Teaching a Child With ADHD

Teaching a Child With ADHD

Teaching a child with ADHD?

Do you have or are you teaching a child with ADHD? Whether you are a homeschool mom, a teacher in a classroom, a leader in children’s ministry or work with children ever… you have likely experienced the challenges that come from teaching a child with ADHD symptoms.  You know the signs:

  • Trouble paying attention to non-preferred activities (think math, reading, chores… whatever is not perceived as interesting is considered non-preferred)
  • Hyperactivity (the wiggle worms)
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Impulsive
  • Difficulty transitioning from one activity to another
  • Strong emotional responses to change
  • Is your child struggling with reading?
  • Does she become overwhelmed and shut down when staring at a sheet of math problems?
  • His room messy even after he spent “forever” cleaning it?
  • Copying from the whiteboard or from another text bring her to tears?
  • Do you become frustrated with chores being “half-done”?
  • Check out Attitudemag.com for more information.

When our children struggle with symptoms of ADHD, it can be extremely challenging for teacher and student alike.  The student struggles to maintain attention and becomes bored and distracted.  Teacher becomes frustrated with her inability to teach the child effectively.  Academic growth stalls out while frustrations and tensions between child and teacher grow.

So what does the homeschool mom or school teacher do to more effectively teach a child with adhd?  After all, a child’s engagement is critical to retention and understanding.

** This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you which allows me to continue offering as much free content as possible.  Appreciate your support.  

ADHD Teaching Tips

To gather some useful teaching tips to engage kids with ADHD, I sought out the advice of an amazing friend.  Alicia Matthews, MS, OTR/L, has walked alongside my family for years and is a wealth of information for helping parents and teachers more effectively engage and teach children with ADHD.  It is no wonder that I would seek out her ADHD teaching tips.

OT & ADHD

What is OT ? For those who don’t know, OT stands for Occupational Therapy. Many parents are catching on to the benefits of Occupational Therapy (OT) for kids. OT strategies are often used to strengthen various areas of development for children. According to Understood.org, a great resource for teaching students with ADHD:

Occupational therapy (OT) helps people who struggle to do everyday tasks because of poor motor skills. For kids, that includes tasks that are part of learning and functioning well at school.

Understood.org, Occupational Therapy: What You Need to Know

There is a common misperception about OT amongst many parents. I know because I used to be one of them.  I used to think that school-related OT was only useful if a student had handwriting issues. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Occupational Therapy for Teaching a Child with ADHD?

Occupational Therapy is not a new area of intervention for teaching students with ADHD.  However, recently more and more parents are learning of its effectiveness at addressing their student’s ADHD symptoms.  Fortunately, OT strategies can help with a variety of school-related issues. Today, we will discuss how OT strategies can assist with teaching students with ADHD.  Specifically,  today we will discuss a common ADHD-like symptom that impacts learning: visual attention weaknesses.

Why is it important to assess visual attention in students struggling with school?  Specifically, why do children who hate math and reading often have this attention weaknesses?

You may be shaking your head at the computer or phone screen mumbling, “Wait a minute, Lindsay. Huh? Visual attention? What is that and why do I care?  Just help me get my child to sit still and focus!”

Deep breaths, Friend… I’ve got you covered.

What is Visual Attention?

I love me some Understood.org… let’s see what they say about visual attention.

The brain, not the eyes, processes the visual world, including things like symbols, pictures and distances. Weaknesses in these brain functions are called visual processing disorder or visual processing issues.

Understood.org, Visual-Spatial Processing: What You Need to Know

Occupational Therapists (OTs) use their skills and knowledge of the brain and its connection to the body, to apply OT strategies to improve visual attention in children.

My Middle & Symptoms of ADHD Visual Attention Weaknesses

Like many other parents, I entered the world of OT through experience with my middle daughter.  My middle daughter began reading quite easily at the age of four-and-a-half. Because her early printing and handwriting was done fairly neatly and well, I always assumed learning would be easy for her. However, it wasn’t until the age of 7 that I began noticing some “little things” that were, in fact, becoming big issues for her.

I began noticing her aversion to school work or reading.  Physically flipping and cartwheels at all times. Physically writing answers on a piece of paper was a very laborious task for her. She quietly avoided writing answers to questions on paper. For her, the act of hearing a question aloud and then processing it into a coherent answer was enough for her. Having to physically write down her thoughts was an overwhelming task.  Additionally, I began noticing that she skipped words or lines of text while reading.  As the font became smaller, these reading “missteps” became more frequent.

I noticed her lack of attention to details, lack of focus and her continued hyperactive-like behaviors.

