Reading has so many important applications in our lives, some of which we underestimate.  From shopping for groceries to studying the ancient geometry of Pythagoras, reading has been a foundation for all aspects of life.  Everything we do has a little reading involved, whether we are driving, working, or relaxing.  So one of the best things you can do for your child is to encourage reading for a little while each day.

Why 20 Minutes a Day?

Experts have determined that a child who reads 20 minutes a day, five days a week is reading 10 extra school days per year and picking up almost 2 million words in that time.  Increased vocabulary translates into higher test scores, but also into better comprehension all-around.  People with large vocabularies also tend to do better professionally as adults, because they are perceived as intelligent and knowledgeable.  In truth, they are more knowledgeable, in a theoretical sense.  Nothing can trump experience, but knowledge can prepare one for it.

Reading Promotes Brain Activity

Reading stimulates the brain to critical thinking and problem solving.  In an fMRI study of children’s exposure to reading, higher levels of reading and parental involvement in teaching their children to read correlated positively with higher brain activity and the formation of neural pathways in the regions of the brain for processing language.  The breakdown is that children that read also have an easier time understanding things and communicating them, as well as understanding the communication of others.

Encouraging Critical Thinking

By introducing kids to a world other than their own, reading introduces them to critical thinking and creativity.  It gives them a platform to imagine from, and allows them to explore new ideas and concepts.  It teaches them also the ideas of others who have come before them, including them in the ongoing dialogue that is human history.

Relaxing and Stress-Relieving

Ever read a chapter or two of a good book before bedtime?  You fall asleep more easily because reading helps reduce stress, allowing you to relax.  It also engages you in the present moment, whether it’s an engrossing novel or an informative article.  Reading has been shown to improve focus, concentration, and memory, even in adults!

Better Writing Skills

Reading the writing of other people naturally improves the writing skills of the reader, as they observe the structure and nuance of language.  In fact, this goes for any language – reading in a foreign language helps learn that language faster, too.  Both of these translate to better grades in the short term and better salary in the long run.

Family Time

Reading together provides valuable family time, even if you’re all reading separate literature.  Being in each other’s company while reading a book can add to the bond between parents and children, especially if you encourage your child to talk about what he or she is reading.

Reading is fun, and can transport a reader through time and space into worlds beyond our imagination, both real and fictional.  Encouraging your kids to read today can expand their world for a lifetime to come!

St. Patrick’s Day is the first holiday of the spring season, even if it just falls short of the spring equinox on March 20th. Whether you happen to be Irish or not, St. Patrick’s Day is all about what’s good and green, and there are plenty of spring-inspired activities to entertain children this time of year.

Arts and Crafts

There are two things that people associate with St. Patrick’s Day: the color green and shamrocks. Incorporating these features into any art activity can be easy, but to make things a little more fun, you can get creative and make DIY decorations, create your own games or even your own St. Patrick’s Day outfits and props.

Here are some cute crafts you can make easily with items from home:

Coffee Filter Shamrock Materials:

● Coffee filter

● 2 baby food jars

● Water

● Scissors

● Blue and yellow food coloring

● Q-tips

Instructions: Cut the coffee filter out into the shape of a shamrock. Put water in two baby food jars or similar containers. Add yellow food coloring to one jar and blue to the other. Give kids Q-tips or small cotton swabs and let them mix the colors on the coffee filter. You end up with a a cool tye-dyed green shamrock!

Shamrock Wands Materials:

● Green construction paper

● Scissors

● Glue

● Stapler

● Gold glitter

● Green straw

● Ribbon, Green and Gold

Instructions: Cut three heart shapes using the green paper. Then, glue the tips of the three hearts together to form a shamrock when combined. Staple the shamrock in the center to the end of the straw which will form your handle. Decorate the shamrock with gold glitter and other materials as desired. Cut ribbons into 3 foot strands. Gather ribbons together at one end, and staple them to the back of the shamrock at the center so that the ends hang down from the shamrock wand. If desired, cut several tiny shamrocks from the remainder of the paper and staple them along the ribbons as well.

