By Dr. Karla Manning | Categories All | Authors | Blog | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Childhood | Educators | Equity | Inclusion | Literacy | Parental Engagement | Parents | May 21, 2021

Early Childhood Education is a vital foundation for children of tender age. Not only are they introduced to various experiences, but they are also taught how to form and maintain positive social relationships, a sense of belonging, and developing specific skills to reach their full potential.

We see regular acts of racism, sexism, and prejudice being displayed among people of all ages in society. The need for greater diversity, inclusion, and equity is becoming more evident, from videos we see on social media to news headlines.

Raising a tolerant, accepting, fair and empathetic child should start from an early age. Incorporating equity and inclusion into the early childhood curriculum is one of the best ways to do this.

Equity is simply displaying the quality of being fair and impartial. On the other hand, inclusion is incorporating people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.

Educators incorporating equity and inclusion in the classroom will help them to combat prejudice and racial discord by supporting positive behaviors among students, fostering a sense of belonging for all students and their families, and teaching respect for everyone.

How Do Children Benefit from Incorporating Inclusion and Equity in Early Childhood Curriculum?

The benefits of inclusion and equity are numerous for all children. Schools including these vital lessons into their curriculum can help children to reach their developmental potential. We have compiled a list of some of the many benefits of successfully incorporating inclusion and equity.

 

How Can your School Incorporate Inclusion and Equity in Early Childhood Curriculums?

It is no secret that children are more comfortable, grounded, and able to learn more when their school, classmates, and instructors respect their diversity.

Strategies that schools can use to successfully incorporate and promote inclusion and equity in early childhood curriculums include:

Use a multi-tiered system of support

Using this strategy involves Collaborating with early childhood special educators and other allied education and health professionals when needed. Facilitate each professional establishing a relationship with each child to maximize potential.

Provide high-quality early childhood learning resources that demonstrate a commitment to equitable outcomes for all children.

Schools can arrange budgets within their means to equitably meet the needs of children and staff. Recognize that high-quality programs will positively reflect the values, beliefs, and practices of specific children, families, and communities.

Develop opportunities for multiple voices with different perspectives to participate in decision-making.

Recognize that unspoken biases have often resulted in limited opportunities for members of marginalized groups.

Prepare current and prospective early childhood educators to provide equitable learning opportunities to all children.

Schools can ensure that educators understand the historical and systemic issues that have created structural inequities in society, including in early childhood education.

Involve children, families, and the community in the design and implementation of learning activities.

Involving children, families, and the community in learning activities will help children to embrace the idea of inclusion and equity. This will also help to build a sense of belonging with those involved.

Introducing and incorporating equity and inclusion into early childhood curriculums will benefit children and the instructors, family, and the wider community. This strategy will also help build a better future where people will practice more accepting and respectful lifestyles.


By Dr. Corey Hall | Categories All | Blog | Challenges | Common Core | Curriculum | Educators | Literacy | STEM | May 14, 2021

When it comes to STEM and literacy, one can’t exist without the other. STEM teachers emphasize the Engineering Design Process and computational thinking, as well as technology tools. But the work of engineers and scientists goes much further than the traditional STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math. They are also communicators, collaborators, writers, readers, and global citizens.

“The work of engineers also involves collaboration, communication, global citizenship, and literacy skills.” – Jorge Valenzuela, education coach and author.

STEM initiatives abound, from the Department of Education to the National Science Foundation. And for good reason; recent studies show a correlation between early STEM experiences and success in school in later grades [1]. Also, exposure to STEM relates to more students pursuing careers in STEM fields (an important factor in global competitiveness). Probably most importantly, STEM comes naturally to most children. Experimentation, problem-solving, and creativity are traits we see when we watch kids at play.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics put out a joint statement detailing the importance of STEM in elementary, and even pre-school education [2]. The American Association of School Librarians and the International Society for Technology in Education both integrate information literacy standards that include STEM learning.

