5 Creative Ways to Boost Your Child’s Reading Confidence

Some kids take to books like Curious George to trouble. But even for them, learning to read can be pretty daunting. After all, putting letters and sounds together and deciphering their meaning is tough.

For Ann Sackrider’s son, Hudson, it was really tough. “Even when he was in third grade, he had a hard time grasping how letters form words,” says the Brooklyn, NY, mom. “It was sad to see him wrestling with it.” So she gave him constant exposure: telling stories, keeping and reading books in every room, and talking about characters. In other words, she made reading something to look forward to instead of dread. You can, too!


1. Make it a game.

Cuddling over a book shows your child that you’re his biggest fan. But it’s hard not to step in quickly when he struggles. What to do instead? Talk to him about the story to help him work it out, says Richard Gentry, Ph.D., author of Raising Confident Readers. Discuss the pictures, hunt for words he knows, or ask him if the story reminds him of an event that’s happened to him. Also help your child pinpoint where he’s gone wrong — see if he can spot the little word inside the larger one (“at” inside “hat”).


2. Go to the dog(s).

Sounds crazy, but reading to animals can help boost a child’s skills. How so? Because animals are nonjudgmental — they can’t criticize and they can’t correct — so kids feel safe reading aloud to them. If you don’t have a dog, ask a friend if you and your child can dog-sit or see if your local library offers a program where kids can read to specially trained therapy dogs. “Kids learn best by teaching someone else,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “So whether they read to the puppy, the guinea pig, or Grandma over Skype, the unconditional positive feedback they receive will make them feel better about themselves.” (Same goes for baby sibs!)


3. Get crafty.

Add a few books you make together to the reading rotation, suggests Gentry. Your DIY book can be about trucks, pets, or another interest. Start with a few words on a page (“My cat is in the basket”), a favorite photo on each page, and a simple title (My Animal Book). You can even publish it on websites like How does homemade hone fluency? Reading about the familiar is fun, says Gentry. Plus, repetition builds up the brain’s reading circuitry. “Every time you point to a word in the story, it reinforces the connection between symbols on the page and the sound and meaning of the word.” For instance, once your child recognizes the word bunny, and you show her that the b makes a buh sound, look for other words that begin the same way with the same sound to help build up her sight words.


4. Shorten sessions.

New readers can easily get overwhelmed. To figure out how long your child can last, compare his attention span when he does similar activities, like coloring, says Borba. Once you’ve got a clue, use a timer to gradually lengthen the session so that your child is reading for longer and longer stretches. “It’s like gently stretching a rubber band without snapping it,”she adds. “If your child knows he only has 15 minutes to read, he’ll be more focused and engaged — and the spurts will be more productive.”


5. Look past books.

No need to limit reading adventures to books — trips to the grocery store can be great teaching experiences, says Borba. Your kiddo can create a shopping list and find those items at the store. Little sports fans can use trading cards to discover more about favorite players. “And don’t overlook the obvious, like word games on the back of the cereal box. Kids won’t even realize that they’re learning while they eat,” says Borba.




Setting School Year Goals for Kids

Helping your child feel engaged and motivated in the classroom is one of the most important things a parent can do to ensure school success.  The teacher will tell the whole class what she expects, from what the kids will learn to how she’ll measure their progress. But make sure to sit down with your kids and figure out the things they’d like to achieve this year, too. Why? Because helping your kids set goals gives them a sense of agency in their learning journey. You may find out some cool things your kid is interested in, plus surprising ways you can help your child nurture their interests in and out of the classroom.

1.Be specific and realistic. Your kid’s idea of achievement may be less lofty than your own — but that’s okay. Remember, little steps for little feet: When my 10-year-old said he wanted to get better at math, we went with the specific goal of practicing multiplication and division tables for 15 minutes a day. And when my 7-year-old said his goal was to be a better reader, we opted for the shorter-term objective of finishing one new book a week.

I kept the list to five goals per child, since I knew it was going to change over the year. I also did periodic check-ins to see if these goals were still motivating them, or whether we should switch one out in favor of a new challenge. Finally, we created a star chart where the kids could track their progress. I knew the system was working when my fourth-grader got bumped up into a higher math group and my first-grader started sneaking in extra pages after bedtime.



