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Give Your Kids a Happy Childhood: Read to Them

Happy Childhood, Reading | The Creative Mama | Rachel Rothe
The Creative Mama welcomes Rachel Rothe with today’s guest post.

In high school, I was in a read-aloud volunteer program that matched teens with little buddies in a local elementary school. The little buddies had been identified as those who had minimal to no read aloud time at home.

Paired with a little girl named Ashley who was quiet and shy, I saw a sparkle in her eyes when I read to her. This exclusive time of sharing stories with her boosted her confidence and taught her that she mattered. 

When children are read to, they are transformed. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing this throughout my life and now see it as I read to my own dear daughter.

There are several compelling reasons to make reading with your child a daily practice.

 1. It Will Bring You Closer

All too soon, our little baby birds grow up. They’re flying off, exploring and leaving the nest. Each time you set aside time to read to your child, you make a connection. Reading together shows our kids that we’ve created this time and space just for them; we value them, and they are important. Holding your child close when you read is an expression of love.

2. Reading is Brain Food and Promotes Academic Excellence

In a Huffington Post blog recently I read a fantastic post entitled, “5 Good Reasons to Take Your Kids to the Library Today” by Christine French Cully. In the post, Cully talks about how reading helps brain development especially in your child’s first five years of life. “When kids are read to, their brain cells are literally turned on, and existing links among brain cells are strengthened and new cells links are formed.” Reading really is brain food.

Furthermore, reading to little ones gives them a higher aptitude for learning in general. Studies have shown that kids who are read to before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education.

Happy Childhood, Reading | The Creative Mama | Rachel Rothe

3. Reading Gets Kids to Take Interest in Life Outside Themselves (and Strengthens Emotional Intelligence)

One of the most compelling things about books is that stories transport us outside ourselves. From an early age, children are dialed into this phenomenon whether they realize it or not. Kids observe their favorite storybook characters face obstacles along their journeys. They watch and wonder how those characters will overcome adversity, and they learn lessons that they might apply to their own lives.

Reading has been proven to help develop good communication skills, more empathy and greater understanding of others. Stories get a child out of his own shoes and into the shoes of another. By cultivating awareness, compassion and good listening skills, reading can teach one how to be a good friend. Friendships throughout our lives are instrumental to our wellbeing and happiness.

4. Reading Inspires Independence

The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more resourceful you become. Children learn this early in their reading lives: As a developing reader, a child comes to understand that anything can be learned from reading the right book. Knowing how to gain knowledge fosters creative problem solving and self-reliance.

Encouraging kids of all ages to choose their own library books and use their own library card are both very empowering acts for a child. When I take my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Skylar to the library with me each week, she eyes the racks and finds books that appeal to her, that she’d like to take home. Then when we go to check out, I sit her up on the tall library desk and I take her library card from my purse and remind her to give it to the librarian. Skylar beams at this transaction especially when the librarian thanks her and tells her how helpful she’s being.

5. Reading is Insurance Against Bad Moods and Boredom

Reading is a refuge, a source of entertainment, and a mood booster. As long as a child reads, no doors are closed to her and there is no world that cannot be entered. Not only can reading alleviate a bad mood, it can also bring on the giggles.

Many of the picture books we read together include some very humorous characters. What child wouldn’t laugh when they see the wild eyes of Mo Willem’s hot-dog-party-and-bus-driving-obsessed pigeon or the quick-witted, bald-headed baby in Leslie Patricelli’s board books like Tickle or The Birthday Box? As my daughter always says when she laughs and points to a silly character on the page: “It’s really funny!” A sense of humor can be developed through witnessing the antic dispositions of some beloved children’s book characters.

Happy Childhood, Reading | The Creative Mama | Rachel Rothe

Few things say, “I love you” like the precious time loved ones spend together with children digging into a good book or two, or three … When reading together becomes a habit, children will enjoy a lifelong love affair with books and learning. If every child were scooped up to nuzzle mom, dad or caregiver and read to each day, what a wonderful world it would be.

 

  

Rachel Rothe is a writer and creator of Porridge at www.justwritemommy.com. She’s also a freelance copyeditor and marketing consultant. Rachel lives with her husband and daughter in a seaside town north of Boston.  A few of her favorite things include children’s vintage books, community supported agriculture, yoga, collecting sea glass, Wes Anderson films, and just about anything reminiscent of Provence, France. Her favorite holiday is Easter. You can follow Porridge on TwitterPinterest or Facebook

 

loved it! (20th edition)

Image by Kelly Neil | www.kellyneil.com

When I first decided I want to start a food blog, I got in touch with the talented Kelly Neil, who took the photo featured above.  I love reading her blog where her humour, occasional potty-mouth, and love of food rings through.  I’m not just artistically inspired by Kelly; I am continually inspired by the fact that she’s creating an abundantly successful business doing what she loves.  We all need more people like that in our lives.

Speaking of what we need more of in our lives, and of talented photographers, I recently followed the incredible surf photographer Clark Little on Instagram.  Each one of his photographs in my feed, chock-full of people’s kids and what they ate for dinner, is like a breath of fresh air.