 

Standard #3, ISTE Standards for Students

 

 

 

Explore Foundation, AASL Standards Framework

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Integrate Literacy and STEM

The  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) indicate for K-5 students, there should be a 50-50 balance between nonfiction information texts and fiction. STEM and English Language Arts teachers can communicate and collaborate so that the standards are implemented across the curriculum. Interdisciplinary units can be developed and co-taught so that skills are reinforced in multiple ways.

Fiction + STEM

Work with your English Language Arts teacher or school librarian to find a high-interest novel that connects to your content. You can also find recommendations on the School Library Journal Website. Here are a few ideas:

 

Nonfiction + STEM

Whether you are reading them aloud or providing independent reading time, nonfiction texts are a great way to integrate literacy into your STEM classroom.

 

Speaking + Presenting

Speaking and listening are Common Core Standards and are also life skills needed in all occupations, including STEM careers. Here are a few ideas:

 

Regardless of which strategies you choose, integrating literacy and STEM will strengthen your curriculum and improve teaching and learning.

References

[1] McClure et. al; https://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/jgcc_stemstartsearly_final.pdf

[2] NAEYC https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/psmath.pdf


By Dr. Julie Padilla | Categories Blog | Educators | May 7, 2021

Every single day we are tasked with ensuring that our students are entering into our building safely, that they are to learn wholeheartedly, and that they get to experience a wide variety of knowledge along the way. In doing this, as educators one of the pivotal roles we play is to promote classroom conversations. These discussions, these special moments of discourse, are necessary to allow students the time to pull apart their own ideas, formulate their own opinions, and better understand others. We have seen the world swiftly change in the past year, more than we ever thought it would. We want to be sure to do our part to provide a forum of opportunity for our students to speak about real-world events. In doing this effectively, there are three main approaches that should be taken into account across grade and content levels:

Establishing norms

Classroom rules and norms are a regularly occurrence, but we want to be sure we revisit them before conversations. Our students need safe community spaces to process information, so having set expectations for when students can speak, how they can address each other respectfully and mindfully, and how it can foster a positive classroom culture are all critical.

Role as a Facilitator

The classroom teacher needs to take ownership of the facilitator role. No matter what age your students are, it is easy to want to jump in and help a student clarify their own thought. But as a facilitator, as furthering this classroom conversation, it involves taking a big step back and not influencing or exerting an opinion or stance. Allow your young people to take the mic, to process their thoughts, and use their own words to inform you. This should be a big moment as they work through their own pieces of information, their own views, and find their footing.

Debrief

As you wrap up these conversations, we want to be sure to tie back to those classroom norms and expectations. We are all growing, we are all learning, we are all evolving, from students to adults. Reassure them that while differences exist, it is the power of understanding one another and having respectful conversations that allows us to make change.

These necessary conversations establish and support the classroom community. They allow for relationships to thrive, for inspiration to occur, and for student engagement to be accelerated. It shows students that we know they are aware of what is going on in the world today, and we want to be there for them in any capacity that we can. It shows students we care.


By Lois Letchford | Categories Authors | Blog | Educators | News | Parental Engagement | April 30, 2021

In 1994, my 6-year-old son Nicholas failed first grade. Testing revealed he could read ten words, showed no strengths, and had a low IQ. The prognosis was dire, his future bleak. Finally, the diagnostician called him: “The worst child I’ve seen in twenty years of teaching.”

I had the option to remove my son from school for six short months.  Teaching him myself, I began by using a recommended standardized set of books, titled Success for All. Their focus was on decoding of isolated words. They too, were an abject failure. Nicholas appeared to have no memory for letters, sounds, or words.

It was at this point, I was given some unforgettable advice from my mother-in-law: “Lois,” she said, “make learning fun.” Now I have no books and a son to teach. I felt totally responsible for his learning. Having a blank slate forced me to examine my son’s learning. What can he do? Does he have strengths? I recalled some previous successful learning activities. He can see patterns and he can rhyme words.

Poetry. Write a poem. But I don’t write. I, too, am dyslexic. Despite this being an enormous challenge for me, I felt pushed – no, driven to try something—anything.