Physical Therapy Leads Us to Later Occupational Therapy

As a baby, my daughter was late to sit up, crawl and walk. Because of these delays, at around 10 months, I brought her to pediatric physical therapy for months in order to strengthen these areas. Later, these memories combined with other emerging challenges, prompted me to seek out an OT evaluation for her.

It was through this evaluation that I learned of my daughter’s struggle with visual attention. God blessed us with an amazing Occupational Therapist who ultimately worked with my daughter on visual perception issues. My daughter showed difficulty with visual convergence, visual tracking and overall control over her visual system.

Each week, Alicia, my daughter’s Occupational Therapist, implemented OT strategies to improve my girl’s visual attention skills. Alicia would then debrief me as to what “homework” I was to complete with my girl. It was crucial for me to support the continued strengthening of my daughter’s visual system.

Why OT for ADHD-Symptoms such as Visual Weaknesses?

Basically, visual attention is what helps us weed through all of the information that our brains receive at any given moment. In the case of this ADHD symptom, our brain must process all of the input that is collected from the eyes. The brain must then take all of the information it receives and focus on that which is most important.

Every day, our brains receive a mass amount of input from our body systems. We smell, we hear and we see, for example. Our brains then process the information and ultimately, decide where to focus.

For example, while at the park, you keep your eye on your child despite hundreds of other objects in your view. Your brain knows to focus on the little boy in the red shirt and not the trash cans.

Taking this into consideration, we can apply it to a child’s learning struggles. Often, when a child progresses in reading skills, he may begin to shut down or hate reading. This is indicative of a visual perception problem.

For more information on reading instruction, check out my blog post on Reading Instruction for Struggling Readers.

Are Visual Attention Weaknesses impacting your student?

In a child with a visual attention weakness, he may struggle when given a math worksheet. Often there are twenty or more equations on a sheet of paper. This can be very visually overstimulating for a child with visual attention weakness.

This child’s brain has to weed through the many digits and focus specifically on one problem. This can cause a student to become overwhelmed. Anxiety prevents him from processing the math problem well. and ultimately, this leads to gaps in educational success.

These symptoms are troubling for many parents and children to navigate. Often times there is the perception that the child is not trying, just sloppy or careless. However, experts now realize that these symptoms are associated with an actual cognitive deficit. Specifically, experts are finding that visual attention deficits are often at the root of these issues.

If this describes your child, do not fret. There are strategies to help.

12 Tips for Teaching a Child With ADHD 

Today, I am honored to have my sweet friend, Alicia Mathews, MS, OTR-L share her expertise with you. She will offer valuable suggestions on how to use OT strategies to improve a child’s attention. These OT strategies to increase attention are useful for home educators and traditional educators alike. I know you will find these tips useful.

Alicia, take it away!

Sensory: 5 Senses + Two More Senses

Get up and move!

As an OT, I start with sensory strategies to improve all learning challenges. For learning that requires visual attention while the child is seated, sensory input is recommended right before the child sits. When you can incorporate movement into a lesson, go for it!

Movement as a strategy to improve attention

While you’ve probably heard that getting up and moving can “wake up” the body, you’ve probably never been told why.

A full sensory diet should be developed by an OT based on your child’s specific needs – however, the rule of thumb for a “sensory snack” is that vestibular activities should be followed by proprioceptive activities.

1. Vestibular input:

Outside “vestibular” activities may include going down a slide, swinging high in the air, or riding a scooter.  Indoors vestibular activities may include log rolls, spinning in an office chair, or performing inverted yoga poses.

Vestibular sensory system involves changes in head position. This movement releases histamine, which increases arousal. Additionally, head movements also help organize other neurochemicals.

 2. Proprioceptive input:

Outside, activities may include climbing a rock wall, maneuvering through monkey bars, or jumping on a trampoline. At home, activities may include pushing/pulling a heavy bin of toys, deep pressure with a sofa cushion, or climbing up stairs on hands and knees.

This refers to movement that incorporate changes in joint position. This input is also described as deep pressure. This movement releases serotonin, which decreases arousal level and “calms” the body down.  (Think deep-tissue massage.)

Sensory tools and tips

3. Time

When working on a difficult activity, start with small increments of time (5 minutes can seem like a day for some kiddos). Increase time when accuracy and skill confidence develops. Don’t be afraid to use short movement breaks as small rewards – remember, vestibular activities increase alertness level and proprioceptive activities to decrease altertness.

4. Obstacle Course

When movement can be incorporated within a lesson, try utilizing an obstacle course. Place lesson materials throughout the course or incorporate a “writing/reading/math” obstacle within the course. Have your child help create the course for increased motivation.

5. Seating

Varying your child’s seating option can be helpful. A sensory cushion, therapy ball, or chair band can help a child stay “alert” during seated activities. For high arousal kids, they tend to become more of a distraction.  However, I think that they work best for kiddos that need to increase arousal level. For more active kids, these options tend to become more of a distraction.