I guess I’ve got surfing on the brain this summer: I’ve not been able to secure a child-free moment to throw my board on the roof racks and drive the hour to my local surf spot, but thankfully I’ve been able to paddle around on my stand-up paddleboard quite a bit.  In the meantime, I’m living vicariously through this incredible book by surfer, househusband, and long distance swimmer Rick Taylor.  It’s a story about the year he spends in Australia with his family, interweaving his reflections on being a stay-at-home dad, edge-of-your-seat accounts of his surf sessions in shark-infested waters, and musings on other itinerant artists like Paul Gaugin and Robert Louis Stevenson.  

Though not surfing-related but equally if not more thrilling, I have been making these raw vegan brownies like my life depended on it.  Like, three times in two weeks.  They are that good.  Plus, with no refined sugar, no dairy and no gluten, I can eat a whole pan, smothered in coconut whipped cream and topped with fresh berries, without the guilt, right? 

I hope your summer is filled with beauty, tiny wild strawberries, life-affirming ocean surf, and healthy brownies.  Or at least something just as incredible.

This article was written by Jessie Harrold.

Taking on a Furry Challenge

Years ago, I was a practicing small animal veterinarian.  When we started our family, I took some time off and somehow I’ve been home ever since.  In all that time, we’ve only ever had one dog.  As a young couple, of course we had a fur baby first, a rottweiler puppy.  Cain was a wonderful companion, but being raised in the city he developed some possession aggression over found food items.  That was pretty tough, as discarded chicken wings on Monday mornings was pretty common in our Philly neighborhood.  I was in veterinary school at the time, so we sought the help of the behavior clinic.  He did well with interventions.  Eventually we moved to the suburbs and things were good, although he did grow to be less social with other dogs and he always tried to chase motorcycles (less than ideal when your dog weighs as much as you). 

Before our first child was born, Cain died unexpectedly.  We spent nearly a year without a pet while moving and raising our newborn.  Then we found Lucy, a beagle mix (I went smaller, just in case that motorcycle thing cropped up again).  She had all the challenges of puppyhood, and never learned to walk very nicely on leash since she is a nosy hound — but she became a wonderful family dog.

But I had always wanted to have more than one dog.  So many of my veterinary classmates had menageries (multiple dogs and cats and other beasts).  Since I am mildly allergic and can’t live with cats, multiple dogs was the way to go.  But I have also always been a practical girl.  Keep it simple.  Stay safe.  Don’t over tax yourself.  (Okay, having twins was kinda taxing, but I only had so much control in that department)

So for the past year I have been watching our local rescues, looking for the right dog.  Three weeks ago I went to see a coonhound.  Her background was sketchy, something about being essentially abandoned on a farm with several other hounds.  She was about seven months old and skittish and shy, but gained confidence quickly in the hour my oldest son and I were visiting her.   We had the rest of the family meet her and decided she was a strong candidate.  The next day we had her meet Lucy, who was perfectly fine with it, and we took her home.

The kids named her Kate.  We had a lot on our plate.  She is a bigger than our Lucy, and was not housebroken.  Luckily, it seemed she had been outdoors and preferred going there — we just needed to get her out frequently since she wasn’t used to needing to hold it.  We started working on getting her to know her new name, but when everything is new it can be hard for a puppy to stay focused.  Add into the mix our need to go away for a weekend for a family event, and things got a little bumpy.  Kate was gaining confidence, and while she initially seemed to do fine in the house alone with Lucy, she started chewing some things when we went out.

She is still a puppy and we thought perhaps we needed to limit her access to the house when we went out, so we tried gating her in our mudroom.  Not successful.  We moved on to a crate, and are working on adjusting her to that.  Honestly, it is only going so-so.  She is very unhappy being confined in any way.  We are working hard at desensitization and counter-conditioning but I’m starting to worry she is developing some separation anxiety. 

I’m having to look at adding a second dog in a whole new light.  I knew this was risk with a rescue dog — there are so many potential hurdles with an animal whose beginnings are unknown and potentially negative.  We’ve already bent our expectations on this adjustment phase (we always said no dogs on the furniture, at least when we are home, but Kate has managed to claim my favorite chair as her own).

It can be really challenging for a busy family to face treating a dog with separation anxiety — and I’m not 100% certain that is completely what we are dealing with yet, but it is looking like it could develop.  Kate has a lot of anxiety in general, because she just hasn’t really experienced the world at all.  Even though I have been well educated in animal behavior, it can be difficult to tease things out and work carefully with  a dog like Kate.  So I sought out the help of an experienced trainer.  She has been great for reassurance and suggestions.  Most importantly, we will be visiting the veterinarian today (since I am not practicing any more, I need the care of a local clinic).  We will be discussing psychological medication for Kate to help her anxiety, in hopes that it will make the behavioral interventions more successful.

Needless to say, I’ve been pretty anxious this past week.  Separation anxiety dogs can be exhausting to work with, and handling things the wrong way can exacerbate the situation.  Luckily, I’m pretty educated and I’m working on building my network of support and my tools to deal with it.  She has so many wonderful qualities that I really want to work hard to help this match be successful.  But I tend to stew — a lot.  Branching out into daring has been tough, and I’m disappointed it isn’t going more smoothly.  I tend to hyperfocus on the “what if,” which can be so unknown in this situation.  I think this is going to be almost as tough for me, as it is for her. 

Someday I hope I can be more like a dog — just live in the moment.  I’ll keep working on it.  And being brave.  We could all use a few more brave moments in our lives, right?

Have you taken on a new challenge in your life?  Are you embarking on an uncertain journey?  Share with me!  I could use the support!

This article written by Amy Bader.

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