Reading and Research

The word ‘research’ may not always inspire excitement, but learning more about the St. Patrick’s Day holiday and the Irish culture can be interesting, and fun too. There are plenty of traditional songs, poems, and dances that you can discover and try along with your kids. Put on a play or a performance including some of the stuff you and your children have learned!

Reading can also be exciting, too. There are fantastical tales of leprechauns and the luck of the Irish, but there are also plenty of children’s books and reference materials that can teach you and your kids more about the holiday, St. Patrick, and other Irish traditions.

Whip Up Some Treats

Around the end of March, corned beef and cabbage suddenly become very in-demand. Cooking with kids is a great way to introduce them to new foods, but it can also provide you with some memory-making bonding time, too. Whether you decide to make a traditional Irish dinner or simply want to indulge in some Irish Soda Bread, enlist your kids to help you gather ingredients, prepare the meal, and eat it as well!

There is always room for St. Patrick’s Day themed cakes and cookies, as well. Play around with the color green, mint or pistachio flavored treats, and go to town! Cut cookies out into shamrock shapes, add fun St. Patrick’s themed straws, sprinkles, and more. If you want to try and be a bit healthier, you can also try to create a dish like a healthy shake or smoothie using hearty, healthy greens like kale, spinach, and other fruits and veggies to keep with the spirit of the holiday.

Parents go crazy trying to instill the love of reading in all kids. They want their children to read each night, every night. Teachers, too! Kids, on the other hand, see their nightly reading requirement as just another classroom lesson. And parents—exhausted by the time the bedtime reading comes around—just want their kids to sit down (willingly!) and read happily.

Love of books comes from having an emotional impact from a story. When a book is treated as yet another lesson or chore, the feeling of ‘have to’ immediately gets kids to put up a defense mechanism.

Parents, your kids can love books. They can love to read. However, the treatment of reading, of the book and of the entire literary experience has to be positive.

Get ready to rustle a few pages, because your typical reading routine with your child is about to enter a new chapter:

Throw out the clock.

Most kids dislike reading, because it feels like another assignment: read for 15 minutes, and then check it off on the binder. Nightly reading minutes are good in theory, but not so great for motivation.

Instead, encourage kids to read a chapter a night. That way, they are becoming engrossed in moments of the book…full moments. Not 15-minute increments of moments. If your child has trouble reading alone, then read to them. And read with feeling…have fun with being a storyteller as you read. Don’t be afraid of sounding or acting silly; voices and silly sounds make the story come alive, so go with it.

Make your child the star.

You can buy books that feature kids at the center of the story with their favorite characters. Personalization services, like, your child and their friends become part of the journey. There’s no better way to immerse your child into a thrilling reading experience!

Read the book, and then watch the movie.

Choose a book in your child’s grade-level that also has been made into a movie or includes their favorite movie characters. Read the book together and talk about the characters and adventures after each chapter. Then, watch the movie version of the book. Discuss the plot differences between the movie and the book. Kids can see that, oftentimes, movies cut out many adventures within the book when a story is adapted for film.

Spiderman comes to life in so many different kinds of books!

Say ‘yes’ to reading.

Sometimes a child will find a book that seems beyond their level or even below their level. While it’s easy to hand them another story, sometimes it’s also good to just let them read their choice.

Reading is reading! Books above grade-level also allows you to read with your child and to enter into discussions about the book. However, if a book contains themes that are too mature for your child, don’t hesitate to urge them to more suitable choices.

Reward readers.

To further foster positivity around reading, create a reward system for your child. For every five books that your child reads, allow them to have a privilege or a special treat. Discuss as a family what the book goals should be and what the rewards system will entail. Have kids create reading sticker charts so they can track their progress.

Reading is a joy when kids begin to grow a love for stories and books. With the right encouragement, kids will become so engrossed in the adventures that they won’t want to put the book away. And that literary love is the magic ingredient of education that all parents and teachers hope that every child discovers. Because reading is knowledge and knowledge is powerful.

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