Raising a Reader

My kid is at that age where he and his peers are learning to read. Most have moved into basic chapter books, some have moved into full chapter books. My kid is struggling through the books just before basic chapter books. In short he is a bit behind. We’ve put in the time, he has put in the work, but my son still doesn’t enjoy reading. Currently I have him reading the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold. The best he can say about them is that he doesn’t hate them. I think he almost likes them, but he wishes he was reading something more like an early chapter book about detectives and super spies. He isn’t ready for those yet. I wish he was, but he isn’t.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about him not liking to read is that we have done all the ‘right’ things. We have done all the things the articles say to do if you want to ‘Raise a Reader’. We’ve always read him stories before bed and during the day. My husband and I read books both on our electronic devices and in paper copies. We keep magazines and books by our bed and at the end of his. My couch always has a small pile of books, and the dinning room table usually has to have a book or two removed before we can sit to eat. My kid can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. He will even make up his own stories if someone else is willing to write them down for him.

We did all the ‘right’ things, but my kid isn’t a reader. He is an “I’ll only read if I absolutely can’t get out of it and you make me read” kind of reader. When other parents brag about ‘raising a reader’ I get a little jealous. They probably didn’t do anything more than I did. In many cases they have done much less! I’ve realized though that the problem isn’t that I did something wrong, it’s that I’m looking at it wrong. I can’t force my kid to love reading. I did all the right things, and while he isn’t a reader he is a lover of books, stories, and knowledge. Maybe it was the article title that was wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘How to raise a reader’, but ‘How to encourage your child to be love books’.

My kid loves books. He will sit and listen to us read to him for longer than I am up to reading out loud. He thrives on new facts and knowledge from non-fiction books and magazines. He will retell the story of our latest spy novel over the dinner table. He looks through Dwell magazine and points out the things he likes and the things he doesn’t. We have given him a love of books and learning, and I’ve finally realized that is even more important than a love of reading.

Do you have any young readers in your life? What books did they enjoy when they weren’t quite ready for early chapter readers?

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Photo Pocket Insert for my Fauxdori

Photo pocket insert for a fauxdori

I realized a few weeks ago that I don’t carry pictures of my kid with me. As a parent one of the questions people semi frequently ask is what does your kid look like now. Until last week the only picture I had of my son was from daycare … he hasn’t been in daycare for years. If I have my iPad with me I can show more recent pictures, but they are all silly shots. Things like him dressed up with a mask on, or of something he built covering half his blurry face.

These days it is rare for me to be out without my fauxdori, so I figured why not add pictures to it. I found these photo pockets at Michael’s and decided to use them to add a picture insert to my fauxdori. I used duck brand duct tape (I cut about 1/2 cm off the width), to attach two sheets together and ta-da I have a photo insert.

You could make the duck tape narrower, but I wanted it to wrap around one my notebooks instead of using it as stand alone insert. I think having it wrap around one of my notebooks also takes pressure off the duct tape, so it should last longer. The duct tape needs to be wide enough to wrap around the spine of the notebook because the plastic of the photo insert is too thick to curve. I also made sure to pinch the duct tape together in each of the little cut outs for the binder rings the insert is intended for to help keep everything in place.

I’ve been using the photo insert for about a week, and I’m really happy with it. I now have pictures of my family, most recent obstacle style race, my nieces and nephews, and some motivational sayings. Each large pocket is 3×4 inches, so you can get two from a single 4×6. The smaller pockets are 2×2, so you can get six from a 4×6 print. It cost me less than a dollar to print the pictures I needed. Can’t complain about that.

Do you ever print pictures anymore? What is your favourite Fauxdoti insert?