In the end, we all know that every child is different! If something doesn’t work, try another option.

Warm up your eyes!

Why is it important to warm up the eyes?

When reading and writing, your eyes perform a variety of movements. When these foundational skills are not present or automatic, your brain has to work harder to compensate. Understandably, this negatively affects a child’s ability to focus and control extra energy because he lacks the mental effort that has been waster trying to control his eye functions.  Often, the following reading skills are overlooked at annual well-visits so it is entirely possible that a child may be struggling in this area:

  1. Fixation: the ability to focus on a target
  2. Saccades: the ability to jump from one target to another
  3. Pursuits: the ability to track a moving target

Occupational Therapy focuses on advanced eye movements and skills within formal treatment.  Here are some easy eye warm-ups you can do at home. 

6. Toss a Ball or Balloon

Hit a balloon or toss a large ball back and forth 10 times.

  • For older kids, you may vary the height and speed of the object.

7. Tick Tocks

Complete “tick tocks” by looking up and down 10 times in a slow rhythmical pattern. Follow with looking right and left.

  • You can complete with music to increase efficiency.

8.  Play “Eye Movement” Simon Says

  • Mirror eye movements made in the 4 corners of your visual field. Start with 1 movement and increase until someone loses the pattern!

Check out the environment

9. Lighting

Natural light is best. Florescent lights can quickly cause fatigue, especially with intensive reading activities. Use natural light when possible, and try to limit visual distractions. While it might be great to sit beside a window, it may be difficulty to “tune out” visual or auditory distractions from outside. When natural light is not possible, you can remove the amount of light bulbs in an overhead light or position your child with their back facing the light source.

10. Slanted Desk Area

Oculomotor (Lindsay’s Translation- Eye Movement) – Decrease eye strain.

Your left and right eye must converge (work together) to focus on text at near and far. Many children struggle with eye convergence. This often explains a child’s complaints of headaches and lack of desire to read.

You can decrease eye stress by using a slanted board or large binder under your child’s paper or book.  It is also helpful to maintain all text from one activity at either near or far. Instead of using a whiteboard, provide a handout or place the principal text beside your child’s paper.

11. Reduce Amount of Text on Page

Visual Field – Decrease the visual field.

Full pages of text can be overwhelming for children, particularly with non-preferred activities. For kiddos that are struggling with oculomotor skills, it may increase the likelihood of skipping words or full lines of text when reading.

A solid piece of paper can be used to cover half of a page, or can used as a line marker when reading or referencing. Some children may prefer a page “window.” A rectangle (to fill one or more lines of text) can be cut from a full piece of paper.

12. Use Color…Except Yellow

Perception – Increase visual perception. Visual discrimination, visual closure, figure-ground, form constancy, visual memory and sequential visual memory all contribute to visual attention and reading/writing skill development. There are some general suggestions that may help this area.

Ensure written and typed work is clear and without excessive text. Use contrasting colors, avoiding yellow text on white paper.

Research on color overlays and learning disabilities is limited. However, overlays are frequently used to decrease visual stress while reading or studying. There are a variety of colors available, and blues/greens are the most popular.

These can be used to cover a full page or a specific area of text. Similarly, highlighter strips may also be used to increase visual attention to text while reading. Older children can use a highlighter to maintain reading speed.

OT Evaluation

All in all, if your child is experiencing difficulty sustaining attention to seated tasks, or you suspect oculomotor and visual perceptual concerns, reach out to an OT for a sensory or visual-based evaluation!

Thank you to my sweet friend, Alicia Matthews, MS, OTR/L for her collaboration on this post.  She has been a part of my journey and I have learned so much from her.

Alicia is a pediatric occupational therapist with 8 years of experience in North Carolina. She has a Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She developed OT Avenue, LLC in 2017. Alicia currently works in home health and private practice in the Concord and Charlotte area. You can connect with her at OTAvenue@gmail.com

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

So many sweet moms fear when their child is struggling to read well.   Today we are discussing our struggling readers, students with dyslexia, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.  We are blessed to have a guest post written by Karee Atkinson, a mom with a heart to equip children to learn well.  She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and is just one of several dyslexics in her family.  As an educator who grew up with dyslexia and is also raising several children with dyslexia, she is the perfect person to share more about equipping struggling students with alternative reading instruction.

Take it away, Karee!!!

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & A Mom Who “Gets It”

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I understand the confusions and often contradictory information parents are given to help their child.  So let me start with my three guiding principles as a mom and that I use now as a tutor.