2.Adjust your mindset. Just as important, I took a closer look at what school-year success meant to me. It’s natural for parents to want big things for their child — Rhodes scholar! Little Einstein! — but while we have the best intentions, the pressure can feel overwhelming for both parent and child. For me, this epiphany came shortly after the birth of my youngest child, when I received a postcard in the mail from an early-education enterprise.

“It’s never too early to begin thinking about college,” read the postcard — which then went on to list class times for infants 6 weeks old and up. The message: It was time to put my baby on the path to success, because without classes now, her chances of getting into Harvard were doomed.



4.Embrace today. That postcard was my wakeup call to stop stressing over “someday” success and focus on the here-and-now expectations of what a 7- or 10-year-old (let alone a 6-week-old!) is capable of learning during the year. Sure, a houseful of academic prodigies would be nice. But so would a bunch of happy little learners who work hard and show steady academic growth month after month. Once I tweaked that thinking, the stress level in our house went down noticeably. It was like a huge weight had been lifted.






How Parents Can Help Students on SAT, ACT

TO SUCCEED ON THE ACT or SAT, high schoolers often require support from adults. Students may turn to school professionals like teachers and guidance counselors, as well as their own parents, guardians and mentors.

However, some forms of well-intentioned support can be counterproductive to a student’s test preparation. Here are three mistakes that parents may make when they assist their children in preparing for the ACT or SAT:


  • Becoming involved too early or too late in the test prep process.
  • Drawing on their personal knowledge of the test.
  • Placing undue emphasis on achieving a target score on a single exam date.


1. Becoming involved too early or too late in the test prep process. High school students should plan to complete the PreACT or the PSAT before they sit for the ACT or SAT. PreACT and PSAT scores can provide students with a baseline for designing their personalized ACT and SAT study plans. Outside of these officially proctored practice tests, it is difficult for students to simulate genuine testing conditions and thus to have a clear sense of how they might perform on exam day. The PreACT and PSAT therefore represent an invaluable test prep tool for students of all skill levels. The ideal moment for parents to get involved in their student’s test prep efforts is just before the PreACT or PSAT. Intensive, lengthy review is generally not necessary for these exams, thus mitigating the need to become involved many months before them.

Parents can help their students identify their test date and familiarize themselves with the overall content and format. Then, after the PreACT or PSAT, parents can carefully assess their student’s score report to know the extent to which he or she needs help before the ACT or SAT.



2.Drawing on their personal knowledge of the test. The ACT, created in 1959, and the SAT, created in 1926, have been used to assess students’ college readiness for decades. Since their implementation, however, both exams have undergone a notable number of changes. A well-known example is the elimination of the SAT analogy section in 2005. From time to time, some parents who have taken the ACT or SAT in earlier years make a key mistake with their children: They coach their students based on their knowledge of an obsolete version of the test. For example, in 2016, the College Board launched a revised version of the SAT that did away with obscure vocabulary questions. A parent who is unaware of this change may overstress the importance of learning vocabulary during the prep process.

Rather than solely relying on personal experiences, parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the latest versions of these exams. In the same breath, parents should also ensure that they use only the most up-to-date study resources with their children.




3.Placing undue emphasis on achieving a target score on a single exam date. Many students take the ACT and SAT more than once. Few students are completely satisfied with their scores from their first sitting, so retesting is common. Parents who want the best opportunities for their children can sometimes create anxiety by pressuring their students to earn a target score by a certain date. This can exacerbate an already stressful situation for a teenager. Instead, parents can help their students set realistic test prep goals that are neither too high nor too low. They can also help to balance any unrealistic score expectations that their children voice through frequent communication during the study process. Statistics from both the College Board and ACT show that more than half of SAT and ACT test-takers score higher on a second exam. Furthermore, many colleges now “superscore,” meaning they accept a student’s highest-ever score on each section – another reason that a low first score should not be a deep source of concern, given adequate planning.

