Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Ok, don’t turn the TV off…but maybe turn the channel

As a first time parent back in 2009, I of course tried to not allow my infant daughter to sit in front of the TV. I remember my mother laughing at me because I would turn my 2 month old around every time her barely stable head would turn toward the television, convinced that even a few seconds of her staring at the screen would cause serious damage. Now eventually, after a few years and a second child, I came to realize that if I wanted a few minutes to myself (don’t judge me), I actually could get them if I turned on one of their favorite shows.

Now, I do try my best to monitor what they watch, and there are some shows they don’t watch, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, mostly because I once read an article that basically said watching that show made preschoolers lose brain cells. That I can’t have. So like many other kids their age, they spend much of their TV time watching the Sprout and Disney Jr, with a little PBS thrown in as well.

One of my kids’ favorite shows is Disney’s The Lion Guard, a TV show series that is an extension of the classic movie The Lion King, with cameos from many of the characters in the original movie. So, when my son got his new book in the mail from National Geographic Little KIDS, he instantly made this connection to my husband:


“Dad, it’s like Timon from The Lion Guard!”  Yep, that’s the Timon of “Hakuna Matata” fame.

So as I’ve shared before , I’m all about the connections my kids can make with books, especially when I don’t force the connection. So this made me really happy, but just as exciting was when they read the book before bed that evening…

Daughter: “I wonder what meerkats eat?”

Son: “I know what they eat, ’cause on The Lion Guard Timon eats bugs!”

Dad turns the page of the book and guess what? Meerkats eat insects! Who knew?

Now if that doesn’t make me say “Hakuna Matata”!

As an educator, I’ve known for a while that what happens at home can greatly help or hurt a child’s progress at school and that the better a child’s background knowledge and vocabulary the better head start they have. Once I became a parent though, I realized just how easy it could be to help kids get that head start by doing things like talking to them about the different vegetables in the grocery store or reading to them each night. But, as I said earlier, I also understand how difficult it can be to get things done with a crying infant or a preschooler begging for your attention.

So what I’m suggesting from my attempt at raising readers is that if you really want to do laundry solo or read a magazine uninterrupted, just make sure to turn the TV channel to Wild Kratts or Doc McStuffins, or apparently even The Lion Guard before you start.  Just think, you will be helping your child make connections and grow as a reader in ways you don’t even realize and getting the dishes washed at the same time!

*Side note: recently, a student was reading a book about an aquarium to me at work and we were working on the word tentacles and then discussed how they were attached to jellyfish and they sting. He then said to me, “Yeah, ’cause on Spongebob the jellyfish can sting…”. Maybe its not so bad? Mmmm…




Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Tried and true tactics?…Not so tried and true

One tactic I use to try to get my children into books is giving them books that coincide with their favorite movies and/or television shows. Now I’ll be honest, these usually aren’t the most interesting or original storylines, they are often just the original script regurgitated, nothing they haven’t seen before. But again, I’ll do just about anything to get them excited about books.

Now that I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter who is a pretty good reader, I also occasionally try the tactic of having her read to her 5-year-old brother. First of all, its cute, like Facebook-post worthy cute.


(See aren’t they adorable? And yes, it was Facebook worthy a couple of years ago.)

Secondly, because I want him to witness her as a reader and want him to want the same for himself. And third, because its good practice for her.

So, I thought I was a genius and tried to combine those two tactics (book from movie and partner reading) together…nope, nada, bad idea.

Thanks to my day job, I am obsessed with Scholastic Reading Club, so I ordered a 2-in-1 book based on the movie The Secret Life of Pets. After I looked through it, I figured it was short enough that she could read it to him. (Also, in all honesty, I also realized I hadn’t bought a book for her, so I had to figure out how to prevent sibling drama.)

Here’s my proud mama purchase

When I picked up my son after school, he saw the book in the front seat right away and immediately asked to see it (yay!). On our way to pick up his sister, I let him know that I thought it would be a book his sister could read to him, and he was on board (yay again!).

So when she got in the car, I told her about the book and what her role was going to be. Right away she says, “I want to read it to myself first”. Ok. I really can’t be mad at that, its good practice. At the very least, I personally like to at least look over a book before I read it to students or my own kids, so I decided to be patient. My son, not so much. At least twice on the way home I heard, “You’re supposed to be reading to me!”, and it wasn’t a super long drive.

By the time we got home, my patience was disintegrating, so when we got in the house my directions were “Both of you sit on the couch and you read to him!” (Sounds real inviting, right? Surely that would make you want read, wouldn’t it?)  So they begin, and it’s cute, but not quite Facebook cute, like, I won’t even post my picture of it on here. That should’ve been my first sign…

‘Cause then I get a phone call, and I make the rookie mistake of thinking I could answer it and hold an uninterrupted conversation with an adult….and this is what the book looks like now…

Yeah, that’s the inside of the book now on the outside. And like key pages too, from right smack in the middle of the book.

So, the book has been demolished within 90 minutes of it being in their little hands. But, the two of them are having a ball doing whatever they are doing now, screeching and running around the living room.

My learnings from this? Stop being so forceful in trying to create these idyllic situations between the two kids. That picture from a few years ago? I didn’t make them go outside to read, it just happened. My tactics? Still valid and still effective…just maybe not together.