Teaching children to think by Raising Children Who Read!

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Statistics have shown that in a class of 20 students, few, if any, teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student. These studies have also come to find that the majority of children in our generation will stop reading as soon as they no longer have to. This absolutely breaks my heart for a number of reasons. Children are no longer delighting in reading, getting swept away in a captivating story, or enjoying the wonder and fun that comes from learning.

As parents, God has trusted us with a very important job. We are here to not only be mothers, but to be teachers and instructors in all that is good and lovely in the world. In my sweet Sarah’s book, Read for the Heart, she quotes:

The first thing that a young heart needs is an education in all that is good.”

The main reason behind why children won’t find joy and excitement in reading is the fact that they are not being exposed to great books. We don’t live in a culture that is filled with very much excellence. While we may not be able to control the media of our generation, we must take on the responsibility of exposing our children to excellent books that will encourage, inspire, and help them flourish into adults who have a love of literature.

In our home, each child has his or her own book shelf. Every Christmas everyone gets their own books!

Book baskets are all over the house–with picture books, magazines, art books, and piled with all sorts of genre’s of interesting tales.

In our library, we have overstuffed recliners so anyone can go read in comfort at any time.

At bedtime we kept baskets of short stories and picture books and chapter books to keep going one more chapter each night. (and of course we always followed with cd’s of favorite music that placed beauty in their little heads as they drifted off.)

Mediocrity is natural. There are a lot of time wasters out there. However, as mothers, God has called us to the supernatural–the above and beyond of ideals that Jesus wants us to understand. We must rise above what our culture views as normal  activity and cultivate minds and hearts in our children that are excellent, joyous, and full of wonder. What we feed our children’s minds will in many ways determine what they will have in their soul to respond to when they are adults.

3 Excellent Picture Books to Introduce to Your Family This Month:

1- Tuesday by David Weisner
2- Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
3- Song And Dance Man by Karen Ackerman

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Before Beginning Reading (Setting Your Children Up For Success!)

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Let’s start at the very beginning…

“Mama, p l e a s e don’t stop. I want to hear more!”

When a child breathes in the beauty, fun, inspiration of a great story, he becomes addicted to the pleasure of reading great books.

Establishing appetites for books, stories and reading creates a hunger in your child’s life for more books. From the moment my children could sit still for a few moments in my lap, I was reading to them. We had a large Richard Scary book that had lots of items labled in German and English. I made a game out of this book when Sarah was a wee toddler, and she learned all the words of both languages.

Where are the things that start with “b”? Name all of the things on this page you can eat. (Or I would say, where is an apple? Can you find something that starts with “Buh” (b sound)?

Asking questions makes for interest in new books. Who was your favorite person in the story. Would you have acted that way?

Read using your most dramatic voices–a squeak for a mouse, a booming voice for a ferocious bear and different voices for children in the story.

Reading is a mysterious process. Although various schools and experts defend their respective theories and methodologies of how to teach a child to read, no one fully understands how a child actually does learn to read. Through our many years of home schooling, we have come to find that raising children who are well equipped readers, and have a true love of reading, has helped them blossom. My children developed different habits about how often they read, what kind of books they preferred, and how early they could concentrate. Yet because we gave them delight to cuddle up on the couch to enjoy a rousing story together every day, it became a part of the oxygen of life they breathed. Now all children, in spite of differing personalities and different academic skills, love reading and love remembering all the great stories we read together.
Before your children even begin reading on their own, there are very simple, practical ways that you can introduce them to the concept. Give these tips a try these week with your little one!

Before Beginning Reading:
-Read aloud favorite illustrated storybooks every day with your child.
-Read alphabet books that contain pictures of a variety of objects for each letter.
-Play with alphabet blocks and magnetic letters to familiarize your child with the alphabet.
-Label important things in your child’s life and read them out loud every day.
-Teach your child the letters of their name, especially the beginning letters.
-Make reading books aloud  a wonderful, pleasurable time for your child.
-Create a library shelf in your child’s room to encourage ownership of books.

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A Warm Drink for a Chilly Day!


I am so excited to be back home in Colorado, but I must admit the warm temperatures in California were a welcome break from the subzero cold! Maybe I should have a home in both places–in my dreams!

How can I get my body acclimated to the cold again? Staying in bed with the covers over my head perhaps? Oh yeah, I have responsibilities–that won’t work!

Warm drinks do help me! But I can only take so much caffeine! One of my favorite warm drinks to serve at teas and for my evening Bible study is spicy apple cider. Now I have made the traditional wassail and it is delicious. But there is an easy, “cheating” version, that I am more likely to do this time of year, when I have less time and energy to prepare.

The recipe is embarrassingly simple: in a crockpot, pour in a gallon of apple cider and a bag of Red Hots! Let it warm for an hour or so or until the red hots melt. I have also heated this on the stove and it comes together much more quickly in a pinch. The fragrance is like standing in an apple orchard with a bit of “zing” in the air. (My friends always ask me for the recipe and I just smile and say, “It is an old family recipe.”

