How to Stimulate Your Child’s Love of Reading

How to Stimulate your Child’s Interest in Reading

A question that is often discussed among some of my friends is, “How can I stimulate my child’s interest in reading books?”

There are many ways to stimulate reading and I will list some ideas which I have found effective.

  1. Read with your child from an early age.  Pick books that have compelling story lines such as those by Mo Willems for your little ones.  The choral reading in these books is great for interaction between parent and child during story time plus the plot lines are just plain fun.
  2. Another way to stimulate interest is to model reading yourself.  Pick up a newspaper in the morning or a book at night.  Children will observe you reading and be more apt to want to learn to read or continue reading themselves.
  3. Go to the library or join a book club such as Literati (Literati Kids).  Literati is a bit pricier but guarantees a steady stream of high-quality reading material.  The library is just a no brainer for books and fun story times.
  4. Establish a reading time each day/night for your child.  For early elementary it is often 20 minutes in the evening.  For my preschooler we often do a half hour of books right before bed.
  5. Provide a variety of reading material.  Some of the books may be about interests and hobbies and others just for enjoyment.  Provide both fiction and non-fiction to choose from.

Finally encourage your kiddos and be their cheerleader.  Encourage all activities that require reading.  Best of luck in your literary endeavors!!


Teaching Kids Vocabulary and a Love of Words

Teaching kids to love the English language and how to dissect words to discover their meaning is not always easy.  In my time as a teacher and then as a tutor, I have taken many different approaches to this pedagogy.  Most recently I have embraced a Unit 1-12 bundle on root words, prefixes and suffixes which has proved outstanding (Root Words, Prefixes, & Suffixes Units 1-12 Bundle by Literacy in Focus (teacherspayteachers.com).  offered through TeacherPayTeachers.  Each page offers short exercises on a new root word, prefixes or suffixes.  I usually keep these lessons short and focus on one affix at a time.   

Another activity that my kids absolutely loved for vocabulary building involved graduated paint chips.  I would start with a single word such as microscopic and then have students write synonyms based on the strength of the color and the meaning of the word.  For instance, microscopic would be on the palest pink paint chip and small would be on the most saturated paint chip along with variations in between.

I also like to rely on age appropriate mad libs to expand vocab and learn about parts of speech.  Mad libs has been around forever and pretty much guarantees fun for all ages plus it requires that students reach for words in their vocabulary

Finally, I have found using this “Words You Often Use” list (attached) to be invaluable for spelling and vocab with my students.  I usually leave it on their desks for reference as they are writing.  It is perfect for quick reference.

How To Make Learning Fun for Your Preschooler

From what I have gathered from early childhood educators with decades of experience preschool is about PLAY.  Through play children of this age learn important social skills, academics or everyday tools such as sharing.  Many parents with kids who are nearing kindergarten wonder the same question which is how do I begin to introduce academics into my preschooler’s life?  At this age I would not recommend sitting down with a workbook.  Rather try to make learning fun.  Some ideas:

  • Make learning into a game.  Play the shape game.  Look around the house or outside and find an object and name the shape.  This game can work across many age ranges.
  • This game can also work for letters and identifying the alphabet.
  • Using alphabet tiles create three letter words.  Have your child sound out each of the letters (you might have to say the word and help them initially with the phonics).
  • Pick two legos out of a pile and add them together (you might want to write the number of bumps on each lego on its side).
  • Start to learn calendar math (days in a week, months in a year, seasons etc)
  • Count and add with fingers and toes.
  • READ to your child!
  • Practice writing and make it fun.  Use different colored dry erase markers.  Start by scaffolding the learning by writing the letter with broken lines and then have your child trace over them.
  • Play more than/less than as a math game. Using any manipulative (legos etc)  put out a certain number of the object and ask your child what one, two, three etc more than the initial object is.  You can also do this with less than.
  • Go on a nature walk.  Preschoolers love this!  Find natural objects and discuss what they are and their importance in the ecosystem.  Categorize, name and count the objects.

Although this is not an exhaustive list of possibilities it should give parents of preschoolers a place to start.  I will begin this journey with you as my daughter is four and we are beginning to introduce academics into our daily routine.  Best of luck!

Subtraction Using Models and Common Core

Today, we will do subtraction using the common core approach as well as models.  The chart below shows both methods.  In the first example 134 is subtracted from 385 using the common core approach.  As you can see, we first break down 385 and 134 into hundreds, tens and ones.  After we do this we subtract the hundreds, tens and ones of 134 from 385.  Finally, we add the remaining numbers for the final answer. 

A different approach which uses models makes more sense to some students.  It can also be used as we are first introducing the concept of subtraction.  In this approach a different symbol is chosen to represent the hundreds, tens and ones of a number.  In this example the number 385 is represented using these symbols, as you can see in the chart below.  Following this the student would cross out 1 square representing the hundred in 134, that is being subtracted from 385.  Next the student would cross out 3 tens representing the 30 in 134 and 4 ones representing the four in 134.  The student then counts the remaining symbols and adds them for the final answer.  We are fortunate to have many different approaches to solve a problem for different types of learners.  As the equations become more complicated one method may be favored over another by the student.

Common Core vs. Traditional Addition Explained

Today we will take a look at two different methods of adding bigger numbers.  First, we will quickly glance at the more traditional method and second we will look at a common core example.

