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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why Spelling Matters

Making reading a regular habit can help to significantly improve reading comprehension and understanding, but so can other skills - spelling being one of them. Studies have shown that an understanding of the key elements of spelling, the sounds and letters used to make up a complete word, can result in better reading skills.

A study conducted by Catherine Snow in 2005 underlines how the relationship between letters and sounds can be better understood for spelling, as well as reading. According to Snow spelling and reading build and rely on the same mental representation of a word. Knowing the spelling of a word makes the representation of it sturdy and accessible for fluent reading. The study also found that the ability to read words by sight, versus sounding out letters, is a skill that requires the ability to match letters and letter combinations with sounds. Not all words are visually distinctive, especially words that are similarly spelled or contain the same letters and in different combinations. However, learning to spell can help support memory for sight-reading whole words, which can be used in both spelling and reading as a result.

Spelling can be difficult for some, but there are plenty of ways parents can encourage these skills, much like how they can encourage reading outside of books.

Break It Down Daily
Ask your children to read off road signs, cereal boxes, you name it - but have them sound out letters as well. Tracing words, drawing words, and familiarizing them with letters can help tremendously.  Listening skills also play a crucial part in daily activities such as asking your child “what letter does ‘bat’, end with? What letter does ‘sock’ begin with and so on. Playing these games can help your child’s ability to hear sounds in words.

Encourage Vocal Skills
Spelling and reading are both intrinsically tied to the sounds of letters and letter combinations. Encourage them to read aloud. Children need to use the language they will be writing. Having a conversation, telling stories, playing word games and even play-acting can help kids develop key vocal skills as well as improve their vocabulary.

Bring Writing into the Mix
Writing regularly can significantly help children spell, and read as well. Writing can help children get their thoughts down on paper and can help them sound out and express their thoughts and feelings. By creating a visual element, such as writing down letters and words, kids are more likely to develop key spelling and reading skills. Their penmanship, and their spelling, may not be perfect at first, but if it is a routine activity, they will grow more and more familiar with the act of writing, spelling, and communicating effectively.

For younger kids you can write each of the words, and then have them trace it with a black crayon. Just make sure your child uses straight, not curved, lines when he outlines the word.

Get Creative
Applying study skills you may have used in college can help, too. Just as a university student may color-code their notes and post-its, using anything from highlighters and finger paints to cut-out construction paper and sidewalk chalk, you can help bring letters and spelling to life by making it a little more fun, and vibrant, too.

Old methods still work well such as purchasing letter magnets for the refrigerator and having them spell out words. Rhyming games are fun and help children to think and make similarities with letter sounds.  The idea here is to do it in daily bits and segments so that each time you do some sort of spelling lesson it becomes a game and children will love to learn.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

4 Sleeping Problems Affecting Kids and How To Treat Them

Adults aren’t the only people who suffer from stress, anxiety and not enough rest.  In many cases, all of these things could be linked, and it is something that parents should certainly look out for when it comes to monitoring their child’s sleeping patterns. There are plenty of things that can affect a kid’s quality of sleep, and these issues can have consequences. Lack of sleep is something that should be taken seriously, especially since it can lead to decreased concentration at school, a weakened immune system, an increased risk of obesity and weight-gain, moodiness, and much more.

Take a good look at your child’s sleeping patterns. Do they have any quirks or habits like snoring or sleep walking? Are they tired every morning and often fatigued during the day? Here are some of the biggest sleep issues that affect children of different ages, as well as what you can do to help rectify the problem.

Stress and Anxiety
Children are still learning, growing and becoming individuals, and there are plenty of hardships that come along with that. A child’s worries can range from present factors, like school stress, making friends or bullying, to real world what-ifs like the possibility of a fire or a burglar trying to break into your home.

Signs of stress and anxiety in children often involve staying awake despite their tiredness as well as a general restlessness when they do manage to get some sleep. Kids who worry or feel afraid may also ask for extra one-on-one time before bed or even ask to sleep with you before sleeping or during the night.

Working through stress is important, and as a parent it’s vital that you do not belittle their worries. Instead, try to help them channel their anxieties and worries in other ways. Encourage them to keep a journal. Writing can help kids empty their heads before bed, plus it helps them learn to work through their emotions and feelings. Also consider reading a book before bed, whether you read together or they read on their own, to help get their mind off things before drifting off to sleep.

Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects a person’s intake of oxygen while they sleep. In children, sleep apnea is often caused by oversized tonsils, adenoids, or even chronic sinus infections that affect how well they breathe while they sleep. Sleep apnea often causes loud or excessive snoring, but it can also cause restless sleep and frequent waking in the middle of the night.

The only way to accurately diagnose sleep apnea is to visit a lab, but it’s important that parents pay attention to sleeping patterns in order to diagnose the issue. Treatment aims to help improve breathing and may involve tonsil removal, sinus medication, or other options.