Often, I will pour the red hot juice back into the Apple juice bottle and serve it up one mug at a time–just heat on the stove or in the microwave.

Let each of your children choose a favorite mug and enjoy warmth from the inside out! And maybe pull out Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter if you need some encouragement that this isn’t the longest winter ever!

Enjoy!

Imagination ~ Something to Think About

Fritz von Uhde, The Children’s Room

Read for the Heart 11292009Growing up, my siblings and I were almost constantly in the throes of some imagined story — shipwrecked travelers, desperate orphans, disguised royalty, westward pioneers. After our obligatory hour of reading, our afternoons were often spent outdoors in worlds available only through the creative power of our minds — worlds often introduced through the stories we had read…
In the past few years I have come to the conclusion that those hours of imagination gave me far more than just good memories. As I have begun writing my first books and done a bit of speaking all over the United States, numerous people have asked me what gave me the ability to dream, what drove my desires and shaped my goals. How did my brother become a composer? My other brother a writer? What was the secret to our upbringing? The answer is simple: God, family, and … imagination.

Imagination is too often described as a ‘childish’ thing — attributed only to the young, the very creative, or the ‘artsy’ and impractical. But in reality, imagination is a transformative force that is common to all people who dream deeply enough to accomplish something of worth with their lives. At its core, imagination is the ability to envision the future we desire, the force enabling us to pursue a dream whose reality is radically different from the present. We cannot set out on a road of great hopes and determination if we have no concept of what it is we are journeying toward. Imagination drives inspired action.”
~ Sarah Clarkson in Read for the Heart pp. 147-148

When my children were younger, we had an hour of quiet time every afternoon. They each had their own basket of books, carefully selected by mom, and a treat of some type. This was an hour I truly appreciated! Mommies need a break from the go, go, go of mothering. This hour also blessed my children. They read books about history, science, Christian history, and fiction of all sorts.

These books helped stir my children’s imaginations. They could be bold heroes or delicate princesses. Every era of history could be acted out! One of our favorites was Roxaboxen, which directed hours of pretend. This sweet book is about children playing outdoors and creating their own town, Roxaboxen.

Old clothes from Goodwill and garage sales and hand sewn capes became the wardrobe for my budding actors and actresses. They made props out of anything and everything.

Children are creative, given the opportunity. If they have been given a solid diet of TV and video games, they might struggle a bit with using their minds to amuse themselves. Our culture encourages conformity, not individuality. Our Creator God gave us minds that can imagine. Schedule time this week for your children to play, indoors or outdoors and give them resources for play (dress up clothes and props)  and use their imaginations!

Here are some great children’s fiction that Sarah recommends:
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
A Little Maid series by Alice Turner Curtis
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

These are books that make wonderful read alouds as a family, or they can be given to older children to read on their own. What book are you reading to your children this season? May the Lord bless you as you stoke the fires of your children’s imaginations! Pick up Sarah’s book with 384 inspiring pages!

Christmas ~ A Time to Enjoy Reading Aloud!

Sarah’s Book on Books ~ a great Christmas gift idea!

On a storm-blown Sunday afternoon in a creaky old manor house in England, I rediscovered the timeless delight of classic children’s books. It took me by surprise. I was one of about thirty international students studying and living in England for the summer, and this was our first British teatime all together. A shy, awkward silence had fallen about us as we tried our best to balance philosophy, sophistication, and hot mugs of tea, when one of our tutors said something that sent us all staring.
“Let’s read Winnie-the-Pooh.”
A swift current of suppressed mirth ran the length of the room, but we were up for some fun, and the tutor assigned each person a part in the story. Pooh’s expedition to the North Pole was the story of choice, and before we knew what was happening we were immersed in the comical, compact world of the Hundred Acre Woods. The story had all of us — tutors, college students, post-graduates, old, and young — laughing until our sides literally ached.”
Read for the Heart pp. 113-114

Reading together as a family is a Clarkson tradition. Hours of memories have been made around good books. During the holiday season, busyness can rob you of precious time spent together as a family. Since all children should sleep at night, should being the key word, start the bedtime routine a little bit earlier and pull out a favorite book to read. If Pooh is a bit daunting by its size, try some holiday picture books or some shorter chapter books. Two that are recommended by Whole Hearted children are The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Cosmic Christmas. Enjoy their reviews!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a book I like each Christmas because it is a funny, family-friendly story.  It has inspired me to look at Christmas differently and a little more realistically.  For example, what if Jesus had colic?  The only thing about this book is that it has some questionable language so is better if Mom or Dad reads it aloud and edits as they read.
~ Reviewed by 10 year old young lady

Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado ( also recently published as The Angel Story) opens a unique porthole into the uncommonly written realm of angels.    It is written from Gabriel’s perspective on his mission to give Mary the seed of Christ as Satan is desperately trying to stop him.   While it is written from a biblical Christian perspective, this soul stirring book provides a new look on the ” all is calm , all is bright”  normal theme of Christmas.

This book is a must read in our home each year.
~ Reviewed  by 13 year old boy

What books are you reading to your children this holiday season? May the Lord bless the time you spend together!