A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

I am a father of three, and a long-time English teacher in New York. I have seen the benefits of early reading. The ease with which early readers adjust to school and the distinct advantage an early reader has at all levels of education are clear.


One of the blessings (and curses) of parenthood is knowing that the habits we instill in our children at an early age will percolate through adolescence and into adulthood. Children will be poised to deal with the challenges presented in any educational system.

Sharing a book is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways parents can teach the kind of reading habits a child will need to be an early reader and lifelong lover of the written word. It is never too early to begin reading aloud.

FEATURED VIDEO

Here are a few of the read-aloud practices that have been most effective with my own kids at home. Most of these strategies are geared toward emerging readers, but the strategies can be adjusted to meet the needs of readers at all levels.

Question! Question! Question!

Questions are the catalyst to curiosity, discovery, creativity, and inquiry. Questions are the basis for knowledge acquisition and the key to becoming self-reflective and introspective. Modeling the kind of questions a reader should ask is the key to developing the kind of reader who will better understand what they are reading.

Start with easy questions and move to more and more difficult questions as becomes more familiar with the book. Questions about colors, numbers, letters and words work well for younger children.

Questions about ideas, themes, allusions, structure, and the author’s craft work better for older kids. The answer to the question is never as important as the asking of the question itself – modeling the kind of questions that propel a reader through a text is the key idea here.

The power of repetition

While reading a book again and again may seem a fruitless task to experienced readers, it is an essential task for young ones. The repetition of words, phrases, pictures, and moral lessons builds fluency, word recognition skills, and overall awareness. Repeat readings are vital if you are going to get the most out of your time together

Picture books are meant to be read many times. Take advantage of these books, which are designed to build young readers’ confidence.  After 10 or 15 times through “Goodnight Moon” my daughter, Ellie, was able to finish reading most of the sentences.

Although she is not technically reading, it is more rote memorization, Ellie is practicing and learning at her own pace in a low-stress environment. This is huge for an emergent reader.  With repetition, her brain begins to connect the letters on the page and the sounds of our voices as we read aloud.

Picture/ letter hunt “I’ll bet you can’t find . . .”

My kids and I love Dr. Seuss’ classic, “Wacky Wednesday.” The protagonist wakes up one morning to find that everything is all mixed up. Shoes are on walls, leaves on trees have changed colors, houses are missing front doors and traffic lights have reversed, red for go and green for stop! My kids love finding all of the wacky things wrong on each page.

This idea of hunting for things on the page can be applied to all books. Kids love to go on treasure hunts, and we can use this sense of innate curiosity to lift the level of their reading and get them utilizing good reading habits.

When reading aloud to emergent readers, stop occasionally and design a treasure hunt. You can tailor this activity to meet the needs of your child’s developmental level. Does the child need work with letter recognition? Hunt for specific letters. Is the child working on learning body parts? Hunt for body parts (finding the armpits is Ellie’s favorite!). Is the child learning colors, sight words, punctuation? Hunt for those. Don’t spend too long hunting, though. You don’t want to lose the flow of the narrative.

Creating character voices

Reading aloud takes time and practice, just like anything else. Whatever your experience level, I believe we can all build this skill if we become mindful of the kinds of things that proficient readers do while they read.

Great readers use inflection so that each of the characters’ voices in the story sounds unique. By giving each character a distinct voice the listener can hear their thoughts and feelings and piece together the action of the story.

Look for spots in the text where the writer has made words bigger or smaller so that you can model a softer or LOUDER voice. Any of the Mo Willems’ books are fantastic for practicing. I tend to go over-the-top with my voices, but it makes the reading fun for me as well. 

Choice

Giving young readers the power to choose what they read is a game-changing tactic that is easy to implement. When readers at any level are able to choose what they read, the act of reading seems to take on a whole new level of focus and responsibility. We gain a sense of control over what we read and learn.

Depending on how much time we have, and what kind of mood she is in, I will let Ellie pick 2, 3, 4 or sometimes 5 books per night. Ellie can also choose the order of books. Choosing all of the books before we read also sets a finishing time, otherwise, we might be reading all night!