  1.  This is my child, I believe this child was sent to me and I am one of the two people (along with my husband) who has the most concern, love and hope invested in this little one.  I welcome and need the input of other partners in this process like tutors, teachers and friends. But at the end of the day, this is my child.
  2. There is no “one” solution for every child because every child is different.  If you find a solution that works for you, great!  And celebrate when someone else finds a solution, even if it is different from yours.
  3. To help any child improve in reading and spelling you need to also spend time building self-esteem and confidence.  

 

The Orton-Gillingham Approach For Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham method helps those with dyslexia beautifully.  While Orton-Gillingham was created to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, this approach can help all struggling readers.  This approach to reading instruction is also known as to as OG and Structured Literacy.

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological awareness:

    • Ability to manipulate sounds. A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 
    • The book “Equipped for Reading Success” by Dr. Kilpatrick is my favorite resource for phonological awareness. It gives you tests for PA as well as interventions for phonological awareness.  These tools can (and should) look like play to the child you are working with. 
      • I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds letters represent

The next thing OG is going to explicitly address is knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds the different letters make.  If you have a struggling reader, chances are they are not firm on the letter sounds.  Letter sounds need to be explicitly taught. 

    • For example the word “Wasp” is not pronounced /w/ /a/ /s/ /p/ because the “wa” makes a /w/ /o/ sound.

Spelling rules and phonics 

So far,I bet most of you are with me.  It’s easy to see the need for this type of instruction for any beginning or struggling reader.

Understanding these additional reading variables greatly assists with reading instruction.  

  • Knowledge of syllable division/syllable types 
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics

dyslexia, orton-gillingham, reading, learning disability

Syllable division and morphology are personally my favorite things to teach.  If you have a reader who has leveled out at a 3rd to 5th grade level, struggles with these 2 principles are probably part of the problem. 

I didn’t understand how to spell many words until I received this training as an adult.   I have always been a strong reader, but my spelling and grammar is still weak.  Weak spelling and grammar skills are hallmark characteristics of an adult with dyslexia.  Honestly, once I was trained in OG, I became a little frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier. Understanding how syllables impact sounds and spelling was an awakening for me.  When memorization was my only tool, spelling was incredibly difficult.  

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  Morphology is just a fancy term to describe how suffixes and prefixes change a word.  Think metamorphosis… the changing caterpillar and butterfly.

Another fantastic way to add meaning to how words are spelled is structured word inquiry.   Check out this great video about this new and growing field.   Structured Word Inquiry.

Letter Tiles App

Syntax & Semantics Round Out a Solid Reading Program

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the OG approach.  These help us understand how to get meaning from written language. 

You may be asking yourself the following question:

“Don’t most reading programs have some of these elements? Then why is OG so much more effective?”   

Yes!  Many programs do contain similar components. However, if reading supports don’t contain ALL of these components, please don’t use them!! 

A strong reading program should have all these elements. 

 

What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for our dyslexic students because of the way it presents the information.  It uses a multisensory and learner-driven approach.  Additionally, OG teachers and tutors are trained to be laser-focused on the specific needs of the student.

Success

If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Lessons are hand-crafted to meet the needs of that student. They are also very, very explicit in teaching how letters, sounds, syllables and morphemes all work together.  Each lesson should circle back to previously learned material.  A student should never encounter a letter combination or spelling rule they have not been taught in any of the review segments of the lesson. 

Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s mastery, so we do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is finding success.

Multi-sensory

Diagnostic

OG lessons are diagnostic.   This means that if a child is struggling with a concept or a word, we loop back to that again.  If I see a strength in the way the way a student grasps new information, that strength will be incorporated into all future lessons.

Ultimately, an OG approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory, diagnostic and most important of all… focused on success.

Orton-Gillingham Certified Tutors

If time, money and distance are not a roadblock, choosing a Certified Orton-Gillingham instructor is ideal.  Certified tutors have hours and hours of training, ongoing professional development and are continually mastering their craft.  

If finances are a roadblock, do not give up!!

When I started my journey in Utah there was not a single OG Certified tutor in my state with openings for a child.  Not one. 

What did I do? 

With my first child, I paid for a tutor for three years.  Later, his school agreed to train teachers and aids in the SPIRE program.  We made the decision to enroll our him to the school. Was the ischool nstruction as good as the private tutor?  No. But was my child progressing and happier, yes!   

Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

We often hear that dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  It’s not surprising then, of my four kids, we have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of them.

The reality is that I have navigated dyslexia in many ways.  Through my own schooling, in finding tutors for my kids,and  by advocating for other children to receive appropriate reading instruction.  

Eventually, when I realized that all of my kids would need reading tutoring, I decided to tutor them myself.   The cost for three dyslexic children to receive effective reading support, I had no other choice.  There are always options. 

If you are do end up supporting your own kids without formal OG training, I strongly suggest the programs Sonday System, Barton, or Reading Horizons.  