Putting rhyming words together into a simple poem was easier than I imagined. The act of writing a poem transformed our little classroom, as I read the poem to him. Nicholas laughed. We found more rhyming words, illustrated the poem, and finally, he recited the poems from memory to his family.

Every day, I had a new poem waiting for Nicholas. He blossomed. Instead of panicking about learning, he recalled the words in the poems. Poetry provided a cocoon for letters and sounds. Illustrating the poems engaged us in multi-sensory activities and in reciting and performing words as we searched for deeper meanings.

But it was the poem to learn the oo sounds as in book, look, and cook which metamorphosed our learning. Instead of talking about cooking, I wrote about Captain James Cook, one of the last great explorers. Through poetry, we explored the changing map of the world to which Cook contributed greatly.

Nicholas asked:

“Who came before Captain Cook?”

“Who came before Christopher Columbus?”

His questions stumped me. I could not answer many of them and I thought these were not the questions that come from a child with a “low IQ.” Using my son’s learning, I became a literacy specialist, teaching children who failed to learn to read in normal settings. I developed the knowledge and skills to turn around children’s lives.

What can parents do?

  1. Turn fictional texts (books or short stories) into plays or dramas. Why? The child is connecting the text with actions. Book language varies from oral language. By re-writing the story, the child is now the “author” and can change the words in the text to use their words.
  2. Read and recite poems. Poetry is the foundation for phonemic awareness. (Phonemic awareness is the ability to play with letters and sounds.) Building on rhyming poetry, the parent enables the student to hear the rhyming words and sounds.
  3. Sing and enjoy songs, rhymes, & limericks. Use the beat and the words to engage the child with words and actions.
  4. Show language as “dynamic.”  Find, read, and tell jokes and riddles. Jokes and riddles often depend upon wordplay. Many students with learning disabilities see the world “concretely.” They struggle with the abstract nature of language. Enjoy the language and wordplay and teach children how to “look” for additional meanings.
  5. Use audiobooks! Audiobooks or reading to a child is the most powerful way to engage the child in literature.
  6. Above all, enjoy learning. Make it a game. Find time to enjoy learning together. When children “fall in love” with books and learning, it becomes an activity they want to do. That’s when learning happens.

By Ann (Ana) Morris | Categories Authors | Blog | Educators | April 23, 2021

All children like to read things they can relate to or that make them feel good. And the best children’s stories I “read” were those on the laps of my parents.

In order to write books for children of a different mold than our own, we need to know them. I grew up in a homogeneous environment. When my junior high social studies teacher inadvertently opened my eyes to the fact that youth around the world had many things in common, my interest was sparked.
My first goal achieved was learning the importance of communication. Not only in English, but in Spanish. I lived and studied in Spain, where I achieved fluency. It has served me well!
I taught Spanish and used Spanish language children’s books as motivators for my students.

I worked for the employment/unemployment office in Iowa’s capital. We had many Latino clients. I did much translating and interpreting to help communicate a concept difficult for many people in their native language.

Aside from this, I had many stories in my memory that I wanted to share with children and those reading to them. That is where my dream launched.

I wrote my first picture book, Mommy and Mikel Go for a Walk. It was a memory from the mid-1980s with my son Mikel. After writing it in English, I decided to tell it in Spanish, too. Working with many Latinos in the USA has taught me that Spanish in Spain is not the same as Spanish in the rest of the world. I was glad to know alternative words to use that would be more neutral help me communicate better.

I learned that not only native language readers liked each language, but learners of the other language.

My second book, Surprise in Auntie’s Garden! made me pause. I am blonde, as is most of my family. Many young people would not relate to blonde people in every book. I decided to use different race and ethnic characters in each book to include other young readers and parents. This time I used Latinas as the characters. My messages are universal, so this merely allowed different readers to see themselves in my books.

My first three books were published in pairs. One in English and the other in Spanish. I had requests to try publishing the stories as bilingual stories to include both languages in one book. I did this with Do It Again! and Lexi’s Special Tooth Fairy Pillow. The reception was wonderful.