Use the book’s central characters to reinforce positive behavior, empathy, and social acceptance

The Cat in the Hat” has always been a favorite in my house.

Dr. Seuss opens with pictures of his famous cat looking in through a window on both the inside front and back covers of the book. The pages are easy to skip over since there are no words on them, but I use them strategically to make the protagonist ‘talk’ to my kids.

The cat becomes a kind of mentor, a voice of reason in a world full of blathering adults who tower above, always saying “No!” and “You can’t!” stomping their feet and waving their hands around excitedly all day. The Cat has influence in our house. I use my Cat voice in conversations with Ellie outside of our reading, and she can tell the Cat things she might not share with me. 

This idea of giving the character a ‘life’ outside of the text, has been a massive help to our household. Let’s face it, kids get sick of hearing us drone on and on with the same tired lines — Pick up after yourself, Finish eating your breakfast, Go outside and play, You have to share your toys, Stop fighting with your sister.

All of these parent-isms take on new and fresh meaning when they are delivered by one of your child’s favorite protagonists, and all of these characters can come back every night to check up on them!

Let the child hold, and read the book  

Allowing the reader to hold the book makes the reading experience more personal and engaging. Bring the book in close and let the young reader trace the outline of a character or put their finger underneath a letter they know. Let them point and let them touch.

Allow them to turn the page when you have said the final word on that page. She will listen and watch for that last word on the page, and learn to track the words and focus on the tone and sound of your voice.

I read the book tonight, Daddy!” Ellie says, even though she wasn’t really reading it on her own

She is not going to be able to read the way my 8 and 10-year-old children would, but the fact that she is willing to try makes me very happy! Embrace this opportunity with your young readers at home, for this is their first venture into independent reading territory!

When I hand the book to Ellie I become an acute listener, hanging on her every word. I know how I react is feedback for her. Is she saying the right words with the correct inflection in her voice? Is the story interesting to her audience? I try not to get in the way too much here.

It does not matter if she gets the words wrong or skips pages. The fact that Ellie is going through the process is the important part. I let her read and read and read until she closes the book and I tell her how much I loved her reading and how much I loved the story. Emergent readers need to build confidence and allowing them to read in a stress-free, low-risk environment builds the confidence they will need for school.  

Ditch the Cell Phone

The reading environment you create for your child is almost as important as the reading itself. Remember that the reading is the center point, the focal point. The reader needs to know that there will be nothing to interfere with the reading during those 10 or 20 minutes.

The read-aloud is a sacred time in my house and one that we take very seriously. TVs are shut down. Electronics of any kind are turned off and put away. Cell phones are out of the room and out of earshot. Other family members may join the read aloud, but only if they are going to take it seriously and not interrupt for other things.

Some days, sadly, our read-aloud time ends up being the only 20-30 minutes of the entire day without the hum of the hypnotic screen. It is an oasis of peace, quiet, thought, and reflection. It is a time of sharing, closeness, physical contact, face-to-face smiles, and eyes on each other.

It’s a time I have come to cherish.

In our busy worlds of part-time jobs, overtime, shopping after work, music lessons, dance classes, pick-ups, and drop-offs, it’s nice to know that the read aloud is waiting for us at the end of the day. I’ve made it a priority.

Maybe you can, too.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

The holidays are quickly on their way, and while there are tons of ways to celebrate, you should feel free to get a little creative with it and make your own traditions (there's no law requiring you to dress everyone in matching red velvet jumpers to sit on Santa's lap). So instead of battling between getting the perfect picture and your baby's natural urge to wiggle, harness the power of those inevitable Hallmark moments—the first giggle, the budding personality, the two-toothed grin—to make your December super special.

Here are six new traditions you can start to meet your little one where they are and celebrate joy in this season—without all the stress.

1. Make DIY ornaments

Decorating the tree is a beloved tradition, and having a little one is all the more reason to get into the spirit of it. Get the baby—and the rest of the family—involved in the fun by letting everyone color or paint on an unbreakable, homemade ornament and hang them towards the bottom of the tree. And sure, your infant may not create any masterpieces at this age, but not only will the precious family heirlooms stay higher up (read: away from tiny hands), you'll also be creating keepsakes to build on for years to come.

