Pick Up a Book and Get Active?

A little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? For me, reading a book means finding a comfortable spot to curl up without distractions. How do you get active with something that’s supposed to be relaxing?

All I can say is that it’s a good thing literacy isn’t just about reading a book. It could be about a scavenger hunt with a detailed list to follow, or running a marathon and following the signs. Think about all the rhymes you used as a child skipping (http://www.gameskidsplay.net/jump_rope_ryhmes/) or doing clapping games (http://funclapping.com/). These fun rhymes and songs help build vocabulary and a foundation in language – necessary for future literacy learning.

In my small village, we have an amazing program team that comes up with activities for kids to participate in all summer. The activity this past Monday was based on the television show “Mantracker.” (Here’s the link for those of you like me who have never seen it: http://www.mantracker.ca/)

My kids got a map and a legend for checkpoints their team had to get a flag from.  If our summer programmer – all dressed in camouflage with fake leaves and everything – caught them, they had to give up a flag.

Not only did my kids have fun, but what a great way to engage in a literacy activity around maps and legends! Linking it to the popular show ensured the activity was well attended and the kids knew what to expect.

This summer, when kids are bored or become couch potatoes stuck to an electronic device with the usual excuses of “my friends aren’t home” or “it’s too hot outside” or – you know I could go on and on here – challenge them to find a way to get active in literacy! They could make up their own “mantracker” game, find a skipping rope and rhymes, or put on a scavenger hunt.

The possibilities are endless and limited only by imagination. And you never know. Someone may even enjoy reading a book while bouncing on a trampoline!

Reading, Then and Now

We have started a sort of a competition in our house to see how creative we can be in places to read. We have the basics covered: in bed, on the couch, on the floor, at the kitchen table, etc. But creativity has us thinking outside the box; we have read in a few spots in the yard, on the patio, in hammocks, at the pool, while grocery shopping, at our local coffee shop, and even upside down. It feels like a Dr. Seuss book many of us have read before…

It was always a special feeling when my children would bring a favourite book to me and ask if we could read it. We got extra time for cuddles, and it offered an extended discussion period of the stories we read and what we thought about them. I appreciate that these opportunities have allowed me glimpses of who my children are and who they are becoming.

Although they are all independent readers now, we still enjoy book sharing. Many times a good picture book is just too inviting to be read quietly or alone. Chapter books can still be shared as well: we take turns reading aloud a chapter each. It is one of my favorite times with my kids, as I hear how, as they read, the stories in their minds come to life. There is also something very peaceful about sitting together in a room, each enjoying our own books, just sharing in our presence as we have our own stories unfolding and our own adventures awaiting on each turning page.

Summer Reading Club

I have always thought that summer meant reading all the books that I didn’t have time for during the school year – ones that I wanted to read just because. One summer I got a box of books from a family friend who was closing their bookstore. I devoured 45 paperbacks while waiting for my next bunch of swimmers to show up for class or sitting in the truck waiting out a thunderstorm. I read everything in that box from autobiographies to how to guides, quick romances to epics, history to self-improvement. I even used a bunch of comic books for my Bronze Medallion class to read aloud while they swam on their backs and practiced their legs-only kicks.

When my girls were young, summer meant joining the summer reading club at our local library. Even before they were able to read on their own, we would go to the library once a week to take part in the games, crafts, and activities that were part of the program. Can’t forget about borrowing the books! My girls couldn’t wait to choose their books and get their game card stamped. Each week we would try and get at least one book that related to the theme for the summer.

This year’s theme is GO! I suggest you go to your local library and sign up now or head to the TD Summer Reading Club 2013 website http://tdsummerreadingclub.ca to check out all the book lists, games, and activities posted there that will challenge and inspire you. You might even get a surprise or two!

There is still plenty of time to join before heading back to school. Who knows, you might find a new favourite author or read a book that you would never have thought you would like. Take some time to read – you’ll be surprised where a book can take you.

Capturing the Summer

How do you capture a summer of memories? Many people I know keep a journal and write in it faithfully – at least daily, and sometimes even more than that! I (yes, it’s confession time) have never liked journaling and am not one of these people. (Wow, it’s nice to finally get that out!)

Everywhere I go it’s about keeping a journal. I love writing and I love remembering all the things that have ever happened in our family, and I know I’ve forgotten some of it, or my re-telling is now a little inaccurate, but I am really bad at keeping a journal!

So what to do?