Believe in Your Child

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves. There are so many tools and supports available (a blog for another day). 

Remember, you are the parent and this is your child. There are days we all feel fear and are just overwhelmed.  At the end of every day though, your love for your child will help you find the path they need to be successful.  Always make sure that your children spend time building upon their strengths and not just facing down their weaknesses.  

Karee received a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.  Karee worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers and as a trainer for the Utah State Department of Health, before deciding to be a stay at home mom.   Karee was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Utah, grassroots movement driven by Utah families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within public schools.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  I work as a Orton-Gillingham tutor for kids with dyslexia and is in the process of becoming a Certified OG Tutor.

To contact Karee about her services: dyslexiasolutionsfortmill@gmail.com or  call her at 801-455-2402 

Auditory Processing Disorder: 10 Ways to Help Your Child

Note from Lindsay

Yes and Amen!!  If Karee had written nothing more than the last paragraph, I would be happy.  Moms, you have amazing children and God has a plan for each of them.  He has blessed them all with gifts and talents and a purpose for this life.  Allow them to explore their gifts… and always encourage them with your confidence in their abilities.  If your child is struggling with reading or has dyslexia, the Orton-Gillingham approach should be the game-changer you are looking for.  🙂

One last thing for you homeschoolers out there.  My absolute favorite reading and spelling curriculum out there is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and is also a very affordable and user-friendly option.  All About Learning Press is a phenomenal resource for reading instruction.  I would HIGHLY recommend their materials for any mom wanting to equip her child with a solid foundation of reading and spelling instruction.  I have used All About Spelling for both of my girls as well as several students that I have privately tutored in the past.  Cannot more highly recommend this company.

For more help with your struggling reader and alternative reading instruction information, check out my series on Reading Instruction for Struggling Readers.

Update: January 8, 2020

I am so excited to announce to my readers that All About Learning Press now has what looks to be an amazing app for our children!  I am so excited to try it with my little man.  From All About Learning Press:

Our Letter Tiles app lets you build words, divide words into syllables, and hear the sounds of the phonograms. Just choose your program from the menu (All About Reading or All About Spelling) and select which lesson number you are currently teaching. The appropriate letter tiles for that lesson will appear, making it easy for you to teach and easy for your student to learn.

I cannot wait to download this to my boy’s Ipad.   Any way I can sneak in learning without him knowing is a win in my book!  Yay!

 Click the image below to learn more about this incredible resource to add to your child’s reading and spelling tool belt!  

Letter Tiles App

Grab Your Free Behind the Behavior Bundle!

End the chaos and confusion! Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.  Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

All About Learning Press

Reading as a Family: The Benefits & Favorite Family Book List

Reading as a Family: The Benefits & Favorite Family Book List

Reading Aloud TO Your Children Throughout Childhood

Because I am a storyteller by nature, sharing stories with others brings me incredible joy. With this in mind, I am obsessed with reading as a family.

A trip to the library or bookstore is exciting for me because I love books. Looking through all the book covers, flipping through pages of text and images lights up my day. Book -lovers are famous for hoarding books in their Amazon carts. Likewise, my Amazon wish list is loaded with over 500 book titles that I dream to one day read.

Most importantly, my greatest joy is when we are reading as a family. Honestly, some of the sweetest times that we have had in our homeschool is our time enjoying books together. When I think back over the past 9 years of school, my heart swells the most when I reminisce about our times sharing a story together.

“Sharing Story” Memories

All in all, there is nothing I get more excited for each day than the time when we “press pause” and begin reading as a family.

  1. Those beautiful spring days when my girls and I would read for hours while relaxing on the screened-in porch.
  2. Or the freezing-cold winter snow days when we would all curl up on the couch and get lost in Narnia.
  3. Reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales while the girls sat at the kitchen island eating breakfast.
  4. Reading Hop on Pop with my 5 year-old son while at the kitchen table
  5. Or exploring the anatomy of spiders and butterflies with him through books
  6. And with my girls, hanging out in one of our rooms late at night, reading devotions together
  7. Heck, even reading from our Science book is amazing!

I simply love reading anything with my family.

Flexibility is Key When Reading As a Family

Regardless of where we are or what season we are in, we can always find a reading spot and a good story to share.

During our Read Aloud time, the girls (and my son, who is now interested in listening in), draw or doodle. My oldest went through a Rubik’s Cube phase as well. She would manipulate that Cube the entire time I read to them. However, she was always engaged in the story line despite the “distraction.”

Recently, it has become common within the homeschooling community to create shared experiences through books and stories. It is important to realize that reading aloud as a ritual and natural habit of school and home life is incredibly beneficial. Thank you, Ms. Sarah MacKenzie, at the Read Aloud Revival for sharing this passion with the world. (I highly recommend you check out her podcast!)



Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Children as Family

By and large, reading aloud TO your children provides many benefits:

  • The exposure to beautiful and well-written language
  • Similarly, exposure to ideas and principles that are common in higher-level literature
  • Even more beneficial, developing a love for books as a form of entertainment (no screens!)
  • Additionally, for those with Auditory Processing Disorder, reading aloud gives your child opportunities to develop the skill of listening and visualizing
  • family cohesion and bonding
  • a natural set-up for the school day
  • much needed mental break after more laborious school tasks (math, reading, writing)
  • Sharing stories creates conversations that may not otherwise occur
  • the list goes on.

While eating dinner with my family a few weeks ago, we had a conversation about our favorite books that we have read throughout the years.

My Family’s Top Memory-Making Books

Without further delay, here is our list of favorite books to share as a family. Hope you enjoy!

C.S Lewis



Undoubtedly, this is one of C.S. Lewis’s best books ever! The story of Aslan and Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy is a classic story that can be read over and over again.



Are you noticing a theme? We love C.S. Lewis. Consequently, we believe the entire Narnia Series is phenomenal! Every story of the land of Narnia is filled with rich concepts and language and yet so intriguing for all ages.

Beverly Cleary



Who doesn’t love Ramona? For one thing, she is hilarious and quirky! Her antics are always getting her into trouble. Keeping this in mind, our young readers can often relate to her questions about life. We love Ramona! As a matter of fact, we have read them all multiple times. This is a classic series for all ages.



Once we find an author we enjoy, we tend to stick with them. As a matter of fact, according to my 13 year-old daughter, the Henry Huggins series, “is like Ramona Quimby except its Henry. Its fun to read about Henry and his adventures with his dog.” 🙂 Without doubt, Beverly Cleary will always be a favorite author in our home.

Kate DiCamillo



I held a book club for my middle daughter and some friends last summer. We read Flora and Ulysses and had a blast. Lots of beautiful comic-version illustrations. The book is NOT a comic, but it is about a little girl who enjoys comics and squirrels. Fun!!



To reiterate, we love our favorite authors. In addition to Flora and Ulysseys, Because of Winn Dixie is another favorite by Kate DiCamillo. It is such a sweet story about a young girl who lives with her father. In spite of her mother’s recent departure, Opal adjusts well under the circumstances. One morning, she befriends a precious mutt and many quirky townspeople. Above all, they enjoy adventures. Sucked us all in and was an easy, relaxing read!

Katherine Applegate



This is an intriguing story about a gorilla living in a mall. Given that the animals live in captivity, there are scenes that are pretty disheartening. Thus, more tender-hearted children may want to skip this. The relationship between Ivan and a baby elephant is precious. hat he can Sweet story.

Elizabeth George Speare



My oldest and I absolutely LOVED this book! There is a major romance component that is simply magical. For this reason, I would recommend this book for 5th grade and up. Historical fiction at its best!

This story follows the journey of a beautiful young lady who is suddenly living in Puritan New England. She befriends a lovely woman whom the townspeople refer to as a “witch.” In the long run, our protagonist shakes up the town. The story is amazing!

 



As mentioned previously, Elizabeth George Spears is an amazing historical fiction writer. Accordingly, the Sign of the Beaver does not disappoint. It is based in the newly colonized Americas. story follows a young boy left alone to fend for himself in early America. Despite this, he develops a friendship with a Native American teen. In short, this story is phenomenal.

Clara Dillingham Pierson

Clara Dillingham Pierson wrote a series of phenomenal children’s books based upon various natural settings including farm animals, creatures found in meadows, forests and water. Included in the series are Among the Night People, Among the Meadow People, Among the Pond People, Among the Forest People, & Among the Farmyard People. These stories are amazing read-alouds and are incredibly well-written literature.



From time to time, my oldest daughter has experienced insomnia. In fact, at the age of 7, her insomnia lasted for about a year. I couldn’t let her suffer alone in the dark of night. Consequently, I would lie on her floor and read this series aloud to her from my Kindle. As horrible as the insomnia was, God did create a sweet memory for us through this shared series. In light of that, this series has a special place in my heart!

James Baldwin



This is a collection of classic stories told in a highly engaging format.

When short on time, Fifty Famous Stories Retold is a great choice. Throw it in the car in the event that you become stuck in traffic.

The Shared Stories Challenge

Even if you haven’t developed the habit of sharing stories aloud as a family, give it a try.

In light of all of the benefits of reading aloud as a family, why not give it a shot? Choose a title and read it together over the next month (or two). Even five minutes together in story will create a safe and cozy memory for your family.