2. Bring a holiday scene to life

Connecting your children to the spirit of the season is an important part of teaching them what it's all about, but it's not always so easy to do through books and stories alone. Instead, offer them the chance to live it out! Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another significant holiday, playing pretend is the ideal way to teach and have fun along the way for everyone in the family. Use a kid-friendly nativity book as a guide or make your own menorah as you explore the story of the oil that burned for 8 nights—whatever your religion, there's an important tale to tell.

3. Make video cards

There is joy in receiving physical mail and holiday cards are a wonderful way to make your loved ones feel special. But don't stop there! Record a video greeting to send to your nearest and dearest to keep even the most far-away relatives feel like they're right there with you. Everyone will love seeing the baby's latest milestones in live-action, and it's a great way to spread the season's warmest greetings.

4. Start a time capsule box

Making (and maintaining) a baby book is a fabulous idea, but sometimes keeping it up-to-date gets lost in the shuffle of parenthood. Use the holiday season as a time to reconnect with all those beloved memories for your kiddo by starting an annual time capsule box: Each year, have all members of the family add one item of their choosing (or your choosing, depending on age) to the box and label it with a little note. Things can range from a favorite holiday-themed blanket or toy to something they no longer need but aren't ready to throw away.

5. Begin a culinary tradition

Nothing says "cozy" like a yummy-smelling kitchen filled with laughter. While your tot may still be too small to really help in the kitchen, it's never too early to kickstart their love of cooking. Pick a recipe you'll make every year and get them "involved" with a spoon and an empty mixing bowl. You'll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor together and it'll help encourage them to cook with you more year-round, too.

6. Play king for a day

We all know that as babies grow up—independence is a priority, no matter how ready for it we really are. This year, give them the gift of being in charge. By allowing your little one to eat what they want, wear what they pick (a sparkly tutu? No problem. An adorable Christmas cape? Great!) and play with what they prefer, you'll be empowering them with a sense of self and giving yourself the gift of hilarious photo ops for years to come.

Our Partners

As an ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi talks to a lot of pro athletes. But as a parent he knows that sometimes raising kids is as hard as training for the big leagues (seriously, science proves that kids energy levels surpass endurance athletes' and parents are running after those kids).

Negandhi knows what it's like to be face-to-face with athletes that so many people idolize, but he also knows that a parent can be more influential than any big league idol, and that's why he's working with Dove Men+Care SPORTCARE to put real dads in the spotlight.

"We have a platform to showcase what they do as everyday athletes, but also as everyday men, everyday fathers," says Negandhi, who has three kids himself. He tells Motherly he tries to make sure he's active with his kids—playing sports with them so that they understand the importance of staying active—but also staying active with the kids when the touch football ends and the real parenting endurance test begins. Like many modern fathers, Negandhi is committed to doing more childcare than his own father did.

"My mom did everything in our house," he tells Motherly. "My dad worked, but my mom worked as well. And she did everything. She raised us. But at the same time she showed me another side. And many times growing up I said, 'How can I be different than my father?'"

Being involved with his kids and doing more of the unpaid work in his household than his own dad did is how Negandhi is doing it, and he's taking time to showcase three fellow dads who—while sharing their names with professional athletes—certainly don't get as much credit as the pros.

That is actually something of a problem in media right now. According to a recent survey by Dove Men+Care, 70% of men wish regular guys who are athletes (but not professionals) got more attention in sports media. Because as much as winning the Superbowl or making it to the major leagues should be celebrated, being a dad who is physically active and active in raising his kids should be celebrated, too.

Research shows that when kids grow up seeing dads exercise they are healthier, and while these three men happen to share their names with famous athletes, they don't get the same glory. So Negandhi and Dove Men+Care are giving these hard working dads some recognition.