During this time of writing, I also began working with Royal Promise, a mission that works with underprivileged children in Anun-Asikuma, Ghana, West Africa. This opened the door even wider. My new friends and the students loved my stories because they knew me and were eager for new literature. I feel very connected to them and feel the need to assist with their literacy opportunities.

It is important to include many aspects of childhood in the characters as well as the stories. Literacy is important to all people and gives them the confidence and initiative to seek and achieve new and unforeseen goals in life. Invest in our future and include everyone, at home and abroad.


By Valarie Pearce, MEd | Categories Blog | April 16, 2021

How reading helps children learn social emotional skills

I am a lover of all things book and the written word. As a child, I was precocious and very curious. Thankfully, my father had a great passion for reading and ensured that I, along with my siblings, understood the importance of literacy and that it was something never to be taken for granted. “Many of our ancestors gave their lives for the right to read,” my father would often preach. I wanted to know what he was talking about. Why and how could this happen? In addition, my brain was alive with princesses, dragons, and secret gardens I got to meet often through what remains one of my greatest and most enduring loves, books.

Much of my advanced vocabulary, ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings, empathy for others, and sharp view of the world around me was a direct result of the abundance of books afforded me. I was a proud card-carrying member of the library! I loved checking out Puff the Magic Dragon with its accompanying record tucked in the back (yes, I am proudly dating myself), The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

These books and many others whisked this little Black girl from small city Portland, Oregon to unknown lands of epic trials and triumphs. The ability to read, write, comprehend, and decode the written word was just the beginning. The pure enjoyment of reading was the vehicle that aided me and will ultimately do so for our students today; expanding their minds to the immeasurable possibilities for connection with each other and the world around them.

As the Director of Content Development for Friendzy, a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program for K-8 students, I continue my literacy evangelizing. After all, I am the daughter of a preacher! Research has shown that reading supports SEL. At Friendzy we frame our SEL literacy supports through five distinct frameworks:

  1. Learning social-emotional skills.

    Reading helps children gain a greater understanding of emotions, which can help them understand their own emotions and those of others.

  2. Develop empathy.

    Reading a story creates space for kids to imagine themselves inside the story. This allows them to develop empathy as they experience the lives of other characters and can identify with how they are feeling.

  3. Practice perspective-taking.

    Reading allows children to learn about a wide array of people, places, and events that they may not otherwise experience.

  4. Improve cognitive development.

    Reading provides children with a deeper understanding of the world and fills their brains with a wide range of knowledge. They then use this acquired knowledge to make sense of what they see, hear and read.

  5. Builds relationships and connections.

    Reading brings a classroom of students together for a shared adventure. It  also provides parents with an opportunity to have dedicated time with their children. Reading together provides kids with feelings of connection, attention and is nourishing to the soul.

These key components shift the literacy lens from simply learning to read to reading to learn with great enthusiasm. As an author and educator, I tell my students and the students I meet at school visits when you open up a book, you open up the world. I was given this gift early on and my job is to pay it forward!


For more information about Kids Read Now, contact us.


By Stephanie Johnson | Categories Blog | April 9, 2021

Using children’s stories to bolster a sense of community connectedness and improve the culture at your school

Imagine this… You are a classroom teacher or a counselor or a principal. You see and feel the culture of your learning community and note the need for a change. It is 2021 and people from all walks of life are facing truly challenging situations in their lives. They haven’t seen family for several months. They have lost jobs and are struggling financially. They’ve spent unparalleled amounts of time at home with their spouses; and some realize that they are not as compatible as they once were.

These are just a few of the real-world situations our families and children are facing. The children who walk into our schools have no control over any of these situations; yet they certainly feel the brunt of them. You, as their sensitive, empathetic teacher, counselor or principal, are put in a position to manage and navigate these overwhelming challenges. What do you do to make a difference? How do you support the children, meeting them where they are; yet still offering assistance to move them forward in their journeys?