Let me know if you are trying this Shared Stories Reading Challenge. Read aloud and don’t force your kids to read. In the hopes that you may instill a love of books in your children, I encourage you to read to them.

Now that we have discussed the benefits of reading aloud as a family, check out my series on different reading instruction strategies for kids who learn differently.






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What about you? What are your favorite books? Comment below.

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My Top 3 Phonics Resources for Parents & Kids to Enjoy

My Top 3 Phonics Resources for Parents & Kids to Enjoy

Top 3 Resources for Phonics Fun at Home

As a homeschool mom, I have had the blessing of being home with my kids to educate them. Of our homeschool experiences, I would say that my top accomplishment with my girls (I have yet to teach my son) is teaching them to read. Over the years, I have used a ton of different phonics resources and curriculum in my homeschool.

As I am circling back to basic skills with my son who is now 5, I am pulling out materials that I used with my girls. Over the past few years, my son has developed a fascination with all-things letters and numbers. Because of this, I have been propelled to explore many more early learning resources.

 All Parents are Teachers

You don’t have to homeschool your children to reap the joy that comes with teaching your children. The following phonics resources for parents and children to use at home are very user-friendly. Each option will allow any parent the opportunity to enhance the education of his or her kids in a fun and engaging way. Formal instruction is greatly enriched when mom and dad are a part of the process. The following three phonics resources for parents have proven to be some of our favorites. Hope these are helpful! 🙂

Need For “All-Things” Letters

As mentioned earlier, my son is absolutely in love with letters (and numbers).  He has been obsessed with the alphabet since he was 2 years old!  Now, to be fair, my son has severe special needs which have impacted his brain cognition in specific areas.  Namely, he has been diagnosed with a pretty significant speech delay which has impacted his ability to communicate well. His brain differences have also given him the ability to hyperfocus which we hope to harness as a gifting (as opposed to a detriment) for his success.

My son’s inability to verbalize his thoughts contributed to severe meltdowns which started when he was around 15 months old. You can read more about my son’s severe developmental and behavioral issues here. What is so fascinating, however, is how God has created our brains in such an intricate and brilliant way. As such, there are parts of my son’s brain that are and have been extraordinarily advanced and strong.  His long-term memory is one of these areas.

Keeping It Real

I point out his strong long-term memory because when he was about 2 years old he became enthralled with letters. I was often running to and from various doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and classes for my older girls. My to my son’s disapproval, he was often strapped into his car seat. Long gone were the days when my life revolved around nap time. Unfortunately, my sweet boy was miserable almost “24/7” due to developmental delays. Add to that his aversion to the car and one can easily understand that he was not a happy passenger. Ultimately, I had to come up with a plan to ease the pain of our daily drives throughout town.

Fortunately, I pulled out my secret weapon. Yep, I used that 2007 Honda Odyssey’s greatest feature… the built-in DVD player. Then I popped in my tried and true Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD.  Yes, I am keeping it real here.  My son was 2 years old and was secured in a car seat for extended periods of time.  Being the youngest, he had to roll with our schedule.

Yes, he had screen time in the car.  (It is my own feeling of insecurity coming out here so I feel the need to justify the screen time… oh well.) I was determined, however, to expose him to content that would actually benefit him in some way. Enter in the Leap Frog Letter Factory series.

Leap Frog Letter Factory Series



These DVDs are educational screen time at its best.  I had been introduced to this little series about 9 years ago when I was teaching my oldest to read.  She had hit a wall in her motivation to read (probably because she was too young to have mommy pressuring her to read).  In first-time homeschool mom desperation, I headed over to my local homeschool store to seek advice. Thank God for the precious veteran homeschool moms who worked there to help us rookie mommas. One of these ladies lovingly educated me on the need to know when to “back off” of a young child.

“She is so young.  Give her a break and make learning fun.”

She gave me some great suggestions having to do with magnetic letters and magnetized white boards.  She then suggested the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD as a fun way to reinforce all that my daughter had learned through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I took that sweet lady’s advice, and took a step back from the formal instruction.  My daughter and I played with magnetized letters, read fun books (think Dr. Suess) and while in the car, I popped in the Leap Frog DVDs.  Both of my daughters ended up loving these, so when my son came around 4 years later, it was a no-brainer to use them again. However, he surprised us with his retention of the content.  This DVD series originally began with the Letter Factory DVD.  (There are more in the series now that are also fantastic. ) The Original Letter Factory DVD is an adorable story about a little “boy” (frog) who wants to nominate his father for “Dad of the Year.”  He needs to write a letter about his dad and so enters the Letter Factory to learn the letters of the alphabet as well as their sounds.  Every letter of the alphabet is introduced through song, chants, and fun alphabet characters.  Imagine a large, red, uppercase A who is regularly frightened by others.  In response to his fear, the Letter A screams, “Aaaah!”  My son enjoyed repeatedly acting out the scenes from the movie. He thought it hilarious to incessantly scream “Aaaah!”  In advance, I apologize for any excited screaming that may occur while showing this DVD. Ha!  My son learned all of his short and long letter sounds by the age of two because of this series.  Short sounds are introduced in the Letter Factory DVD and the long vowel sounds are introduced in the Talking Words Factory DVD.  It was in this order that I introduced them to my kiddos.   