Alvin Suarez

Alvin Suarez is teaching his kids that having a disability doesn't disqualify you from being an athlete. As a visually-impaired person, Alvin isn't the standard athlete we see represented in media. He plays Goalball, a sport that relies on keen ear-hand coordination, and he is certainly a keen father, chasing after his twin girls.

Alvin says the difference between sports and fatherhood is that you can train for sports, while parenthood takes you by surprise. "I try to be a good role model for my daughters and I want everyone to know that everyone has potential and that there is no such thing as a nobody."

Alvin has won championships as a Goalball player, but says holding his daughters in his arms for the first time was like winning a medal but multiplied by a million.

Sean Williams

Sean Williams is committed to his community and his kids. He uses physical fitness to connect with his kids and to, literally, save lives. A volunteer firefighter, Sean keeps fit so that he can use his body and energy to maximum impact. He isn't just changing the lives of people impacted by fires, but also his fellow dads.

The founder of The Dad Gang, an organization committed to celebrating and telling the real story of black fatherhood, Sean has created a space for dads to connect with their children and each other while staying active.

"One of the challenges we put out on social media is where you do pushups with our kids on our backs and that merges fatherhood and fitness," he explains.

If there was a Super Bowl for community service, Sean would be wearing the ring.

Chris Paul

A Marine Corps veteran, Chris needs a ton of energy to keep up with his blended family. It started out as an "all-girl Brady Bunch" he explains, as his wife and he had six daughters between them, but they've since added a boy to the family which now included seven kids. .

He's basically got his own sports team at home so it makes sense that Chris is super committed to staying fit for them. The Marine turned realtor takes time to help other dads in his community stay fit and knows when to draw boundaries to protect his time with his kids.

He's got some good endurance, but he's not going to work 15 hours a day when his kids are waiting at home for him. Chris says in former times dads were often passive figures in their kids' lives as the child rearing was done by others.

Like the other men, he's changing that. "I'm an active participant and I want to make sure that I can contribute to my children's lives."

You might also like:

News

Back in 2017 when we learned Beyoncé was starring in a new remake of The Lion King I was thrilled. My son (my only child) was almost 2 years old and I told my partner I wanted The Lion King to be our son's first movie theatre experience. Going to see the original Lion King in a movie theatre was a big deal to me as a kid and I wanted to recreate that experience for my son.

Flash forward to July 2019 and The Lion King is in theaters—but my son and I are not. Turns out I really overestimated how long 3-year-olds can sit still. While my son loves watching 1994's Lion King at home (he always stands on the couch and lifts his stuffed animals to the sky during "Circle of Life") he's just not quite subdued enough for the cinema yet.

FEATURED VIDEO

So we have been waiting to see The Lion King at home, and now we finally can! October 11 marks the film's digital home video release, and the Blu-ray hits stores on October 22.

Rob Legato, a VFX supervisor on the film, tells Motherly that "the visuals are so well preserved on 4K and newer television sets that it is literally the mini theatre experience and you're not missing much by seeing it at home."

Basically, the digital version is going to be just as awesome as seeing it in theaters, except that we will be able to pause for potty breaks and my kiddo can stand on his seat pretending to be Rafiki without blocking anyone's view.

The movie is, of course, incredible, but so are the animals it's based on. Screening the movie at home is an amazing way to start conversations with your kids about the various animals in the film as they are of course more similar to the real animals they are based on then their animated counterparts were in 1994.

The filmmakers went to Africa to research the animals they were bringing to life and they also spent a ton of time at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve inside Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida watching various species to try to make their movements as realistic as possible. There, 34 species live on 110 acres and the filmmakers got to watch them closely, making this film incredibly detailed.

Some of the animal experts who work with these animals on a daily basis say that when they watch The Lion King, they can actually tell which characters are based on which of the animals they know in real life.

"This film presented a really wonderful and unique opportunity to bring the production crew to the animals here at Disney's Animal Kingdom. They spent about 6 weeks here collecting reference footage of the animals here and we partnered really closely with the animal care teams at Disney's Animal Kingdom to make sure that all of the filming that we were doing, the impact to the animals was minimized," says Jon Ross of Disney's Animals in TV and Film department

The film crew watched the animals from a distance, which is something families can also do at Disney's Animal Kingdom by taking the Kilimanjaro Safari or staying in Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where giraffes and other animals can be seen right from hotel balconies.

