Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Raise a Savvy Reader: An Age-by-Age Guide

We all know that we are supposed to read to our children, but each developmental stage comes with its own needs and challenges. This handy guide will help you develop a strong structure for reading at home with children of any age.

Raise a Savvy Reader: An Age-by-Age Guide Adjust reading patterns and strategies with your kids as they grow and develop.

Ages 0-3: Baby Bookworms
From the moment precious infants arrive in the world, they are sponges for language. It is our responsibility to provide them with something to soak in.

Read aloud every day. Baby books featuring rhythmic phrasing and rhymes will soothe your little one as well as introduce her to new words. (Even if she dozes off mid-book, she will love the sound of your voice.)

Set a consistent schedule for reading. Establish a time that works within your family’s daily routine. For many kids this happens at bedtime, but other times may work better for you.

Keep books within reach. Although the pages may spend a fair amount of time in her mouth, she will begin to understand the features of a book, including illustrations vs. text and how to turn a page.

Show her that you read, too. No one is suggesting you finally pick up War and Peace. But do show your child that reading is valued in your home, even if it has to be in short spurts of time.

Ages 3-5: Preschool Power Readers
This is the age of budding confidence. When it comes to reading, it is important to nurture their confidence by providing them lots of opportunities to show off what they know.

Encourage their “reading.” After your 9,563rd reading of Go, Dog, Go!, you may notice your budding reader saying the words along with you. You might begin to point to the words as you go.

Stop to ask questions about the story. Offering opportunities for your child to think about the story and talk about it will help to build reading comprehension skills.

Make reading fun. Talk about how much you enjoy reading with your child. Read aloud with expression and humor in your voice.

Browse for books. This age is a perfect time to introduce your child to the public library, used book stores, school surplus events, and garage sales. Encourage your child to explore topics of interest and choose books on his own, even if only for the pictures.

Point out words in the world. When you go out and about, talk about the written words you see around you.

Read at least 20 minutes daily. If your family’s schedule is crazy or your child is very active, don’t fear. Reading a book here and there through the day has the same benefits as one long stretch.

Ages 5-9: School-Age Scholars
They are now in school, and their world is turned on its ear. Keep the routines consistent while supporting them as independent readers.

Support their book selection. By this age, kids should be selecting their own books, but you’ll want to monitor the age- and level-appropriateness.

Have them read to you. Letting your child read to you will foster her confidence as a reader, as well as paint you a picture of her reading strengths and needs.

But let them read alone, too. Try a family reading time, where everyone is together in the same room, reading material of their own choosing.

Ages 9-12: Independent Intermediates
The exploding independence of preteens may drive parents crazy, but when it comes to reading we need to nourish it.

Ask them about their reading. Ask why he chose it, what he’s learning from it, how he feels reading it, and so on.

Keep up the old habits. Show your child that you value literacy through your actions more than your words. It will mean a lot more to them in the long run.

leave a comment!

Keep the Art of Handwriting Alive

Did you know that we recently celebrated National Handwriting Day? The unofficial holiday was established in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in order to remind the public about the importance of handwriting.

Practical Tips to Help Kids Reach Goals What can you do to make sure your child knows the importance of handwriting?

January 23rd was chosen as the big day in recognition of the birth of John Hancock, whose signature on the Declaration of Independence is one of the most recognizable examples of handwriting in America.

In the age of the computer, concern about handwriting is an important topic for parents and educators, as well as the makers of pencils and paper. Has the ease of email and the Internet eliminated the need for kids to learn how to write by hand? We’ve already seen how young people have created their own codes and symbols to use for texting and instant messaging, which can make learning traditional spelling and grammar more challenging for kids. Could the pen and paper and the simple act of writing become as obsolete as hieroglyphics and carvings on stone tablets?

If you’d like to keep the art of handwriting alive for your kids, here are a few simple ideas to make handwriting an active part of your family’s life.

Word Games
Get books of word games, like crossword puzzles and Mad Libs, or play games like Hangman. These kinds of games will help expand vocabulary, reinforce proper spelling, and teach parts of speech to kids, as well as letting kids practice forming their letters.