Teaching my Reluctant Reader

Popsicle stick word gameMy son is a reluctant reader. I actually feel like this term isn’t quite right. He is more like a “violently against anything that remotely resembles reading, ESPECIALLY if it has to be done out loud” reader. On a bad day I can spend 2.5 hours getting him to do ten minutes of reading. (these days we are down to 15 minutes of complaining before 15 minutes of work)

His reluctance for reading is particularly hard since we are a family of readers, and we did all the ‘right’ things. My husband and I read both electronic and paper books. We are both big fans of (over) researching new hobbies and skills both online and in library books. When my son was little we went to the library weekly (now it is every two weeks). We have always read him stories before bed. We read to him in the middle of the day when he has had too much TV, but we need to have a calm break. We have succeeded in giving him a love of books … as long as someone else is reading them to him.

Last summer I put in a lot of time teaching my son to read. He made great progress, but he was still behind. Over the course of the school year he made slow gains, but he never caught up. He is still about half a grade level behind. So we are back at our reading lessons this summer.

This year we are focusing on fluency more than getting to a higher reading level. So we are working on sight words, letter recognition, and of course just plain old reading practice. Here are a few things that are making our reading work a little less onerous this year:

  1. Fiddlesticks – He actually LIKES playing this game. We use about 35 words at a time from the dolch list and four red tipped sticks. We usually play for between 2-5 minutes. I write the words on with a black coloured pencil not a marker.
  2. Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold – These are slightly below my sons reading level. They are perfect for fluency practice and read alone practice. Plus he doesn’t hate them (this is HIGH praise for a book he can read himself).
  3. The Alphabet – we have been practicing his printing (when we can since his dominant hand is currently in a sling). Before we start we always sing the alphabet while looking at our alphabet chart. I think part of his struggle to read is a lack of confidence about the alphabet.
  4. b d mouth formation – my son has a really hard time with b and d. He is fine with p now, and doesn’t struggle with n and m, but b d has been a real struggle. Teaching him about the mouth formation has not completely solved the problem, but when he is willing to use the trick he hasn’t gotten it wrong.

What early readers did/do your kids like? Do you have any other word games that might be a big hit?

Planning Ahead

I’m a planner and an organizer. I like to be prepared, and I like to think ahead. Of course I often don’t have time to plan ahead on everything, and sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out. Maybe a better statement is that I try to plan ahead.

As I have begun completing my first quilts, I’ve been looking ahead to new ones. Currently I have two quilts that need to be moved through the next stage. The first is the Mystery Quilt that needs to be quilted and bound so it is ready before the baby it is intended for is here. The second is my son’s bed quilt that needs to be pieced into the completed top.

My lap quilt top is finished, but until I have time and space to quilt it, it will stay as is. What this all means is that very soon I’ll have space in my quilting to start a new quilt top. Making the blocks and putting them into a finished top is my favourite part of quilting. The quilt tops I’d love to make at some point are:

  1. Pow Wow type quilt for my Mother. She likes the look, and I like that it has a flying geese type piece that would be new to me.
  2. Carpenter’s Wheel big block quilt. I really want to try Y-seams. This one won’t come until after the first though.
  3. A Moonlight Starts quilt. This would be made as an upgrade to the lap quilt I made for my husband. I’ll probably end up making this one sometime after the pow-wow and before the Carpenter’s Wheel. He really wants a quilt made entirely by me.
  4. A wrapped in Red quilt. I wouldn’t do this with Christmas fabrics. It would probably be red and white though. Since this one would be for my bed and much bigger than anything else I’ve made. I would make the top, but I’ll pay someone to do the quilting on it. Who knows when I will get around to this one!

Most likely the lap quilt for mom will be the first I make. It will be fun to pick the fabrics with her, and then make the top. The quilting on it will be a little ways down the road, but she is always very understanding of how long projects take me.

Do you plan a few quilts in advance? What projects are you working on right now?

Journals, Notebooks, and Organization

I have always loved notebooks. My love of notebooks probably comes from my father. He almost always carried a little notebook with him. When he passed away I found a little stash of notebooks ready and waiting for when he needed them. He used to write notes about books he wanted to read, articles he enjoyed, music he’d listened to, or things he wanted to do on his next trip. Basically he kept a running list of everyday stuff he found useful or handy.