To ensure proper planning, families can work together to develop a timeline with check-ins and milestones, such as dates for an initial and second test that satisfy application deadlines. While many parents are understandably eager to help their children study for the ACT or SAT, they should remember to avoid the mistakes described above to ensure success.



Reading to Learn: Upper Elementary Reading Skills

The main goal in grades 3 to 5 is for children to become enthusiastic, independent readers who can use their skills to learn new material in all subjects — from history to math. Put simply, children focus on learning to read through 2nd grade. After that, they “read to learn,” as well as read for pleasure.

The National Research Council, the National Reading Panel, and the National Institute for Literacy identified these skills as key for kids to become strong, independent readers who enjoy reading:


1. Fluency: Fluent readers recognize words automatically so they can focus their attention on making connections among the ideas and their background knowledge.
Reading milestones:

  • Instant recognition of words
  • Reading out loud with expression
  • Reading quickly and accurately



2. Comprehension: To get the most out of reading, your child needs to read with a purpose — whether she’s reading directions to a game, a textbook to learn about the first Thanksgiving, or a mystery for fun.
Reading milestones:

  • Putting events in sequence
  • Articulating the main idea
  • Summarizing a story orally or in writing



3. Spelling and writing: The focus in the upper grades is learning to spell correctly and write more sophisticated compositions with organized paragraphs and correct punctuation.

  • Using a dictionary to look up words he doesn’t know
  • Researching and composing a simple report using a variety of sources
  • Revising compositions with help from his teacher to make them more clear and understandable



4. Vocabulary: Your child still needs to be aware of subtle differences in speech sounds that distinguish words from one another, such as “goal” and “gold,” “fresh” and “flesh.” She also needs to learn prefixes and suffixes to master new words.
Reading milestones:

  • Figuring out word meanings from clues in the text
  • Using synonyms and antonyms
  • Using different parts of speech correctly, including nouns, verbs, and adjectives





4 Back to School Anxiety Soothers

Will I get more homework? What if my teacher is mean? Starting a new year comes with a lot of unknowns, so it’s no wonder that many parents report that their kiddo is struck with anxiety this time of year. The biggest clues: Her happy summer mood has quickly turned restless, irritable, or withdrawn, or she starts complaining about headaches, stomachaches, or sleep problems, says Marian Fish, Ph.D., the school psychology graduate program coordinator at Queens College in New York City. The good news? It’s nothing for you to worry about, because we’ve asked the experts what you can do:


1. Share your story. Tell your child about that time in third grade when you were so worried about [whatever] but it ended up being totally okay. It will be proof that she’ll be able to overcome her stress as well, says family physician Rallie McAllister, M.D., co-author of The Mommy MD Guide series.


2.Get ’em moving. All of the sitting still that comes with the return of school can wreak havoc on a kid’s nerves, says Dr. McAllister. To counter that, make sure your child gets plenty of exercise after school. “Physical activity is great for preventing — and alleviating — anxiety,” he says.


3.Reset sleep. If you can, try to adjust summer sleep times to the school schedule one to two weeks before the first day, says Fish. A sudden change in routine can trigger stress. If it didn’t work or if sleep is just hard to come by, practice deep belly breathing right before bed.


4.Make a plan. For instance, if your child is worried about meeting new friends, have him wear (and look for) conversation-starter clothes. How it works: He spies a classmate with an Angry Birds T-shirt. He likes Angry Birds, too! Ask potential-new-friend if he likes Angry Birds Star Wars. Bond created!



4 Helpful Habits for Back-to-School Season

Very soon we’ll be trading in the sound of the ice cream truck bell for the sound of the school bell. The start of a new school year is right around the corner. With the season comes the opportunity to put in place some back-to-school habits that can help your children build their literacy skills.

Here are four practical ideas to help your family kick-off the school year.



1. Keep Up With a Reading Log

Many schools request children to read at home several times a week. Even if the school does not require daily reading, it’s still one of the best habits to put in place at home.

Keeping a reading log will help your kids track the books they read. When your kids can look back and see how many books they read each month, it provides a sense of accomplishment.

Writing down the titles or minutes read each day will also give your child a little extra handwriting practice. They might even give each book a star rating system and critique each book that is read.

