Summer Reading Program that Truly Motivates Kids to Read

As some of you know, my daughter who was in first grade this year really struggled with learning to read.  She was in an intervention at school and each night her teacher would send home the same six books for her to read night after night after night.  It was frustrating for us and it was frustrating for her.  But needless to say, my daughter is now reading at the level she should be.  She didn't enjoy the process of having to do her reading each night for homework, but we got through it.  Yes, there was resistance and tears, and everything else that parents who have a struggling reader have to go through.

But recently, now that she has a choice about what she has to read, the game has changed.  She is excited to read and begs me to sit with her while she does her reading.  What changed?  Well, two things.  First, she gets to choose the books that she can read.  Second, I signed her up for two summer reading programs at the local libraries.  She is so excited to earn her own prizes that she keeps reading and reading.  In fact in just one week, without any resistance, tears, or heartache Mikayla has read 6  1/2 hours.  Yes, the child that was resistant really did this without me asking her to do it.  She committed to the program and cares about earning her prizes.

This excites me beyond anything in the world.  When you take a child who has struggled and hated reading for an entire year, give her some choice, and see these kinds of results, then you just want to share them with everyone and anyone who will listen.  If you are having doubts about signing up your child for the free program at the library, think about what kind of results that you want for your child.

During the summer, kids that don't read suffer from summer reading loss.  They get more behind their peers and require more one on one help in the school, which decreases as the years go on.  By taking the opportunity to motivate your child to read now, you can save yourself thousands of dollars down the road.  It is priceless to hear your child ask you to read to you while you take a shower or while you are in the car together.  It is also priceless to sit down and read with them.  It is bonding time and they will only be the size that they are now once.  Take advantage of every opportunity you get to be your child's cheerleader when it comes to their reading.  When you see the results that happen as a direct result you will be forever grateful.

9 Great Apps for Teaching Kids to Read

9 Great Apps for Teaching Kids to Read

Nothing excites me more than seeing kids reading books and teaching kids to read.  There are many reading websites for kids and now there are a ton of apps out there as well.  One of my favorite ones is Raz kids reading.  Here is a list of some of my favorite apps out there for the ipad.  Click on the video below to see more information about each of these apps.

1.  Kindle

2.  Raz Kids

3.  Kids Reading Logs

4.  News - O - Matic

5.  Reading Rainbow

6.  Story Botsstorybots

7.  Tick Tack Pippi Kids Speed Reading Game

8.  Epic Books

9.  World's Worst Pet Vocabulary

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

You may be one of those people that wonders if your child is struggling with reading.  All kids develop at different rates and each grade level has different
expectations.  Here you are going to learn what signs to look for and identify if your child fits in that category.  You will also have the opportunity to take a look to see what you can do for your child if she is struggling with that area.  At the end of this post there is a video of a call that I did teaching parents what they can do to determine if their child is struggling.  So here are the 10 signs to look for to determine if you indeed have a struggling reader.

1.  They ask you to read something for them.Young man fallen asleep after long reading

2.  They ask you how to spell a word.

3.  They come up with excuses not to read.

4. They read word by word.

5.  They can't answer questions about what they just read.

6.  They don't make comments when they are reading.

7.  They skip words.

8.  They slur words when reading and hope that you don't notice.

9.  They keep asking you the meaning of words.

10.  They read as fast and they can.

We are going to take a look at each of these specifically and figure out what the real problem is and what some solutions are to the problem.

They ask you to read something for them

Now asking you to read something is not a problem unless it seems like they are constantly asking you to do it.  The problem is, they are suffering from a lack of self confidence about their reading.  They don't see themselves as being able to accurately read what is before them.  So you will want to find out specifically why they are asking you to read it for them.

Ask your child why they need you to read it for them.  Is it because they don't know how to read certain words or because they need help understanding a concept?  You will want to delve more into it to determine that.

Another thing you can do is ask your child to read it to you.  That way you can listen to see what the problem seems to be.  You will be able to listen to whether they are struggling with a word or they have a blank look like they aren't understanding a concept.