Many parents are quite familiar with the traditional method of adding numbers which looks something like this:

In this example, the student carries the one to the tens and then a one from the tens to the hundreds place.

Common core is quite different and looks something like this:

As you can see each number must be broken down into the hundreds, tens and ones.  After this is done for both numbers you add the hundreds, add the tens and the ones of the two numbers and then combine (see example).  Again, this method focuses quite heavily on place value.  But many parents prefer the traditional way and believe that it doesn’t involve quite as many steps.  Whatever your preference it is helpful to know both methods of addition that are currently being taught in schools.  Awareness of both methods is beneficial.

Subtraction with Borrowing Done Two Ways

Many parents are scratching their heads as different methods of subtraction with borrowing are introduced in schools.  I will explain the common core method here and hopefully shed some light on the process.

Subtraction with borrowing using the traditional method goes like this:

I introduced this in my last post.  With the traditional method a 10 is borrowed from the 84 and added to the 4 to become 14.  This is the method that most parents are familiar with.

Nowadays many schools are introducing common core subtraction with borrowing which looks more like this:

This method has more to do with place value.  The first step that the student must undertake is expanding the number 625 to 600, 20 and 5.  Also, the student needs to expand the number 186 to 100, 80 and 6.  Essentially writing out the 100’s 10’s and 1’s place.  As you can see from the chart the student then borrowed a 10 from the 20 and added it to the 5 to become 15.  From there the student then borrowed 100 from the 600 and added it to the 10 to become 110.  The problem is then solvable using subtraction from there.  The final step is to add 400+30+9=439.

Many students are very used to writing numbers out in expanded form so this type of problem solving should not be much of a stretch if this is a method they are comfortable with.  I personally prefer the more traditional method of subtraction with borrowing but this could just be because this is how I was taught in elementary school.  I think it is helpful to know both methods as schools are increasingly teaching different styles of problem solving to students.

Subtraction Done Two Ways

I am continuing my blog series on common core math problems explained.  Today’s blog focuses on subtraction done two ways.

The first way that we will discuss is the method that parents are most familiar with which is subtraction with borrowing or regrouping.  An example can be seen here:

This is the method that makes most sense to most parents because it is how we were taught.  In this example a ten is borrowed from 84 and added to the 4 to become 14.  The problem becomes solvable from here.

Common core subtraction is entirely different from subtraction with borrowing or regrouping.  The following is an example of it:

With a problem like 62 minus 14 you start with the 14.  You then figure out what you need to add to get to 20 which is the closest ten.  This answer is 6.  You keep adding tens until you reach the top number in the tens place (60).  You then add ones to make the whole number (62).  You then add together the column of tens and ones (6+10+10+10+10+2) to get your answer.

I personally prefer subtraction with regrouping because I think that the common core way requires too many steps.  However, many schools are teaching common core.  Hopefully this brief tutorial will help clarify the process for both methods.

Food for Thought: Two different ways to approach Division

Many parents are scratching their heads as schools are teaching different methods to do math problems.  Take, for example traditional long division.  There is traditional division and common core partial quotient division.  In order to simplify the approach we will take a look at both methods.

The approach that most parents are familiar with is traditional division as modeled here:

Often teachers will teach a mnemonic: daddy, mommy, sister, brother to help students remember the steps.  This stands for divide, multiply, subtract and bring down.  The approach is fairly formulaic and once memorized fairly easy to implement.  The trick is always remembering the steps.

Common core partial quotient division is entirely different from traditional division.  Below is an example of it:

Partial quotient involves a lot of estimating.  In this problem the student would begin by estimating how many times 8 goes into 136.  The student chose 10 so the 10 goes to the right.  The student then multiplies 8×10 and gets 80.  The next step would be to subtract 80 from 136 and the answer is 56.  Now the student estimates how many times 8 goes into 56.  The exact answer is 7 and the 7 goes to the right.  The answer is achieved by adding 10+7=17.

Some of my students that are homeschooled naturally gravitate towards one method or another.  In some cases schools might prefer one method over another.  Both can be learned with patience and repeated practice.

Preventing Summer Brain Drain: Some Tips

After the crazy year we’ve had many parents are wondering how to prevent summer brain drain which is nothing new in the education world.  There are some easy ways to approach this trend in learning:

  • Read to your child and have your child read to you.  This is hands down a really easy and efficient way to make sure your child isn’t losing the decoding skills he or she has already attained.  Block out a little time for this each day and you will be amazed at the results!
  • Engage your child with educational apps and technology.  There are so many educational apps and websites out there that are great for supplemental learning.  Although screen time often gets a bad rap, when supervised by an adult certain apps and websites can be great supplemental education.  Some of my favorites are Endless Reader, Prodigy, Quizziz, Khan Academy and Blooket to name a few.
  • Go on educational, hands on outings with your kid.  They will love the time spent with you and learn while doing.  Museums, zoos and farms are all fantastic learning opportunities.
  • If you go on a vacation have your child write a postcard.  This will help with handwriting and is not a huge amount of writing so that the child is overwhelmed or sees it as a chore.
  • Use everyday chores and tasks such as baking and gardening as educational experiences.  Both can teach basic math skills and a love of the task at hand.
  • Take a break!  After the year we’ve had everyone needs the chance to relax and regroup.  This will be a gift you can give yourself and your child.