As I have in so many times in my life, I have turned to stories; parallel stories which are relevant to the situations we are facing. Let me share a story here… lol. My daughter-in-law is pregnant with twins that are due in June/July. This past weekend, we had her baby shower. One of the “games” we played was taking a word or phrase from a list and sharing tips for the mother-to-be. My daughter, who is not yet a mother, shared her experience as a little girl. She used the words “cuddle” and “bedtime.” She, with so much love in her heart and on her face, shared how much she cherished bedtime cuddles and the stories I used to tell her.

I reminisced right along with her, as her memory took me 18 years back in time; as if we had stepped into a time machine! I shared that the stories I would tell were a mixture of books that I read repeatedly and stories I created which discussed what had happened that day or recently. The stories I would create often highlighted acts she had done which were positive and that we hoped would occur again… things like going potty in the toilet, or playing nicely with her brother. Some of them related to situations which didn’t go so well but in the story the actions were adjusted to elicit more productive endings.

One such story was about when she and a friend were playing, and her friend upset her by selecting her favorite doll to play with for the afternoon; a doll which she, herself, wanted to have with her. My daughter went off to play with a different set of toys and left her friend to play dolls by herself. In the story I created, the girls were able to play with the various dolls and get along by showing off the doll’s various talents.

We talked about how her favorite doll was special and desired, because it was her favorite; and when her friend chose to play with that special doll, it was like sharing a gift which didn’t actually need to be given away. Her special doll was not only special to her, but also special to her friends, which made her that much more special. We didn’t discuss the story as it related to her; it was simply told to her.

The beauty was when my daughter’s friend came over again and a similar situation occurred and played out just as had been shared in my story. My daughter had listened and internalized the actions of the “fictitious” characters and mimicked their behaviors and attitudes and enjoyed her friend’s presence much more. She wasn’t hurt by not being able to play with her favorite toys. She, instead, felt pleasure in sharing her treasured gifts with those whom she loved.

While playing the baby shower game, my daughter didn’t share any of the details I just laid out; but they all came flooding back to my mind when she mentioned her love of those times. I felt that closeness and connection, as well. (Yes, there were tears shed.) I also felt the evening stories were probably one of the best parts of my own parenting. The “aha” moment happened when I realized I had intuitively taken the practice into my work in schools. I had used children’s books with my junior-high and high-school students and with my various staff to share messages. So, when I was named principal at an elementary school, I was excited to expand this work to impact students (and adults) individually and for our school family, as a whole!

The first year in the position, it was clear to me there had been some adversarial relationships created which resulted in a culture of unhealthy competition and some underlying fear and distrust. During an assembly with the students, I mentioned I saw Cookson as the school with a K in the middle of its name and that K stood for Kindness! I read the book The Dot by Peter H Reynolds. The book exemplifies kindness and how it is shared with one another; and the incredibly positive impact it has on the direct recipients and eventually the overall community.

At our school, we created multiple opportunities for our students to share their kindness with one another, with their teachers, with our community members and beyond. (Our teachers also engaged in several appreciation opportunities. Our school counselor and media specialist met together to design and implement a monthly talk with each of our classes where various success attributes and facets of kindness would be discussed and highlighted. We will talk more about these books-stories at a later time). The stories they read, the situations they shared, the questions they asked, and the discussions which ensued have led to a really open and honest community of people who accept where they are, own their actions, work towards growth, and are connected by the focus on being kind to oneself and others.

In January of 2021, when we returned to school after the winter holidays, I anticipated a rejuvenated and refreshed feel. However, after the first day, the look of exhaustion on the faces of staff and students returned. I was thinking, “We have an entire six months of school left, and so much learning to do and the cold, dark winter to somehow endure. The COVID-19 numbers are at an all-time high. How can we possibly do this?” We needed stories; we needed really good children’s literature!

On the announcements, I read The Dot. I asked the students to picture the pages in their minds as I read aloud. I encouraged them to make a movie of the story; especially since many of them have heard it so many times already. We began sharing stories on a weekly basis which had specific messages – kindness, endurance, perseverance, owning your actions, etc. This re-connected our community. We now all had a similar weekly experience to reference in discussions. Just as in other years, teachers were heard referencing the stories in their classrooms; students had characters to relate to and use in discussions with fellow students. We had re-built a very important structure which is critical to our school’s culture.