They ask you how to spell a word

Kids that struggle with reading also struggle with spelling.  Spelling is actually a harder task than reading because it requires you to have mastered the phonics rules, which don't always make sense.  The problem here is also a lack of self confidence.  They don't trust that they can write the word correctly, so they ask you because surely you know how to do it.  Why risk being wrong, when you have the answer.  The thing is, you don't want to be their solution.  You can't travel around with them all day long to help them with their spelling.

So, give your child an opportunity to try it on their own first.  If your child spells it correctly, then you can congratulate her and build up her self confidence.  If it is wrong, then you can write the word the correct way next to it.  Then your child can look for the errors that she made and then write it the correct way.  To give some added practice you can have your child write the word an additional 5 to 10 times to begin to lock in how to spell the word correctly.

They come up with excuses not to read

One of the problems here is motivation.  Your child would rather be doing anything else in the world than reading and the thought of having to read sounds like pure torture.  Find out why your child doesn't want to read, by asking her.  Sometimes it is because they just haven't found the right books yet.  To find books that your child will love, you can go to and type in the search bar "3rd grade books".  Insert your child's grade level or reading level and find some books that other kids their age are enjoying.

Many kids love spending time with their parents.  Some like to snuggle, some like to be close by.  Whatever the situation is for you and your child, next time do it with a book.  You can simply read to your child or switch off from page to page.  This way you can model great reading habits and motivate them more to want to read.

They read word by word

Nothing can sound more monotonous than a child that reads word by word.  The biggest problem here is fluency.  We want reading to sound like we are talking and not to sound robotic.

Repeated readings of the same text can be a way for kids to break this word by word reading pattern.  There are some fun poems on that you can check out.  There are also some poetry theater readings that you can do with your child that can help them with practicing a text for meaning.  Have your child perform the poems to other family members or call grandma and grandpa to listen to it.  The poems will be entertaining for your child, and everyone will laugh.  Making reading fun is a sure way to break that word by word reading.

They can't answer questions about what they just read

The problem here is comprehension.  A child can sound like he or she is a good reader, but not actually be reading to understand.  Being able to sound out words and read them correctly is only part of the reading process.  We want kids to be able to think about what they are reading and make meaning out of it.  A comprehension problem can be based off of not thinking about the words, but it can also be based on not knowing the meaning of words.  Pay attention to what the situation could be for your child.

As you are listening to your child read, have her summarize at the end of a page periodically.  This will give you an opportunity to see if she is processing what she is reading.  If she doesn't know how to do that, then you can model with her when you are reading books to her at night.  After you are done reading a page, then you can summarize what is happening.

They don't make comments when they are reading

As we are reading, we are thinking about what we are reading.  However a child that has no thinking going on during their reading is purely just reading the words and not comprehending the text.  As we are reading many different kinds of thoughts run through our head.  We make statements, such as, "Hmmm...I didn't know that."  We also make predictions about what is going to happen next.  We ask different kinds of questions, and we monitor our reading for understanding.  Lastly, we make connections.  We can make connections between the book and our life, other books, and the world.

This is where reading aloud to your child can help.  It gives you the opportunity to be able to model the thoughts that go through your head when you are reading, so that they can begin to understand what kinds of thoughts could be going through their head when they are reading.

They skip words

The problem here could be phonics or a lack of sight words in their long term memory.  Sometimes kids skip words because they don't want to take the time to figure them out.  Sometimes they are focusing on the next big word that they see.  If you notice that your child is doing this you can have her go back and read it.  If the word is too difficult, then you can help her break it up.

Sometimes though a word cannot be read phonetically, and it just has to be memorized.  To help your child memorize the word, you can collect difficult words on index cards.  On one side write the word.  On the other side you can write a sentence that your child comes up with.  Then you can practice the words that your child has difficulty with and increase her ability to read sight words.

They slur words when they are reading and hope that you don't notice

This is usually a phonics problem.  The child doesn't know the word, so they slur it to try to skip under the radar.  Talk to your child about the importance of reading the sounds distinctly.  This will help her be able to retain the meaning of what she is reading.  Also, make her go back to the word and read it again.  You can try to help her break up the word to read it, or add it to the sight word index cards to practice.