In Jr. High and High school I kept a true journal or diary. I would write in my journal almost everyday. A lot of it was boring everyday things, but it helped keep my mind clear and remind me of what was important to me. It was a great place to let loose when I was angry and struggling to process events, or when I wanted to note a great accomplishment.

These days I use notebooks for writing, crafting, and to do lists. When I’m planing a new story I almost always have a notebook on the go. I start writing out the plot, character sketches, research topics, and random ideas about the story. A friend of mine introduced me to Bullet Journaling and I’ve been meaning to try it to help schedule and keep track of to do items.

My latest idea for journaling is to make myself a Midori Travelers notebook. The Midori brand version is a little too expensive for me, but the concept is fairly simple. My plan is to make a small one to be able to use Moleskine cahier pocket notebooks as inserts. This should allow me to have a bullet journal in one notebook, and another notebook (or two) for stories I have on the go.

Are you a notebook person? How do you organize your thoughts, to do lists, etc?

Writing on Vacation

Writing while on vacation is a challenge. I decided before my vacation this year that I would try and write, but if I didn’t that was okay too. It is a vacation after all!

Tools to use while away
This year writing has been a lot easier while away. I always take my iPad on vacation, but rarely my laptop. This year because I have Scrivener for ios I don’t need to bring my laptop to be able to write. I can easily write on my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard in Scrivener on my iPad. My files at home will be updated when I get home and load up my system.

Good times to write
Our vacation started with a short plane trip (under two hours) and I was able to write over 1k on the iPad. When I was finished I just tucked it away as usual. I didn’t have to worry about where to fit my laptop, or what I was going to leave at home to have space for it. The plane is a great time to write because everyone has to stay in their seats most of the time anyway.

Today I’m writing while the kids play Lego downstairs. Writing in the morning when the kids are fresh and getting along is much easier than trying to fit in some words later in the day when the fights have started. Or when it is finally cool enough that we have to send them out to the park to burn off some energy before bed.

What to write
For me, I write whatever calls my name on vacation. I am on vacation after all. I should get to write what appeals and not have to force my way through a scene that needs to be done, but doesn’t appeal in the slightest.

What are your tricks for writing on vacation? Do you write on vacation or do you give yourself the time off?

Teaching my Son to Read

This summer I set out to teach my son to read. My goal is to have him enter grade 2 with a mid grade 1 reading level. The hope is that he will be caught up by the end of grade 2. I never thought I would have to take on teaching my kid to read. With struggles at school, and a switch from French to English, I find myself as the lead teaching him this important life skill. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I would have to help. But there is a big difference between reading books sent home from school, and designing and maintaining a program to get him reading.

During his last month of school, we started prepping for summer and increasing his work time each day. He and I agreed we would spend twenty minutes five-six days a week doing reading work (spelling, writing, reading, etc), plus he is expected to read one book each evening. We aim to read each book 2-4 times depending on how much practice is needed. He can’t read a book more than 4 times or he reverts to memorization not reading.

We are using the PM Readers because they are used by the school system here, and I can get them out of the library. This means they are easy to access and I know what level they expect him to be at for the end of primary, grade 1, and grade 2. He started in the middle of June at an early primary level. He is now 5 levels higher and about a quarter of the way through grade 1. He has been working hard and I’m thrilled with his progress.

Things I love about these books:

  • The levels have nice small gradation in difficulty.
  • Each book gives a list of important words at the start. I use these to help focus our other spelling and writing work.
  • The books are decently interesting considering the limited words available.
  • The same characters appear again and again. It’s fun to follow Josh through his different adventures.

Some of the games we play to help memorize words:

  • Word searches (I use this tool to make them)
  • A leapfrog game where we use chalk to draw a grid with letters and he hops between letters to spell words.
  • The Dice Game. We set 3 or 6 words and each time the dice is rolled he has to write out the word we set to that number. First one to 6 wins!
  • Sight Word BINGO. This is a big favourite right now.
  • I give him the letter tiles for three words and he has to spell the words using all the tiles.
  • Rewriting a word 2-4 times.

