Make Learning a Habit in Just 21 Days
The best way to ensure your child is learning every day is to make a habit of it. Research shows that it takes only 21 days to create a lifelong habit, so here are 21 simple activities you can do with your child at home to promote school success. Try at least one activity every day for 21 days. After 21 days, you will have created a learning habit that will last a lifetime!
- Have a family “Read-In.” Gather your family in a cozy room. Everyone brings a favorite book or magazine. After 30 minutes or so of reading, allow each family member to read aloud to the others.
- Cook dinner together. Make each family member responsible for one part of the meal. Cooking reinforces important math skills, such as fractions and measurements.
- Organize family photos. Gather some family photos and let your child organize them into albums. She’s practicing sorting and classifying as she searches for pictures with common themes.
- Write a letter to a family member. Your child can write about anything — school, sports, a book he has read. He will strengthen his writing skills and make a member of your family feel special.
- Read age-appropriate poetry together. It will improve your child’s listening, vocabulary, and sense of timing. Let your child experiment with writing her own poems.
- Discuss the five W’s and H — Who, What, Were, When, Why, and How. After watching the news together or reading a newspaper article, challenge your child to write down the five W’s and H of the story.
- Have fun with puzzles. Star with easy ones and work up to challenging ones as one your family improves. Doing puzzles teaches logic and enhances spatial skills.
- Have a geography bee. Where in the world is … Madagascar? Prague? Easter Island? Or use local geography and landmarks — is school next to a pond or the woods? Check your answers with globes and maps.
- Make lists. Tell your child what you need from the store and have her write it down. Not only will this give her practice writing, it will help her develop a sense of responsibility. Suggest she make her down “to-do” lists.
- Make a craft challenge. It will create a sense of resourcefulness in your child and build responsibility. Ask your child to reuse items around the house for a project. He can decorate grocery bags to create gift-wrap, for example, or cover a can to make a pencil holder.
- Review math facts with a deck of cards. Have your child remove all of the jokers and face cards. Now deal the cards — half to you, half to your child. Turn over two cards. Add them together (or multiply them.) The person with the highest sum takes all four cards. Go through the entire deck. The person with the most cards at the end is the winner.
Reading for Success
Want to strengthen your child’s vocabulary, improve reading scores, and have fun — all in only 10 minutes a day? Then plan a regular read-aloud time. Reading aloud is a great way to introduce children to the joys of reading. It helps children “connect” to printed words and helps them become better independent readers.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
• Plan to do it every day. Reading time is much too important to miss.
• Pick a regular time — and stick to it. There is no bad time to read aloud. Some busy families even have reading time during baths or breakfast.
• Choose from a variety of materials (magazines, newspapers, books).
• Pick something that you like. If you like what you’re reading, it is going to show on your face and be heard in your voice.
• Read to yourself before you read it aloud. You’ll give a better performance if you’re familiar with the text.
WHILE YOU ARE READING
• Read with enthusiasm and playfulness. Even try using different voices.
• Use facial expressions. Widen your eyes to show surprise. Squint a bit to show you’re thinking.
• Let your child see the pages clearly and talk about the pictures that are on each page.
• Let your child see the pages clearly and talk about the pictures that are on each page.
• See the story. Try to see the story as you read it. If you’re reading “Charlotte’s Web,” imagine exactly how the words look when they’re spelled out in Charlotte’s web. Your voice can’t help but convey the magic in the spider’s web.
• Accentuate the first line. The first line of any good story will grab the reader’s attention. Your reading should make your child want to sit up and listen.
• Don’t read too fast. Stop and talk about what’s happened and guess at what might be coming.
• Ask questions, but don’t quiz your child. Give your child plenty of time to answer.
• Feel free to “edit.” Skip over any material that is boring or inappropriate for your child.
• Leave your child wanting more. Stop a day’s reading at a point when your child is eager to hear what happens next.
• End slowly. If you read the last line very slowly, you’ll give your child a great sense of satisfaction.
• Be willing to read the same books more than once. Repetition helps your child learn.
Enjoy Family Reading Time
As Mark Twain once noted, a person who does not read books has no advantage over a person who cannot read them. One of the most important things you can do at home is to ensure that reading plays a central role in your family life. So set some family reading goals. Here some ideas to get you started.
MOTIVATE YOUR CHILD TO READ
• Set bedtime a little later. All the light to stay on as long your child is reading. Odds are your child will go to sleep pretty quickly anyway.
• Make a comfortable place for your child to read. Some kids like beanbag chairs. Others like hammocks. Help create a special reading nook just for your child.
MAKE READING A FUN FAMILY AFFAIR
• Plan regular reading times. Turn off the TV and read a book to your child. Stop at an exciting part. Your child will be excited to learn more.
• Take the whole family to a bookstore to browse on a Friday night.
• Visit the library on a Saturday just before going out for ice cream. Make sure everyone has a library card.
• Hold a monthly family reading challenge. Keep a record of the books each family member reads.