They keep asking the meaning of words

When this happens, the problem is vocabulary.  Your child needs to increase her vocabulary.  An easy way to do this is to speak to your child more.  As adults our vocabularies are much larger than our children, so the more they hear us talk, the more they pick up words and the meanings of words.  It has been proven that children who have parents that talk to them for longer periods during the day have a much larger vocabulary than children who do not.

Make sure to eat dinner together and talk about your days as a family.  Also, the more that you read to your child, the more words that he or she will pick up accidentally.  The more opportunities that you provide for your child to hear new words the better.  There has been no research that shows kids learn new vocabulary words from watching t.v., so limit tube time and exchange it for you time.

They read as fast as they can

Again, this is a fluency problem.  The child has gotten in their head that the faster they read, the better reader they are, and this just isn't true.  There are different times when reading fast is necessary.  For example, when you need to quickly skim and scan to find an answer.  However, to read as fast as you can just so that you can be done quicker has never proven to help out with overall comprehension, so have her slow down and really take in what she is reading.

Motivation could be another factor here as well.  So whenever you have the opportunity to provide choices for your child, you will want to do so.  Kids choosing what they want to read has always been a huge motivator to slow down and understand what they are reading.

For more tips on each of these signs you can watch the video below.  Is there a sign that you have noticed from your child, and you are wondering if they have a problem?  Let me know, and we can brainstorm some solutions that might help.


Take a Picture of your Child Reading Photo Contest

Take a Picture of your Child Reading Photo Contest

I love seeing kids read.  Seriously, my heart beats a little quicker, and the joy in my heart raises.  When the parents of my students tell me that their child now readschild reading books at night in their bed, when they never used to before, I feel this sense of accomplishment.  That is when I know that I have done my job. I want to motivate kids to read, that's why I teach kids to read, and that's why I write books.

I know that other people feel the same way.  So I started a new contest that features your children reading.  Not only will you inspire other people by your pictures, but you also have the opportunity to win more books for you or your kids.  Everyone that submits a picture of their child reading qualifies for a $20 book spree to Amazon.  Not only does the top voted picture win, but so do the next two.  The top three entries that receive the most votes win the top prize.

So how do you enter?  All you need to do is go to this link.

Show us Your Best Picture of your Child Reading

Then submit your picture by Friday, February 28th.  Voting will take place between March 1st and March 5th.  Tell your friends and family to vote for your picture and you could be the winner.  Regardless if you win, you are a winner in my eyes because you are inspiring your children to read.

So what do yo have to lose.  Check out the page, submit a picture, and vote.  See what happens.  You just may be the next lucky winner to win a $20 book spree to Amazon.

The Secret to Reading Success: Featuring Rachel

The Secret to Reading Success: Featuring Rachel

I love connecting with my students and their parents on facebook.  I get to connect with them on a little bit more of a personal basis and find out what is going on inRachel cake their lives.  This week, one of my students, who is homeschooled made a cake for her dad.  The cool part is that she read the recipe all by herself and created this amazing dessert for her dad's birthday.  Now this is a girl that has a mom that is constantly finding books that her daughter will want to read.  Since the library ran out of cat books that her daughter wanted to check out, they decided to try a cook book, and Rachel loved it.

She read all of the instructions herself and is super proud of her creation.  This is the secret behind motivating kids to read.  Finding what they will love, will be the key.  Her mother said that when her son was her daughter's age she would let him check out comic books.  It didn't matter that comic books are not conventional reading material, she knew that her son loved them and they kept him reading.

Let's think about our own reading.  Do you like to sit down to read something that is boring and going to be hard?  Heck no.  We all like to sit down and relax with some fun reading.  Something that is interesting though is that as adults we don't always sit down with fiction books.  Most of our time is spend reading non-fiction text.  I read books about how to improve things in my tutoring business, online marketing strategies, and self help books.  I read spiritual material and books that will improve my life.  I do occasionally sit down and read a fiction book, but certainly not as often as other material.