Write a Letter
Who doesn’t love getting something in the mail? Not only will your child get to practice their writing skills, but they’ll brighten someone’s day with an unexpected letter or a postcard. Writing letters to grandparents and relatives, camp friends, or neighbors is a great rainy day activity too. You can even make your own postcards (just check the United States Postal Service to make sure your mail is the correct size and weight) to send personalized photos or drawings along with your message.

Keep a Family Journal
No, not a blog; a tangible pen and paper journal. Entries don’t need to be profound pieces of prose, just a few lines about what’s new in your family, your community, or the world. Depending on your children’s age and comfort with writing, you can either work on entries as a family or let everyone contribute individually. Discussing entries makes for great dinnertime conversation too. You’ll also be keeping a record of your family’s milestones and history, which could be a great keepsake for your grandchildren one day.

leave a comment!

MaryAnn Kohl Helps to Teach Great Artists

MaryAnn Kohl appreciates crafts, but her life’s passion is art.

“Crafts are about kids following directions and making something that the adult has already decided they are going to make,” MaryAnn explained in a phone interview. “With art, adults give the kids certain materials, but the outcome is up to the child.”

Bug n' Bean Soup in the style of Andy Warhol Bug n’ Bean Soup in the style of Andy Warhol, by Rebekah Butler, 11.
Image used with permission by MaryAnn Kohl

It might seem like a subtle distinction, but this Bellingham author has been publishing art activity books for children for over 20 years to help kids, and the adults in charge of them, understand that difference and to learn that art is important and worthwhile.

MaryAnn has lived in Bellingham since 1971. She was a teacher in Ferndale until becoming a parent. She later began doing workshops on creativity and art projects for other teachers and parents, and saw that she could do more.

“I had all these handouts that I made for the workshops, so I decided to try to get them published,” MaryAnn said. With a family history in bookstore ownership and bookbinding, MaryAnn felt confident enough to start her own publishing company and self-published her first book in 1985. MaryAnn has been publishing new books on a regular basis ever since, and she continues to consult in schools and teach art workshops for parents.

Child's drawing of Grandma Moses Grandma Moses by Abbi Garcia, 10.
Image used with permission by MaryAnn Kohl

Coming up on January 28, 2009, MaryAnn will be leading a workshop at Village Books for parents, teachers, and others that work with children. She’ll be referring to her most recently published book, Great American Artists for Kids, which offers artist biographies, full-color artwork, and a multitude of ideas for art projects that will help kids learn the styles of the masters.

“I wanted to do a follow-up to Discovering Great Artists and decided to focus on American artists since so many are great for kids,” MaryAnn said. Great American Artists for Kids includes entries on over 70 artists, spanning various styles and artistic mediums over the past 200 years.

MaryAnn is especially proud that Great American Artists for Kids is a full-color book at an affordable price (suggested retail price is $19.95). “It’s almost unheard of to do a color book at that price, but it’s important for me to get things like this to children,” she said. “My general mission statement is to bring good things to children.”

When asked which art lesson in the book is her favorite, MaryAnn said that her favorite changes. “It’s more interesting to see which projects the kids like,” she explained. “Sometimes what they respond to surprises me.”

A project that is often popular with kids is “Surreal Tableau Photo” (page 103), which mimics surrealist photographer Sandy Skoglund’s abstract scenes incorporating objects and actors. “For kids, surreal means funny, and it’s like playing house for them. I’ve never seen a kid so deeply involved in anything in my life,” MaryAnn said, recalling how engaged the kids were in creating their scene.

Cover of "Great American Artists for Kids" Cover of “Great American Artists for Kids”
Image used with permission by MaryAnn Kohl

To help kids get excited about art, MaryAnn recommended having art supplies at home in a place of easy access. “Keep a variety of things—scissors, glue, crayons, paper, magazines, yarn, buttons—within their reach so kids don’t have to ask permission to create art,” she suggested. “And turn off anything with a screen so kids can really get involved in creating art.”

If you’d like to get more ideas for art projects for kids, check out MaryAnn’s workshop at Village Books on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7 PM. The workshop is free and no pre-registration is required. Visit Bright Ring Publishing for more information on MaryAnn and her books, and check Activities for future parent and teacher workshops by MaryAnn in Bellingham and Whatcom County.

leave a comment!