During the shutdown, we did so many virtual read-alouds. Teachers have been reading in their individual classrooms. However, as a school, it didn’t occur to me that I should be doing this. (Wow, I find I have to learn some of the most basic lessons over and over again!) In a time when we are struggling to connect on so many levels and when we are oftentimes ready to totally cancel out what we don’t like, focusing on the simple messages found in children’s books is exactly the right medicine for what is ailing and alienating us.


For more information about the Kids Read Now Summer Reading Program for K-3, please contact us.


By Dr. Sharon Gaston | Categories Blog | April 2, 2021

How technology and district pressure are ringing the anxiety bell for teachers

COVID-19 has changed our education system in ways that very few people could have dreamed. Last spring, most schools in the United States closed their doors to thwart the spread of the deadly virus. This fall, some school systems opted for remote learning or a combination of remote and in school learning known as the hybrid model. Both approaches left teachers scrambling to become experts in technology and learning apps. I can say this, having been an educator for 31 years and a reading specialist for the past 22 years, teaching reading and writing skills remotely or through the hybrid model to emergent and transitional readers has been a monotonous task.

Though remote or hybrid, teachers know the goal of any lesson is to keep students interested and engaged, so learning will take place and outcomes can be measured. Unfortunately, fun, engaging reading lessons I prepared to target specific skills for my K-3 students have gone awry or been interrupted due to technological quirks. Incessant feedback from iPads, iPads going dead during lessons, iPads freezing, microphones unexpectedly muted or students dropped from the meeting have severely disrupted learning. That is truly no fun when teaching the Orten-Gillingham method which depends on fidelity. Oh, my goodness! Anxiety alert!

Pointing out these tech issues are in no way a slight to the dynamic, almost superhero job that my school’s ITC has performed keeping us all well-connected, but technology surely has been an issue that sets off the anxiety bell in teachers. Though these tech interruptions have lessened, ensuring that struggling readers are attaining the essential skills that will create future success in reading has been nerve wrecking to me.

The anxiety that many teachers feel may also be due in part to the demands placed upon us by school districts. I have spoken to teacher friends across the country who say that their districts seem not to take into account the technological challenges teachers face, having a shortened school day, students not always making themselves available for learning or attending class regularly plus the emotional distress factors that we are all facing as human beings because of the pandemic.

In my district, teachers are still expected to write student intervention plans, provide the interventions, do progress monitoring, and get the same results while managing under more time constraints. On top of that, we have to make sure that children are prepared to take upcoming standardized tests when some of them do not even cut on their microphones and cameras or participate in class. The anxiety bell rings louder!

A friend of mine who teaches in a nearby county told me the stress of preparing kids for high stakes testing is just unfair to teachers as well as to students. How is this going to go smoothly when there are kids whose parents have opted strictly for remote teaching? School districts need to recognize that things are different because of the pandemic and teachers are not superheroes nor magicians. We are trying our best to focus on social and emotional needs of students as well as teaching state standards but the added pressure of preparing students for standardized test while teaching remotely or hybrid is stress inducing. I hear Billy Joel’s 1980s hit song, “Pressure,” ringing in my ears!!!

Testing and knowing how children are performing in school is necessary. But in the age of Covid-19, calm down a bit please. Things are different and should be acknowledged and treated as such.


For more information about Kids Read Now’s K-3 Summer Reading Program, please contact us.


By Jennifer Henriquez | Categories Blog | March 26, 2021

On the importance of self care in a difficult era

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone in the world but especially for essential workers. Teachers and educators are definitely essential. This was clear when schools switched to remote learning and no one had a clue on how to service the children of the world. Educators took on that role and did it with such grace and fluidity so that our children can concentrate less on what was going on around them. But who took care of the teachers, counselors, and administrators? As an educator we often hear words such as “burn out” and “babysitter”. We tend to re-think our positions as educators and if we are valued enough in this career.