Rachel has keyed into something that other children are missing.  You need to read about things that you enjoy.  If you have a child that enjoys cooking, then you can check out the fun cook books at the library.  If your child wants a new pet, then have them check out a book about how to take care of that pet.  If your child enjoys comics, check out some of the great graphic novels at your library.

The biggest thing to take into consideration is your child's interests.  When kids have a choice about what they are reading, they will be more committed to the reading process from the get go.  You won't have to constantly nag your child to read, but you do have to consistently make it a part of your daily habits.  The more you personally read as a parent, the more that your children will read.  The more that you sit down with them at night and read to them, the less they will complain about reading.  Reading is fun!  Reading is cool!  Let's all be great role models for our kids.  Read what you enjoy reading and allow them to read what they enjoy to read.

Here's to the freedom of reading!  May you learn something new or be swept away to a whole new world.  The excitement and adventure await you in your next book.



What Every Kid Wants to Be When They Grow Up

I know, I know.... Your thinking, how in the world can all kids want to be the same thing when they grow up.  Well, it is true.  Sometimes kids want to think about careers, but most of the time they just want to enjoy being a kid.  They are really good at experiencing the present and at the end of the day they all want the same thing.

All kids want to be happy.  The traditional method of doing well in school, going to college, getting a job, and getting married is not always the solution.  However it is usually the path that we choose for our children.  No matter what my kids do in life, I hope that they are happy doing it.  This Ted X video below goes over one kids aspirations in life and how his mom helped him with creating it.  His mom pulled him out of the school system when he was 9 years old to homeschool him and give him the best education that she could.  Wow, did she do it.  You will see from this video how well articulated this young man is and how passionate he is about spreading his message.

This boy is one of the reasons that I love doing what I love doing.  I get to experience the creativity and imagination that kids have.  I don't force kids to learn in a typical classroom situation.  In fact they can come in their P.J.'s and learn with their favorite stuffed animal if they like.  I have one boy that brings his dog to class everyday.  When kids are tutoring online, I get to see them genuinely happy with learning to read in the comfort of their home.  Some do it on their ipad, and others on their laptop.  It is pretty amazing to watch.

When I started tutoring online I had so many people tell me that it was so impersonal to tutor online.  I didn't let that stop me, and I am so glad.  Everyday I get to see amazing smiles from these kids when they read.  I allow them choices instead of forcing them to read books they could care less about.  I allow them to learn at their pace and am able to skyrocket their success in a short amount of time.  I am truly happy "hacking" online tutoring.  That's a word this young 13 year old boy named Logan LaPlante used in his Ted speech.  Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Book Stars: Interview with Kat Kirst


So, I have just launched a new video series where I interview the best authors.  Many of my clients ask about great books for their kids and Kat Kirst is one of my favorite Young Adult authors.  Her books are geared towards middle school and high school kids, but I can't personally get enough of her books.  If your child is reading young adult books, then check out Kat's books on Amazon.

She has just recently written her fourth book called The Cost of Living Forever.  It is about the horrors of what can happen if there was a pill that could make you live forever.  A young teenager has been living a sheltered life in this society, and he is about to take his first pill.  But then he falls in love with one of the hired hands.  His view and perspective on life and the society he is living in completely changes and he becomes a revolutionary pioneer. Check out this awesome interview below.


If you could live forever what would you do?

Reopening an Abandoned Library

Reopening an Abandoned Library

5th grade

Joanne Kaminski, Author of The Three Little Sisters Learn to Get Along

As an author I have the privilege of travelling to local schools and motivating kids to read, write, and dream.  Today I had the special privilege to speak at a remarkable school.  It is called Siefert Elementary and the principle there, Mrs. Varela-Katz, has had a mission since the moment she set foot in the school.  When she first toured it, she found that the library was in the basement, and she was concerned.  But then, when she saw that it had been closed down, she was broken hearted.  The students in this


Top 5th grade reader, cutting the ribbon to the new library.

