not asleep?

Here’s one idea to help kids settle down at night and be ready to sleep.

Twenty minutes before bedtime Announce, “In 20 minutes, that’s 8:00, I’m going to read out loud in my bed. Anyone who is ALL ready for bed is invited”.

ALL ready for bed might need to be defined a head of time. That way, after the reading when the kids are relaxed the spell is not broken by extra activity between your bed and theirs. Our routine was pajamas on, teeth brushed, prayer said, already used the bathroom and got a last drink. Then you can add ANYTHING else your family does as part of a nightly routine.

Ten minutes later say, “Reading in my bed in 10 minutes, hope you’re there”

And when it’s time to start say something like, “Reading fun will now begin” Or something that makes them realize that this activity is a real treat.

Also, I accepted latecomers. If they were not quite ready when the reading began they could finish getting ready and then join us. Missing part of the story seemed to be it’s own punishment for tardiness. There were times when a child was not ready and they could not seem to understand why I would not wait for them to get there before I began. It was a good chance for me to teach them to accept responsibility by saying, “I said I was starting to read at 8:00 so I need to start now. Go ahead and finish getting ready quickly and then come. It would not be fair to everyone who was ready to have to wait. Maybe tomorrow you need to start getting ready a little earlier”.

I have sweet memories of evenings with a bed full of kids, pillows and a good book.

When the reading is done and the kids are relaxed they can be sent (or carried is even more fun for them) gently and quietly to their own beds.

I think there is no shortage of book lists available to give you ideas for good reads. If you need some help to begin try Scholastic ,  International Reading Association, Teachers First (scroll down to “100 Best Books”). Or just go to the library and let you kids choose some of their own books! Don’t get too stressed over trying to find books that fit the age of every child listening. I think almost any age child will not complain with a good picture book even if it is technically below them in ability. And I found that often a young child will listen to a chapter book.

A few of our favorite books that come to mind:

Picture books:

The Empty Pot

How Much is a Million

Strega Nonna

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

The 5 Chinese Brothers

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

Chapter books:

Little House on the Prairie series (my favorites are House in the Big Woods and

Farmer Boy)

Cricket in Time Square

Mouse and the Motor Cycle

Trumpet of the Swan

Charlotte’s Web

Indian In the Cupboard

Reading at bedtime can help calm kids, and raise a reader at the same time.

Create a Solid Foundation for Reading


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

The Reading Mother by Strickland Gillian

I adore reading!  I could read all day long!  When I go on vacation I take a couple books because I enjoy it so much.  I know this is not the case with everyone and I’m sad that people miss out on the enjoyment and adventure a great book can read.  As a teacher I have met kids on every part of the reading enjoyment spectrum.  I have found that the kids who really enjoy reading gained that love from an early age.  They say that children become readers on the laps of their parents.

Before children learn to read, there are a few things they need to establish.  We talked about playing with sounds and how that ties into reading before.  Today I want to write about concepts of print.  Essentially, this is understanding the elements of a book.  When a child understands the basic elements or reading, then taking the next step (becoming a reader themselves) is easy and natural.  Here are some of these concepts (which can easily be learned when you read to your child regularly):

  • You open books on the right side
  • Where the front and back cover are
  • On each page words go left to right, top to bottom
  • The pictures and words on a page to together
  • The title is on the front cover and the title page
  • Where to begin reading in a book
  • That words are groups of letters with spaces separating them
  • Being able to show the first and last pages, pictures, words on a page, etc.
  • Understand that you turn pages while reading and that the story continues on the next page.

Here is an assessment you can look over and use with your child if you are interested.

If you make it a habit of reading to your child regularly, these will come along incredibly naturally!  Happy reading.