A weekly or bi-weekly trip to the public library will ensure that you have plenty of reading material on hand. The 6th Edition Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report shows a majority of kids agree “it is very important for their future to be a good reader,” but only one in three is a frequent reader. So, don’t forget to let your kids choose their own books for reading at home.



2. Create a Nightly Reading Routine

In our house, we follow a “triple B” nighttime routine: bath, books, and bed.

Right before their bath time, my kids pick out two or three books that they want to have read aloud that night. They lay their chosen books on the bed where they’ll be ready to read right after they take their baths and put on pajamas. Each night, my husband and I alternate reading to the kids. Then, once the books are done, it’s time for bed. (You can also choose books before dinner, if your kids don’t bathe before bed.)



3. Have Dinnertime Discussions

Take advantage of your captive audience at the dinner table each night. Implement a ‘no screens policy’ so that distractions will be limited, which in turn will encourage conversation. Here are a couple of prompts to connect as a family:

  • Tell us something you learned today.
  • Share something that you were proud of today.
  • What is something that you wished didn’t happen today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?

Using the prompts above will help you learn about what successes and struggles your kids experienced during the day. The last prompt will help your child think ahead to a new day.



4. Plan Ahead

If you know that Wednesday nights are soccer practice and Thursday nights are piano lessons, plan ahead to squeeze in literacy learning. Your kids can listen to audiobooks in the car on the way to practice. Or, you can quiz them on their spelling words while you drive. If you still have a few minutes, ask your kids to tell you about the last book they read.

Putting a few habits in place now will have you feeling prepared and confident when the school bell rings.




10 Ways to Celebrate the New School Year

1.Say cheese! Hold a first-day photo shoot. Keep the mood light by suggesting silly faces or letting the family pet join in. Can’t stop snapping? Capture your child stepping off the school bus in the afternoon. Make it a lasting family tradition by having her pose by the same tree, swing, or mantel every year.


2.Bury a time capsule. Fill a box or jar with mementos that capture your child’s current interests. Include a journal entry or video diary — he can list favorite movies, books, and bands and describe first-day fears, friends he can’t wait to see, and goals for the year.


3.Get lost in a library labyrinth. Get her back in the school zone with a scholarly scavenger hunt. Make a list of five to ten questions to be answered by using different resources at the library. Include questions from reference books, trivia collections, and obscure clues about family favorites.


4. See how he measures up. Using a growth chart or the inside of a closet door, mark your child’s current height. Keep track year by year to point out growth spurts and predict progress. To encourage follow-up fun, plant a tree together and track how much it grows before next fall.


5. Plan a bus-stop breakfast social. Invite neighborhood kids to get an early start the day before school begins. Fill a decorated wagon with juice boxes, fruits, and muffins. Haul it to the local bus stop at the usual pickup time as a dress rehearsal for the big day.


6. Savor special treats. Sneak a love note into her lunchbox to show you’re thinking of her. The first day can be nerve-racking, so go for comfort food when dinner rolls around. Order a family favorite at the local pizzeria or savor a cool dessert as summer comes to a close.


7. Throw a back-to-school bash. Team up with neighbors to get the kids together before school starts. Send out report card invitations, serve lunch-box favorites, and decorate with school colors. Make brown-bag book covers, decorate calendars, and design bookmarks — ring a bell when it’s time to switch activities!


8. Dress to impress. Celebrate a fresh year with a special outfit, spotless sneakers, or a whole new haircut. Let him choose his wardrobe the night before. Whether it’s his favorite souvenir t-shirt or his lucky jersey, it will give him an extra boost of confidence on the big day.


9. Learn something new. Get those classroom habits back with a fun family activity like pottery or rock-climbing. It will encourage creativity, improve concentration, and leave you with a new morning mug or a little extra muscle.


10. Require a rule-bending hullabaloo. Break a few school rules before getting back to business: Dedicate one afternoon to getting all the summer fun out of his system. Have paper airplane contests, spit watermelon seeds, and wear pajamas during the day.