But the work Disney is doing with the animals is more than a tourist attraction. The company is serious about conservation and protecting the animal species featured in the park and in its films. "Tied to the Lion King film we launched the Protect the Pride initiative," Claire Martin of Disney's Conservation & Partnerships team tells Motherly. "We realized that we'd lost half of the world's lions since the first Lion King film debuted and we want to turn that around, so we're working with the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund to help their vision to double the amount of lions in the wild by 2050," she explains.

Marin suggests that parents watching The Lion King with their kids can use the film to talk to their children about conservation issues and continue the education long after the end credits roll. "We encourage people to learn more, visit the website, get involved and learn more about how they can make an impact on lions and other wildlife across Africa," says Martin.

Through the website, parents can even download an activity packet (you can print it and make your kids a cool book) with all kinds of information and cool activities and to help kids feed their lion obsession in an educational way even when screen time is over.

The Lion King is available to stream now and will be on Blu-ray October 22 (with even more educational features about the animals!)

You might also like:

News

For those without a toddler glued to the screen, Blippi is the colorfully dressed, bespectacled YouTube alter ego of Stevin John. He delights children by acting like a little kid as he visits farms, indoor playgrounds, construction sites and more, teaching simple lessons and singing songs about everything he sees. His channel has 5.71 million subscribers, with hits like "The Excavator Song" racking up 50 million views.

This kind of success meant he was long overdue to take the show on the road. Earlier this week, he announced a 30-date U.S. tour with an interview on Billboard, as well as on his social media. But now parents of Blippi fans, are concerned that they won't get the "real" Blippi when they attend Blippi Live shows next year.

FEATURED VIDEO

Parents flocked to his site to purchase tickets, which cost $26-$70, for the shows running in February and March 2020. But some of them hadn't read the interview, nor did they notice the fine print on the FAQ page of the Blippi Live site that said Stevin John himself was not going to be on the stage.

"I won't be on the road, but I am obviously extremely involved with the whole process," John told Billboard. "Blippi is as a character and I'm the creative force behind it, but since YouTube is a monster and all of these platforms are really crazy I can't go on the road for many weeks or months at a time."

Some parents had even spent $40-$51 on the after-show meet-and-greet before they realized that their kids would be meeting an unfamiliar "performer" instead of John. Many reacted with outrage and immediately tried to get a refund, according to Buzzfeed News.

"I didn't find out until five seconds after I submitted my payment and Ticketmaster refused to refund me," Angelina Sakowski told Buzzfeed after she bought tickets to a New Jersey show.

Stephen Shaw, the producer and promoter of the Blippi Live show, told Buzzfeed that his company would be sending parents a letter informing them about the replacement performer and would offer refunds.

They have also since added this line to the Blippi Live site: "Stevin John is the creator of Blippi and acts as the writer and creative force behind the Blippi character. Now that Blippi has evolved as a character he is excited that a dynamic stage performer has been cast as Blippi to entertain and thrill audiences across all of the tour markets."

It's hard to guess whether Blippi's actual target audience—i.e., not the upset parents—would care that stage Blippi was a slightly different person than the one they see on screens. After all, the Baby Sharks in the live show are 3D and therefore slightly different from the animated versions we all know and love/hate.

Stevin John issued a statement on the official Blippi Instagram account this week, which reads, in part: "We tried to make it clear that I would not be the character at the live show (via Billboard Exclusive Interview + FAQ on BlippiLive.com) but I'm sorry it seems that wasn't enough. We have adjusted and continue to make it even more apparent that it's not going to be me on stage. I will be the creative force behind the live show, as a producer, a writer, and also I am personally casting the live theater performer to play the character on stage."