This summer, I’m challenging myself and I’ll challenge you to try to keep a journal in a different way: with pictures! Take pictures that tell a story for you. Is it about all the books you’ve read this summer and the crazy or exotic places you read them? Or is it about your family holiday?

You could print off your pictures and get your family to help you write a caption for them, or even do it online. There are some neat apps and programs that make it easy to do this.

One such app is Qwiki for iPhones. It is free to download and will put your pictures into a slideshow with music and places to write something about the picture. It does it all for you or lets you customize it yourself.

Whichever way you do it, whether it’s through a written journal, photos, or another way (which we’d love to hear about), have fun this summer and share some of your photos with us in the fall!

Summer Challenge

The dreaded “I’m bored!” is just around the corner as school is already out for summer for some. Although many families still have a routine, albeit a different one for summer (work, daycare, or day camps), summer can also mean a lot more time spent at home and with family. Holidays are taken, grandparents visit, or some parents stay home with children all summer. As much as we look forward to the change in hectic life scheduling, too much free time can result in “I’m bored” coming up again and again. It doesn’t take long to realize that some sort of routine is needed. One of the things I am going to use in my home to combat that dreaded phrase is a Summer Challenge. My 7-year-old daughter and I put a list of activities into a jar and will pull them out whenever we need something to do. The challenge can be used on many different levels. For younger children you can keep it simple. Older children can be more involved in the planning of an activity, which we have learned can be more fun than the activity itself. What was that saying about the journey and the destination?

When I first described this idea to my daughter she was right on board! We love making lists, and pulling ideas out of a jar seems like a really fun way of checking off a To-Do List! We found a dollar store jar and decorated it for our ideas. I cut the strips of paper and she was so excited to read through each strip before she folded it and added it to the jar. She is already hopeful for her favourite ideas to be pulled first. Such anticipation!

She has asked me if it’s OK to add some of her own ideas to the jar. I think why not? (As long as I approve first…) She has already started her list of pulling weeds (what a wonderful idea!), going for a walk in the field with gopher holes, and chasing butterflies.

So we have begun. Lucky for us the weather cooperated for challenge #38: sitting around a campfire. Of course, we enjoyed s’mores and told stories as well. The age range around this fire is 7-38 years. That’s a lot of stories to tell! What an excellent kick-off to summer in a home full of kids!

Everywhere You Look…

Open a newspaper, check out a magazine stand, turn on the TV, watch the news, catch a conversation in the lunch room and chances are you are hearing about the absolute devastation that is the result of the rains and flooding in Southern Alberta. If it hasn’t affected you personally, you know someone whose life has been changed forever in some shape or form or know someone who knows someone. I see the pictures, hear the stories and my heart goes out to all of them. My daughter came into the room one night as I sat watching the coverage with more than a tear in my eye and said “Mom, turn it off if it makes you so sad!”

As an adult, I can follow up and read more about the way those affected are coping, see all the wonderful volunteers helping complete strangers without hesitation, understand the reasons why the flood victims aren’t allowed in their homes and rationalize that the pets sometimes can go a few days without food or water. The ones I worry more about are the children. They see the pictures and wonder why everything is garbage and why all the toys are being thrown away, see the people being rescued by boats and are scared because not everybody knows how to swim and how will they be saved, hear the big people around them say “it could happen to any of us” and be terrified the next time it rains.  They may only hear snippets of conversations, see their parent cry over the losses of strangers or watch the TV and not have anyone there to talk them through it.  How do we explain these kinds of disasters without scaring them? They hear things and take them literally, see the pictures and imagine all these things happening to them.

I remember the tornado here in Edmonton back in 1985 and how so many of the little people I knew were scared every time the wind picked up or the sky turned a funny colour. I didn’t know how to talk to them or reassure them that everything would be all right.

I was looking for ways to help little ones I know deal with the emotions these recent events have brought to the surface. I was fortunate that I got some really good resources sent to me and I would like to share them with you. Here are a couple of links that might be helpful to parents/caregivers who are looking for ways to talk about this with their children. Perhaps you have some others that could be shared here or words of wisdom on how you have dealt a traumatic event like the flooding.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Little Listeners in an Uncertain World

There are so many unseen casualties from the flooding. Wishing all our friends, neighbours, and fellow Albertans the strength to get through the rebuild and hope for tomorrow. With time all the material things can be replaced, it is the emotional wounds that will take much longer to heal.