Source :

Making the Move to Middle School

For many kids, the transition to middle school couldn’t come at a worse time. Just as your child is wrestling with their own roller coaster emotions, just as they are struggling to understand and accept the physical changes in their body — all of which make them alternately distracted, forgetful, anxious, self-conscious, and argumentative — everything about the school day is changing too.

While most children look forward to these years and don’t spiral into emotional turmoil, that doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing. By staying involved in your child’s life, you can anticipate difficulties and be better equipped to help them roll with the punches. Here, three common challenges middle schoolers face, plus ways you can help your child meet them:


1. They have a different teacher for each subject.

Instead of the supportive setting of elementary school where they had just one teacher who challenged their strengths and understood their weaknesses, they now have several teachers, each with his or her own teaching style and expectations.

What you can do now:

  • Most schools offer tours for prospective students in the late spring. Take advantage of that time to visit with your child so they can meet some of the teachers, hear how the day is structured, and learn the layout of the school so that they at least know how to find their locker, homeroom, and the cafeteria.


  • Meet your child’s advisor. Many middle schools assign an advisor, or counselor, to every student (or one for the entire grade). That person, who should be steeped in the developmental needs of early adolescence, acts as mentor, troubleshooter, and advocate.


2. Friendships shift.

At the same time that your child is going through puberty and wrestling with changes in their body and swirling moods, they are trying to figure out who’s in, who’s out, and where they stand on the social ladder. If they are attending a new school, they may be sharing a lunch table with youngsters from one or more elementary schools — kids they may not know and who don’t know them.

What you can do now:

  • Help your child manage his stress by making sure they eat right, exercises regularly, and gets enough sleep. Show them how deep breathing, visualization, or yoga can help relax.


  • Remain approachable. Encourage your child to open up about what’s going on in school — but don’t interrogate, and give advice only when asked. Your goal is to keep them talking so they realize they can count on you.


  • Bolster social skills. If your child says they have no friends, help them find new ways to get to know classmates better. Replace “No one likes me” with “I’ll be a better listener” or “I’ll invite someone to the basketball game this weekend.” Some children miss social cues and could benefit from professional counseling to become more aware of the way their words and behavior affect others.


3. They are hard on themselves.

Perhaps they are distracted, irritable, and don’t even try — and their grades show it. Perhaps they are confused by the subject matter or, on the other hand, not challenged enough. Or perhaps they are stuck in a rut of low self-esteem.

What you can do now:

  • Don’t overreact. Remind yourself that your child’s behavior is not unusual. Empathize with their frustrations (remind them of some of your own school difficulties). Of course, chronic lateness or forgetfulness or consistently low grades may also be a sign of a deeper learning or motivational issue. If your child continues to struggle, schedule a conference with the teacher so you can figure out what steps to take.


  • Help silence their inner critic — the little voice that tells negative things. The child who doesn’t feel good about their self will have a hard time doing well academically. To oust negative thoughts that keep them stuck, role-play how to substitute positive messages. If they say, “I can’t do anything right,” suggest that they say: “Mistakes are a chance to learn. I’ll ask the teacher for help and do my best.”


  • Maintain family traditions and rituals — especially family dinners. Your tween may sit silently, but these little events will add to their sense of security and remind them of how much they are loved. Middle schoolers take a lot of hard knocks and need to know their parents are on their side when they get home. That alone can help keep your child on course.





Dealing with Back to School Anxiety

Going from long, lazy summer days back to the rigors of a classroom can be a bumpy road for your child. It’s normal for them to experience a range of emotions about returning to school. Though each child responds to going back to school differently, you can take steps to address jitters and make the transition time smoother. Could one of these issues be causing your child’s fears?

  • Life Changes
    Starting at a new school can present an especially daunting challenge. Similarly, if your child has recently experienced an upheaval at home, such as moving or divorce, he may be especially susceptible to feeling stressed about returning to school.
    If this is the case for your child, asking open-ended questions can give your child the space to figure out his own feelings. If he expresses a specific worry, you might say something like, “What makes you feel that way?” and see where the conversation leads.