Leap Frog Has Expanded

The Leap Frog Series has since expanded their DVD series to include many more options and story lines to engage and support your child’s early learning. They also have mathematics and number-based DVDs that are fun and effective as well. Because I recommend The Letter Factory and The Talking Word Factory in that order, I linked to those separate DVDs individually. Leap Frog currently does not have an option to purchase these two titles together in a set. Fortunately, purchasing them individually will cost approximately $13. Such a deal. This Leap Frog Mega-Pack set of DVDs contains more DVD options that you may find useful when you have completed the first two DVDs.  

Multi-Sensory

I cannot more highly recommend the Leap Frog DVD Series for preschool age children. These DVDs will be helpful for any children who may be struggling with identifying letters and letter sounds.  The use of imagery allows the child to receive information visually, while the use of song and rhythm activates the musical part and auditory areas, and of course, the child singing along is another benefit as the child is using the speech area to do so.  Using multiple areas of the brain to receive and process information is key to retention of new information and Leap Frog Company does a great job to provide this type of learning.  Click below to purchase the DVD Series.  (I receive a small commission when you purchase through my Amazon link.  This helps me in providing more free content on my page.  I appreciate your support.) However, I will only ever recommend high-quality products that I have used and found effective.  

Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number Sticker Set

In my son’s season of letter obsession (numbers as well… but that will be another post), I searched high and low to find the most fun and engaging resources to continue his love of letters.  Eventually I came upon this fabulous and thorough sticker set of ABCs and Numbers from Melissa and Doug.  My son was over the moon when he opened this Amazon package one fall afternoon.  There are many sheet of letters designed in a variety of themes.  Primary colored letters, pastels, animal prints and even varying fonts and sizes.  I love that Melissa and Doug included the use of different fonts because some children become so fixated on what is a “correct” letter symbol.  This helps mom or dad or grandma or big sister (you get the idea), help a child identify letters that may look a bit different depending upon font used.  The Melissa and Doug Large Alphabet and Number Sticker sets are great for letter recognition, sound recognition if used to spell words (highly recommend actually using the letters to spell), and also the use of stickers is a wonderful fine-motor activity. I used to spell my son’s name on a large piece of paper and then had him identify the letters, peel them and stick them on top of the hand-written letters.  You can have your sweet kiddo choose his own words to stick and spell.  

Melissa and Doug Letter & Number Stamps

The Melissa and Doug Company is an educator’s dream company.  They do a fabulous job or creating quality educational products that can withstand the beatings that often come from being primarily used by young children. This set of alphabet letter and number stamp set is another tool (but my son thinks they are a toy).  He loves using the stamps to “spell” his name and the names of our family members.  Another reason that I particularly like these stamps is that the set includes some basic punctuation marks (periods, question mark, etc.) and numbers.    Having these punctuation marks available allows the educator to introduce the basic structure of a sentence and therefore, can be used for years. The numbers are an added bonus for obvious reasons. The child also works on his or her fine motor skills when using these stamps simply by the specific grip that he or she must employ in order to hold, ink and imprint the stamps on paper.  The options are endless with this Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number stamp set:

    • Practice Letter Name Identification 
  • Practice Letter Sound to Letter Symbol Correspondence 
  • Word Building by Copying 
  • Spelling By Sound (once simple sounds are mastered) 
  • Number Recognition 

All in all, these 3 tools are just a few of my favorite resources to use when teaching beginning phonics, reading and spelling. 

All About Learning Press

 

ABC Crafts for Uppercase Letters-468x60All About Reading Pre-reading I have to give a shout-out to All About Learning Press who does a phenomenal job breaking down the spelling and reading process step-by-step to accommodate children who learn differently. I have used their All About Spelling materials and absolutely LOVED it for both of my girls. I have also used it in my tutoring with children who are struggling with traditional reading strategies. I am so excited about using their Pre-reading program with my son and had to share. This company has so many phenomenal articles and resources to equip learners of every age and stage. Can’t wait to get started with them! 🙂 These resources have been instrumental in my children’s literacy journey and I hope they prove to be helpful for your family! 🙂

 

What about You, Friend?

How about you?  What are your favorite preschool and early elementary phonics, reading and spelling tools? 

Grab Your Free 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery Cheat Sheet!

 

Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.