For each game he reads the word, does the activity, and says the word again. I tend to focus on 3-5 words per day (9 in the case of bingo, but I make sure half are ones he knows well). We also cover words multiple times. Overall we have managed to keep his interest in reading, and he has made significant progress. It helps that he already had a good grasp of phonics from all the work we have done previously.

I didn’t expected to be the one teaching my son to read. It has been a lot of work, but it is also very rewarding. A few days ago he read a book to my husband, and my husband couldn’t get over the progress he has made in just the last week.

Have you ever taught someone to read? Do you have any favourite game to learn to spell new words?

Submitting to a Critique Group

Over six months ago I started a small critique group with a friend. We started with four members, briefly went down to three, and are back up to four. Overall things have been going well, and I’ve learned a lot both from reading and submitting.

Submitting work to the group was hard the first month. It hasn’t gotten any easier. I think the part that I’m struggling with for submitting is how much I’m learning from each meeting, but I can’t manage to put any of it into practice. It’s great to know what I’m doing wrong, but frustrating that it isn’t getting any better.

It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve managed a bit of sewing, but mostly at the end of my day I’m brain tired. I’m not physically tired, but I can’t think well enough to attempt something as thought provoking as writing. I also can’t exercise much because of a minor ankle injury. Overall I spent a lot more time than I should sitting on a couch watching TV and reading to my son.

With summer here my stress level might go down, but life continues. I still have to work, and I’ll have even less time to myself than I do during the school year. More sunlight, means more vitamin D, but it also means forcing sunscreen onto myself and the kid. It also means all the work keeping him reading falls to me.

Does the rest of your life often get in the way of your best writing intentions?

Fueling my Creativity

Saturday night I went out with some of my favourite writers for some writing, dinner, and then dessert. When all was said and done, I had a leftover samosa, some curry and rice, and half a piece of cheesecake. Sunday I had the samosa for breakfast before dashing out for errands. I ate the curry and rice as a late lunch while I made cupcakes (my son has to bring his own cake to parties). Then after the birthday party I made myself risotto. I of course followed the risotto with the leftover cheesecake.

I haven’t been eating as well as I should lately. It’s been a busy year, with a few big changes. Having a kid also means I worry about what I’m feeding him first, and me second. Which can mean I remember to pack him a lunch, but forget to pack one for myself. I make sure he eats his breakfast, but am running too late to eat one myself. Getting three good meals yesterday reminded me of how much better I function with good fuel.

When I’m active I remember to eat. You have to fuel your body to be able to run, climb, skip, or hula hoop. My ankle has been bothering me, so I haven’t been doing as much as usual. I guess without the activity my brain forgot that good fuel doesn’t just help with active pursuits, it helps creative ones as well. My thought process is better when I eat at good intervals, and I get more done when I eat a more balanced diet.

Hopefully this reminder reminds me to feed myself and my creativity over the summer. I have so many things I want to accomplish, and I can’t do any of them without fuel.

 

What I’m Reading

Most of my reading lately has been either for, or to, my son. I’ve been reading him a lot of early reader Star Wars books, early chapter books, and listening to him read books with titles like “Harry and the Robot”. I love listening to him read and I enjoy reading to him, but even more I’ve been missing reading books to and for myself.

Last night I managed to break away for a few minutes at the library to find myself a few books. I didn’t bother trying to find recommendations, or even look for my favourite authors. I didn’t have time for that! But I did have time to glance through the shelves looking for any sci fi or fantasy titles covers that caught my attention.

Before I went to sleep last night I started reading “Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve. It’s basic premise is that the we have destroyed the world and the people left are living in large steampunk style moving cities and towns. I’m only a few chapters in, but enjoying it so far. Hopefully it will kick off my reading for the rest of summer.

What are you reading these days?