You might also like:

News

Today, October 11th, is the International Day of the Girl. To celebrate, we curated our favorite books showcasing incredible girls from around the globe. These picks challenge the girl-boy binary by breaking gender stereotypes and demonstrate how gender intersects with race, culture and class. These books celebrate the power of girls, and inspire us to create a world where kids are free to be regardless of their gender.

Each of these books have been featured in the Little Feminist book club, and our subscribers have read and loved them all!

1. Rosa Loves Cars

Ages 0-4

What's more empowering than doing what you love? Cars, dinosaurs, dolls, dresses—all kids can love all of these and so much more! We love Rosa's joy in all things wheeled from fire trucks to car races. Celebrate the freedom to play with this adorable board book series.

SHOP

2. We are Little Feminists series

Ages 0-5

Babies love photos of babies. All kids deserve diverse books. Put that together and what do you get? Our book series!! These three books (Hair, On-the-Go and Family) feature amazing community-sourced photographs of all sorts of people moving, laughing and loving in all sorts of ways. You and your kiddos will want to look at them again and again!

SHOP

3. Big Mooncake for Little Star

Ages 2-6

Breathtaking illustrations and sweetest insatiable sweet tooth make this book unforgettable. Little Star keeps craving the big mooncake, and her sneaky bedtime nibbles will make you want a bite too! This #OwnVoices story draws on the author's Taiwanese roots to highlight the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. We love how this story perfectly captures love, anticipation and celebration for little readers.

SHOP

4. Drum Dream Girl

Ages 3-7

Gender minorities (read everyone who's not a cisgendered male) have been historically excluded from countless activities and institutions: schools, sports, and even drumming. We love this unique story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga- one of Cuba's first womxn drummers! The musical rhymes and colorful Cuban plants that adorn each page will have you dancing as you read.

SHOP

5. Reading Beauty

Ages 3-7

This is a fairytale done right! The princess's prince is not who you think it will be, in fact there's no male savior in sight. Princess Lex, with her awesome blue afro, is an adventurous problem solver who seeks peace and inclusion instead of revenge. If you have any aspiring little royals at home, this fantastical kingdom is the place for them!

SHOP

6. My Papi has a Motorcycle

Ages 3-7

Take a motorcycle ride alongside this little girl and her papi and discover what makes community so special. We love how seamlessly the Latinx author and illustrator blend Spanish and English in this #OwnVoices story. Watch out, your little reader might ask you to get a motorcycle after they see the illustrations of this dynamic ride.

SHOP

7. Separate is Never Equal

Ages 6-10

We all have heard of Malala and Ruby Bridges, but so many girls have fought for equal access to education including Sylvia Mendez. We love how this story puts the Mendez family's activism front and center—shining light on the rich history of self-advocacy in the Mexican-American community. Yes, this is another #OwnVoices stories, and yes those are our favorite.

SHOP

8. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

Ages 6-10

Do you know who Barbara Jordan is?! GO, do all the Googling now! But also, read this book! Minds will be blown- how did we not learn about this powerhouse of a woman in history class?! Glass ceilings will be shattered- Barbara served as a Texas Senator in 1967 along with 30 white men! This book goes to show that children's books are not just for kids.

SHOP

9. Josephine

Ages 7-13

We are illustrator Christian Robinson's #1 fans! In this book he takes you on a beautiful journey through artist and activist Josephine Baker's life. Josephine felt fearful and angry about all the injustices in society, sound like a familiar feeling? She took all that frustration and transformed into amazing art. We love this book because we believe art is powerful, art is necessary, art is healing. And books about strong black woman without any white saviors lurking on the next page are always a win.

SHOP

10. Book Uncle and Me

Ages 7-13

A book about a girl's community activism in her Indian city written by an Indian author?! We're here for all these great #OwnVoices stories! We love how this story of Yasmin campaigning for change empowers kids to be changemakers- and also reminds adults to see kids as capable. Yasmin's tenacity will inspire you to channel your inner leader no matter where you live.

SHOP

While these books feature and celebrate girls, we believe all kids of ALL genders should read these picks. Each child deserves a joyful, healthy, free childhood where they feel safe being who they are.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


You might also like:

Shop
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.