  • Academic Challenges
    A new grade brings new challenges. Perhaps your child will be expected to do homework or write a research paper for the first time. With fears of not measuring up academically, the best defense is a good offense. Getting organized and establishing reassuring routines can go a long way to making a child feel competent.
    Rumors of a particularly hard teacher may fuel fearing or disliking a new teacher. Do help your child keep in mind that one person’s dreaded teacher can be another kid’s favorite. While it’s okay for your child to express her dislike of a teacher, she should be expected to remain respectful. You can encourage her to be open-minded and approach this as an opportunity to help her learn how to deal with a person she finds difficult.


  • Social Worries
    A new class roster can mean adjusting without friends who have provided a social base in previous years. Try to present this as an opportunity for your child to widen his group of friends, rather than a tragic loss of familiar faces. If possible, get the class list and set up a play date before school starts, so that your child will have a new friend to look for on the first day. Establish time for him to catch up with old friends too.
    A new school or classroom may spark concerns about finding friends at all. An outside class or hobby such as ballet or a sport can provide a conversation starter and the opportunity to meet kids outside your child’s usual circles. Talking to her about other challenging situations that she successfully navigated also boosts self-esteem.


  • Getting Help
    Most back-to-school anxiety is anticipatory. If the level and type of anxiety seems a marked departure from your child’s usual behavior and lasts well past the beginning of the school year, consider seeking outside help. Start by talking with his teacher. Next, a school counselor or psychologist can provide valuable tips and resources. Anxiety disorders do affect children and are often overlooked because such children do not tend to act out.


  • Be Supportive
    It is normal for every child to react to going back to school in her own way. This can make it tempting to apply your own experience to your child’s life. Although harkening back can provide insight, remember that your child is not you. Be calm and matter of fact. Listen and provide reassurance, but try not to heighten anxiety with old memories and good intentions.


In the end, the most important tool you can use is to know your own child. Observe the situation, but also try to keep it all in perspective. For most kids, back-to-school jitters will melt away as easily as summer slips into fall.




Rising Juniors Action Plan

Junior year usually marks a turning point. This is because for most students and families, it’s when college planning activities kick into high gear. Here are some things you can do this year to support your child and give him or her the best options.



  • Make sure your child meets with the school counselor. This meeting is especially important this year as your 11th-grader starts to engage in the college application process.


  • Encourage your child to set goals for the school year. Working toward specific goals helps your high schooler stay motivated and focused.


  • Help your child stay organized. Work with your 11th-grader to make weekly or monthly to-do lists to keep on top of the tasks required to get ready for applying to colleges.


  • Help your junior get ready for the PSAT/NMSQT in October. This is a preliminary test that helps students practice for the SAT and assesses their academic skills. Juniors who score well on the test are also eligible for scholarship opportunities.



  • Review PSAT/NMSQT results together. Your child’s score report comes with a free SAT study plan. This online, customized plan is based on your child’s test scores and can help him or her work on areas that need improvement.


  • Help your child prepare for college admission tests. Many juniors take college admission tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, in the spring so they can get a head start on planning for college.


  • Discuss taking challenging courses next year. Taking college-level or honors courses as a senior can help your child prepare for college work — and these are also the courses that college admission officers like to see.


  • Encourage your junior to consider taking SAT Subject Tests. Many colleges require or recommend taking these tests to get a sense of your child’s skills in a certain academic area. In general, it’s best to take a Subject Test right after taking the relevant course.


  • Encourage your child to take AP Exams. If your 11th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.




  • Search together for colleges that meet your child’s needs. Once you have an idea of the qualities your child is looking for in a college, help him or her enter these criteria into a college search to create a list of colleges to consider applying to.


  • Help your child research scholarships. This form of financial aid provides money for college that doesn’t need to be repaid.


  • Attend college fairs and financial aid events. These events allow you to meet with college representatives and get answers to questions. Your child can ask the school counselor how to find events in your area.


  • Help your child make summer plans. Summer is a great time to explore interests and learn new skills — and colleges look for students who pursue meaningful summer activities. Help your high schooler look into summer learning programs  or find a job or internship.


  • Visit colleges together. Make plans to check out the campuses of colleges your child is interested in.