I myself wondered “Is there more for me to offer?”. As a school counselor I help students and parents with their emotional and mental well-being; but I started to wonder who truly helps us as educators with our own well-being? We’ve all attended workshops on mindfulness, yoga, and other forms of self-care, but how are we holding ourselves accountable with keeping up our mental self-care? Life coaching came into my life in 2020 and was life-changing. In October of 2020 I became a life coach. Holistic life coaching provided a different outlook on my life and how I can be the best version of myself in order to give back to the world. I have truly found my life’s purpose and want to share it with others, especially my fellow educators.

Coaching is not therapy or counseling but instead allows the individual to work on themselves through powerful questions that will lead to discovery and action steps for their goals. Coaching offers you accountability that other self-care methods may not offer. While at home I wondered “How can I guide my fellow educators?”. I developed a 6-week program that I feel will challenge and provide insight for educators – 6 weeks to a Better You Educator Edition. I broke down each letter of the word ‘better’ and provided words that would be the weekly focus. The words are Balance, Educator, Team, Time-Management, Elevate, and Reward. How do you as an educator balance your time with your teams in order to reap the rewards of an educator?

I based these programs on my own experience as an educator; and as someone who just wanted to live a life that was aligned with my authentic self. In my own experience I’ve used these letters to form better relationships with my students. I ask my students “How can I help you stay accountable?”, “How can we balance your time with schoolwork, homework, and chores at home?”. Personally I hold myself accountable by keeping sticky notes handy. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with time, I write down everything that needs to be done and enjoy crossing it out when I’m finished. When I feel overwhelmed with emotions, I have a note on my laptop that says “stop, breath, proceed”. It’s a constant reminder that I need to be calm in order to teach my students.

When you start living authentically for you, everything falls into place. My name is Jennifer Henriquez and I hope I was able to touch someone with my experience. Being an educator is truly rewarding and helping others is my life’s purpose.


For more information on the Kids Read Now summer reading program, contact us.


By Rachel Benedict | Categories Blog | March 19, 2021

Reading time can be fun time too!

Learning to read opens different worlds to children – fantasy, mystery, funny, history – but it can also help them understand the things around them in everyday life that maybe they never thought to notice before. Here are four fun ways to incorporate reading into everyday activities!

  1. Cereal boxes, labels, and cooking instructions

Whether you’re sitting down for breakfast in the morning with the cereal box on the table, preparing dinner with lots of different ingredients, or baking a delicious dessert from a scratch, ask your child to identify words on the boxes, labels, and in cookbooks. Sure, some ingredients are difficult for even the most proficient adult to pronounce, but most packaged foods have easy-to-read packaging and recipes help teach new words while sequencing different steps together.

  1. Street signs

Kids so often know how to get to their favorite places (school, grandma’s house, the park), but may not be paying attention to the signs on the way there. Ask them to and help them read the street and informational signs on the way to your next destination. Instead of turning left at the big tree, soon you’ll be turning left at the stop sign on Maple Street. This is also a great way for kids to learn short abbreviations such as Rd for road, St for street, and Blvd for boulevard. You can also take time to talk about the meaning of potentially new words like yield, U-turn, roundabout, and dead end. These contextual clues help kids remember the words by building on schematic theory.

  1. I-Spy

Especially on longer trips, ask children to look out the window and choose any object they see. They can then say, “I spy something that starts with the letter ‘C’!”. Start naming things around you that begin with the letter they choose. In this case, “corn”, “cow”, and “clouds” could be what they’re spying! Who knows, maybe they’ve spied something that you’ve never noticed! Take turns spying and guessing. Not only is this a fun game to increase family engagement, phonetic understanding, to pass time during car rides, but it helps kids identify the first letter of familiar sights!

  1. Closed captioning

Many enjoy a little screen time every day, so turn screen time into reading time by simply turning on the closed captioning. There are many benefits to closed captioning, and your kids may not even realize they’re learning while enjoying the show. Closed captioning is completely free and oftentimes comes in several different languages if you’re wanting to really spice up screen time. With technological advances, there’s never been an easier time to enjoy and practice reading every day!


If you have any questions about reading every day, please contact us for more information.