Hands-on learners

Some children learn better when their hands are busy.  The Homeschool Mom recommends Wrap-ups for math:

“Wrap-Ups are grooved plastic cards with threads that learners use to trace from a multiplication fact to its solution.  There is a separate card for each math fact family.  You can check your answer by flipping the card over to see if the way you arranged the thread indicating answers matches the guide on the back.

“Wrap-ups sound complicated and hard to imagine, but they were something the kids picked up on with little or no instruction from me and practiced on their own.

“Wrap-ups are more tactile than traditional flash cards and stood up to use by three different kids widely spaced apart.  This was one of those homeschool purchases I felt good about years later.”

Usborne sells Wrap-ups for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and even state capitals! 

1001 Things to Spot

1001 _______ Things to Spot is a series of books that has lots of things to find on every page.  The child is given the task of finding 4 goats or 9 spiders, etc.   It keeps the little ones busy while you’re in a waiting room or in the car or at the soccer field, anywhere in which the kids need to be wait quietly.  As soon as they find 4 goats, they immediately begin looking for the 6 sheep, etc.  Big Book of Things to Spot is a collection of four of these books: Town, Long Ago, Farm, and Animals.

This series is great on so many levels! A great non-fiction search and find : learn about cities around the world (1001 Things to Spot in Town), introduce young ones to history (1001 Things to Spot Long Ago).  Rather than finding Waldo, you can learn, too!

It’s a great early math book! “We need to find 7 of these, and we found 5 – how many are left?’

Pre-readers can enjoy this book too – they can see the number and the picture and they’re off searching. Great book for church, waiting at restaurants, a quick phone call!

I always carry the Big Book of Things to Spot in library binding, ours lived in the seat pocket of our van. The paperback wouldn’t have stood up to the abuse our book took but the library binding was perfect! –Suzanne B.

Absolute favorite at our house! –Lacy D.

1001 Things to Spot books include Fairy, Pirate, Bugs, in the Sea, on the Farm, on Vacation, in Fairyland, at Christmas, around the World, Animals.  9.99 for hardcover and $17.99 for library binding.

Big Book of Things is 12.99 for paperback and $20.99 for library binding.

There is even a new series especially for 18-month-old to 4 years called Baby’s Very First book of things to spot.  These are board books (very thick pages) for $11.99 each.  The other two books in this series are at Home and Out and About.

Helping with homework

HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD WITH HOMEWORK? [from ericdigests.org]

First, avoid doing the homework yourself! Doing homework for a child sends a message that he or she is incapable of doing the work and that perfection is the main objective. It also denies your child the opportunity to develop skills and gain understanding from the experience. Remember, doing homework should help children plan, manage, and complete work on their own, Parents should be familiar with the school’s homework policy and help their children get the most out of homework by:

*Exhibiting a positive attitude in word and deed that homework is important and education comes first.

*Encouraging children to take notes about homework assignments when they are given.

*Discussing homework assignments with children to become familiar with what they are studying. Talk together about the topic of an essay before the child begins writing, and do short quizzes on the day before a test.

*Limiting after-school activities to allow time for homework and family activities.

*Limiting telephone use by agreeing ahead of time what will be allowed.

*Planning homework schedules and routines that allow some free time when assignments are completed. Make sure your child is well rested, not hungry, and has had time to wind down after school (Herold, 1999). Also, avoid scheduling homework right before bedtime when children will be too tired or feel pressured to finish by bedtime. For long-term projects, mark plans and deadlines on a calendar.

*Monitoring television and radio use. If there is a favorite show that comes on during scheduled study time, arrange to record the show if possible.

*Doing some assignments or questions together with a child when he or she asks for help. Sometimes children need help in learning how to break large assignments down into manageable pieces.

*Staying nearby-reading, writing, studying or catching up on paperwork. Be available to help if asked, but avoid imposing your help or way of doing something.

*Checking completed assignments, and reviewing homework that has been marked and returned. Avoid negative comments, but contact the teacher if your child consistently gets 25% or more wrong on homework problems and assignments, or if he or she never seems to have any homework (Shore, 1999).

*Providing children with convenient, quiet, and comfortable work areas that are well-lit , free of family traffic, and have the materials needed to complete assignments. Some people do study better with music or background noise, so try to accommodate your child’s preferred learning style.

*Encouraging the use of reference materials (such as dictionaries and encyclopedias), and providing a computer and calculator if possible.

And you know, of course, where to find the best reference materials…Usborne!

Illustrated Dictionary, Illustrated Thesaurus, Illustrated Dictionaries of Math

Illustrated Dictionary of Physics, Chemistry, or Biology

Encyclopedia of Science, World History, Ancient History, Geography, etc. 

Why you should read to your baby

from the NYC office of early childhood education:

Focus on Literacy – A love of reading begins long before your child starts preschool.