Sedentary Screen Time
Just as with adults, kids who don’t move around much or spend too much time in front of a screen may suffer from a lack of fulfilling sleep as a result. Not getting enough exercise has many other side effects as most people are aware, but it can also affect how well you sleep. Plus, lack of sleep can contribute just as much to weight gain and risk for obesity as remaining relatively sedentary does. But no matter how active or inactive your day was, it’s important that children refrain from looking at any bright screens before bed – and the same goes for adults. Studies have shown that the stimulation inspired by watching TV, looking at your phone or playing on your tablet can interfere with quality of sleep. So many experts suggest planning at least an hour’s worth of screen-free time before bed. Make getting ready for bed a habit – such as turn off all devices, brush teeth and change into pajamas, and plan a screen-free activity, whether it is reading or simple conversation to help you, and your children, power down and get ready for a good night’s rest.

According to Karen Ballaban-Gil, MD, a pediatric neurologist at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in NYC says that 20-40% of school-age kids sleepwalk on occasion. This is usually caused by an incomplete sleep-stage transition, causing the brain to remain asleep while the body is capable of getting up and moving around. Sleepwalking can be dangerous, especially since kids are unaware of their actions and parents may not be around to monitor them.

When it comes to spotting sleepwalking, parents can usually see signs if they go to sleep later than their children normally do since sleepwalking often occurs during the first few hours of sleep. Sleepwalking also tends to run in families, so if you, your spouse, or anyone else in the family has been known to sleepwalk in the past, it is definitely something you should watch out for in your kids.
For the most part, kids will outgrow this tendency – but it is absolutely imperative that parents make sure they are aware of the situation and that they create safe spaces for their children in the event that they sleepwalk. Make sure their rooms are clean and that the floor is clear of any hazards. Put bars on windows, child-proof areas like the bathroom or kitchen, and make sure that you keep an eye on them or an ear out for them when you can. If you catch your child sleepwalking, gently guide them back to bed as much as you can. If it becomes a common occurrence, be sure to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician to look out for any underlying causes and other solutions.

Final Thoughts: Children need sleep, just like the rest of us. Without a good night’s rest, kids can suffer from a plethora of problems physically, mentally, at school, and in other aspects of their lives. Children ages 5-12 should generally get around 10-11 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers, on the other hand, generally need 8-10, but it is also important to pay attention to your child’s sleeping habits, needs and other behaviors. Sometimes, kids (and adults) may rest better when they sleep at certain times or for a specific number of hours. No matter what, it is important that kids get the recommended amount of sleep for the sake of their health and their overall well being.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

How the Reading Aloud Method Will Help Children Love Reading

When it comes to literacy development, there are not many methods better than simply reading aloud. According to the Bredekamp, Copple, & Neuman, 2000 study, it is the single most important activity for reading success and to boost reading comprehension. It not only provides children with an accessible demonstration of phrased, fluent reading but it also provides them with the immediate rewards of reading, developing the listener’s interest in books and piquing their desire to be a reader as they become more skilled.

Reading out loud can be a great tool for parents, as well as a great activity to share with children. Listening to others read can develop key understanding skills and reading comprehension, even if the child is not doing the reading themselves. Active listening can help kids familiarize with the different parts of a story as well as with different and integral parts of language. On that note, children can listen on a higher level than they can read - meaning that they can listen to books that are more advanced than their reading level. This can be extremely helpful when trying to boost your child’s reading skills, reading level, and generally interesting them in reading on their own.

For the most part, a child’s first experience with reading will be story time with their parents or something similar. By making story time a staple of your daily schedule, reading and storytelling can quickly become a very important part of your child’s life. However, parents can take it a step further, too.

Make Reading a Part of Your Lives
When story time has its own time and place, children find meaning for stories and reading in their lives. There are so many ways in which parents can make reading a part stor
of their child’s everyday world. Have books around, of all kinds. Give your kids a little library of their own, but even magazines and coffee table books around the house can pique their interest - one day, they’ll be able to read those things, too. Kids also learn from example, so if you read often yourself, children will develop an interest in reading, too. But overall, if shared story time is something that you do every night before bed, or in any part of the day, they become habits and the comfort they provide can help to ensure that your child is always interested in books, reading and learning.

Encourage Kids to Listen and Form Opinions
Reading aloud is one thing, but it can play a huge role when it comes to active listening. Active listening during story time can help build vital reading comprehension skills that kids will utilize once they can read more independently. Ask your kids questions about the story. Request an overview after every book or chapter. Have them tell you about their favorite characters and why.

Read Aloud - and Think Aloud, Too
In addition to asking kids questions about what you’re reading, asking them to share their thoughts and feelings can help them develop communication skills that can carry across verbal and written forms. Ask them to connect the book to their own life experience, to other books you’ve shared together, and even ask them to connect what they are reading to universal concepts like love, friendship, family, etc. Stories made personally for children can help with this process as they are submerged into the story themselves helping them connect with characters in the story.

Have Kids Read Along
As kids get older and begin to learn, they will surely be able to identify some of the words you’re reading - even if the book you’re sharing is a bit more advanced for them. If kids are encouraged to read along, even if they are still listening, different parts of their brain are being activated and utilized. Kids will have a better idea of the relationship between how words look and how they sound, and they may also develop a deeper understanding of how language flows and how stories develop as well.


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