This principal decided to gather some volunteers and staff members and reconstitute the library.  After tons of dusting, organizing, and labeling of books the library
was ready to be unveiled to the children.  Since this school is a RIF school, they were able to coordinate giving each child a free book to take home, and an author
visit.  But before the free book and author visit Mrs. Varela-Katz had the top reader in the 5th grade do the honor of cutting the tape.  This girl was so proud to have this honor and together they began the kickoff event.

But that is not all.  They dedicated this library to a woman named Mrs. Reed who had worked 27 years at that specific school.  Mrs. Reed not only worked there for a long time, but now that she is retired she still continues to volunteer at the school.  She was given an award and the library is now called The Reed Library.

Mrs. Reed

Mrs. Reed, a highly dedicated educator

I love that this woman's name is Reed.  How awesome that a teacher named Mrs. Reed motivates children to read.

If people are wondering if awesome things are happening in the schools, then they don't have to look far.  The students energy and excitement regarding this visit was off the chart.  Many of these kids had never met an author before.  They knew that an author is someone who writes books, but to meet an author in their eyes was like meeting a star.

It is so exciting that because of the efforts of amazing leadership, like that of Mrs. Varela-Katz that kids will have the potential to access an unlimited amount of knowledge.  In their new library there are 4 brand new computers and they are also getting a Smartboard.  The access of the world will be at their fingertips to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom.  One little girl said that she was going to be able to read more books than she has ever read before because of this library.

Libraries are not a thing of the past.  I have found with my own children that they prefer to read actual books vs. virtual books.  Actually touching books, holding books, and reading books is not something that is going to disappear in this digital world.  It is only going to increase the access that people have to books.

What do you think of schools like this that are doing everything they can to keep the library alive and well?  Let me know what you think in the comments section.

15 Top Ways to Motivate your Child to Read

15 Top Ways to Motivate your Child to Read

In this neverending battle between electronics and books, it can be difficult to motivate our children to read.  I am going to list the most the influential things I have done that motivate my own children to read.

1.  Pick out a book together and read every night before bed.

2.  Just read to your child before they go to bed.

3.  Let them go to the library and pick out books on CD to listen to in the car.

4.  Let them purchase a book from the Scholastic Book fair.

5.  Ask them what books kids are reading in their class that they would be interested in reading.i-flip-flap-184343_640

6.  Look for book trailers on YouTube.  This is just like a movie trailer, but for books.

7.  Be a reader.  The best way to motivate kids to read is for them to see you reading.

8.  Go to rummage sales and pick out some new books.  Kids love getting presents.

9.  Find out where a children's author will be appearing and take your child.  When you connect a child to an author it changes their perspective on books and really begins to engage them more.

10.  Introduce your child to a new series.

11.  If there is a movie out and it was a book first, have your child read the book before going to the movie.

12.  Start a book swap with other moms in your child's class. You can write a list of top books that you have that your child has loved and have your child pick a book that they would want to read on the list.  Then everyone swaps.

13.  Immerse your child with books everywhere, in the home, in  your car, on your tech devices.

14.  Listen to author interviews on the internet.

15.  Visit the author's website.  This is a great place to become familiar with books that your child's favorite author has written.

You may have a child that you need to throw carrots to once in a while to read.  This means that you need to constantly be thinking of things that you can do versus just tell them to read for their 15 to 30 minutes a night.  If you have a variety of things to try you will continue to motivate and inspire your child to read.  Don't give up!  If your child is resistant, just keep trying.

How Do you Know what to Teach Kids that are Struggling with Reading?

I get asked this question all of the time.  Well, even though each child's reading difficulties may come in many different forms and in different areas, I am able to look at how they succeed with the 5 pillars of reading.  If there is an area that they are specifically struggling with, then I provide instruction in that specific area.  I love being able to help all kids who struggle with reading and make it easier for them.  Most kids who I have worked with has had a strong desire to get better.  This makes instructing them extremely easy.


Here are more details about each of these pillars.  Does your child struggle in any of these?



The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

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