Every time you hold your child and read aloud, he experiences the joys of reading and connects to the reading experience. This will help your child develop literacy and reading skills, which will help him become a successful independent reader in the future.

Don’t wait till the child is old enough to understand the story in a picture book; that’s too late.  Begin reading to him as soon as he’s born and you can hold him & a book at the same time.  We have books written especially for the way infants see, hear, and understand.  As the baby gets bigger, he can see more and understand more, and we have books for that, too. 


To find books for infants on the Babies & Toddlers search page, look for books with the polka-dot borders or Playbook somewhere in the title.  When he’s about 9 months old, he’ll be ready for the That’s Not My… series, the Usborne Very First Words series, and the My First Word Book series.  The cool thing about Usborne books is that you don’t have to wonder what to say on each page; just read whatever is written.  You don’t have to point out every item on each page of the That Not My… book; just read the words.  As you read the book to your baby each day (and feel the textures), on his own he will notice there are other things besides a Pony, Cow, or Dragon on the page.  As his understanding grows, the book stays new because he starts noticing more and more!

12th-graders who cannot read

Since 1983, more than 1 MILLION Americans reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level.

Don’t wait till your child is in 12th grade and cannot read; do something today to help him…no matter his age.  If he’s just starting to read, get him the My First Reading Library set, a fun collection of 50 books that begins with the easiest books (a normal page of text for mom to read followed by a few phonics words for the child to read, keeping the story moving along while enjoying snuggle time with mom.), then escalate to phonics and a couple sight words, getting more and more complicated till he’s finished all the books and is now on track to read any book that stirs his imagination!

If he’s older, his problem isn’t that he doesn’t know what sounds the letters make; it’s more that he doesn’t enjoy reading books anymore.  Reading stopped being snuggle time and became school time, so he stopped caring enough to practice.

Also, the books became boring.  Most of the functionally illiterate 12th-graders are boys because we expect boys to read the same type of books that girls (like Mom) enjoy reading, but boys may not want those kind of books.  If Mom likes novels full of character development and relationships, she may have been unconsciously choosing that type of book when choosing something for her son, whether he wanted them or not.  Most women don’t care for stressful blood & guts books, whereas boys do.  That’s not good or bad; it’s just a fact.  If your boy enjoys hero comic books, violent video games, and scary movies, he isn’t going to enjoy Twilight.  Give him books full of action & adventure or danger.  He won’t faint at the descriptions of blood and guts.  

You’ll have to read them to him at first if his reading level is very low, but when you read a chapter each night to him, he’ll begin to enjoy the story and books again.  Sticker books can also help lure him back to reading, but he may be too old for stickers if he’s in high school.

Kids read books to get FREE books

Reach for the Stars!! is a fund-raiser in which the kids who did all the work get to keep half of the money they raised instead of handing over all the money to the school and maybe getting a pencil or ice cream.

“…a generous pledge-based reading incentive program, designed to benefit schools, individual classrooms, clubs, pre-schools, church groups, homeschool groups, charities, businesses and public libraries.

“The goal of Reach for the Stars!! is for participants to read, or be read to, 300 minutes over a two week period of time, thus developing a reading routine and receiving Usborne and Kane Miller books for participating.”

Imagine how much fun it would have been as a kid to earn $100 worth of books…to keep! And not boring good-for-you books, but books about sharks or puppies or sticker books or puzzle books or cool chapter books…

Some groups do the program during the school year and other do it when the kids are on summer vacation!  Email me now at ward@cedarstone.org to set up the program for your kids.

Babies need eye contact

Scottish Book Trust www.scottishbooktrust.com:

“From the moment a baby is born they are seeking to make eye contact, and photographs of babies in particular are very relatable to them.

“Thankfully publishers know this and there are lots of wonderful (and cute) books out there which feature pictures of different babies.

“Photographs are best but illustrations of other babies are great too.  I’ve listed a few recommendations for you:  Babies Very First Black and White Books: Babies by Usborne.  (Babies are also particularly drawn to books in black and white as they love the contrast).”



All of the Babies Very First Black and White books have the contrasting black & white drawings that babies love!  There are two sizes: small for the baby to easily hold, and larger for the baby to see the pages better.  This larger size is a favorite for those looking for a baby-shower gift.  If fits nicely in a basket full of diapers.

Jon Scieszka reading tips

Jon Scieszka on how to get kids to love reading:
As a parent, teacher, and author, I have assembled a great list, from actual live experience, of what not to do to engage a kid in reading:

- Do not tell them reading is magical
or good for them
or important
or something they better do for an hour before bedtime or [beep] they will end up like shiftless Uncle Dave who is always asking to borrow money.

- Do not denigrate kids’ other activities – video games, texting, talking to friends, watching TV, sleeping… as stupid in comparison to reading.
– Do not insist they read “classics” because you had to.
– Do not refuse to get a book for them because it isn’t up to their reading level.
– Do not tell them (or me, or anyone) that they are “reluctant readers.”