• Read a book together. Then go see the
• Schedule D-E-A-R tome on your family calendar. Have everyone “Drop Everything And Read.”
STOCK THE SHELVES
• Build a family library. Keep favorite books on hand. Read them again and again.
• Look for a used book store. Your library may also have a used book
• Replace the TV in the kitchen with a bookshelf. Make it easy to reach and keep it stocked with new books, magazines, newspapers — and with old favorites.
• Keep books and kids’ magazines in most rooms.
• Keep your car stocked, too. Take books along wherever you go. Listen to audio books as your child reads along.
KEEP IT INTERACTIVE
• Plan a special night when you all take turns reading a favorite book aloud.
• Serve a favorite snack and discuss what you’ve read. Talk about plots and characters. Get everyone’s reactions.
• Read a short skit or play. Have everyone take the part of a character and read in a different voice.
• Pretend you’re detectives. Read a mystery book. Stop before the end. Take turns trying to solve the crime.
Help Your Struggling Reader
If your child is one of millions of American youngsters with reading difficulties, don’t panic. There are many things you can do to help. Have your child assessed by a pediatrician to rule out vision and hearing problems and by the school to determine the level of difficulty. Discuss with the teacher some ways you can help your struggling reader at home. Here are some ideas:
SET THE STAGE
• Get your child a library card and lots of opportunities to use it. If your child is in charge of selecting books, that might be enough incentive for wanting to practice reading!
• Give your child access to interesting books. Look at your child’s bookshelf. If it’s been a long time since you’ve updated it, take a trip to the bookstore.
• Look for books that match your child’s interests. Try a nonfiction book. Information books answer questions. They also help improve vocabulary.
• Offer comfortable guided reading. Help your child review sight words. Build confidence by rereading familiar books together.
• Let your child imitate your reading. Choose an easier book. Read a few pages aloud to your child. Then take turns reading the same pages aloud. Finally, have you child read the pages to you. Offer help if your child gets stuck.
• Remember that practice makes perfect. Read together frequently. Make sure that what you read together isn’t too challenging. (If it’s too hard, your child may give up and stop trying.)
• Stop occasionally to discuss the story. Struggling readers often have trouble with comprehension, a very important reading skill. Talk about what the characters are doing and why. Ask “what if” questions.
• Let your child listen to recorded stories while following along in the book. Many children with reading difficulties read too slowly for stories to make sense, and so they get frustrated. Can’t find audio versions of your favorite books? Consider recording your own.
• Do what you can to make your home a reading- and writing-rich environment, but don’t hesitate to ask for help.
• Work closely with the teacher to monitor your child’s progress. Discuss changes she see’s in your child’s reading performance. Celebrate small successes.
• Give positive feedback. Don’t compare your child’s reading with that of more successful readers. Don’t discuss reading difficulties in front of family members or friends. Deal with reading difficulties in private and with your child’s teacher.
Let's Do Math
Top 10 Websites: Build Math Skills Online
When it comes to building your child’s math skills, there are plenty of free, educational websites that can help. Ask your child’s math teacher for specific suggestions. But in the meantime, have your child try these:
This teacher-created website provides fun and educational math games and apps for elementary school students. Games for younger students feature large and easy-to-use navigation buttons as well as voice instructions.
This interactive site helps students improve math skills with a variety of resources, from math worksheets and flash cards to math games and a homework helper.
Your child can play free, online educational games to learn basic math concepts on this teacher-recommended site.
Students in third grade and up can view a collection of instructional pre-algebra videos.
Students can get math problems answered online for free and even review archives of questions asked by other students.
This site offers tons of fun online games to help your child practice and learn important math concepts.
This award-winning math website features thinking games to teach students place value, addition, subtraction, and more.
Your child will find games, puzzles, and worksheets on a variety of math concepts. The site even has an online dictionary that defines math terms in easy-to-understand language.
Designed with teachers in mind, this site is perfect for parents and kids wanting to watch mini lessons on everything from addition and fractions to shapes and algebra.
This site created by teachers offers math games, logic puzzles, instructional videos, math practice, and a variety of problem solving activities.
Make Reading Fun
Reading is critical to your child’s success in school and in life, but no one said it couldn’t also be a whole lot of fun. If you’d like to keep your youngster loving all things literary, try a few of these activities:
• Form your own parent-child book club. Invite some friends to participate or keep it a simple family affair. Let your child select an age-appropriate title. Each of you read it. Afterward, talk about what you liked or disliked, then make plans for your next book.
• Include at least one book when giving your child birthday and holiday gifts. After a while, your child may even look forward to those flat, hard packages!
• Don’t stop reading together! Although your child’s reading ability will likely improve rapidly through the elementary years, set aside some special times to read aloud. To keep your child interested, pick an engaging chapter book that’s at a slightly more advanced reading level.
• Get cooking! Let your child read the recipe aloud while you prepare a meal. Your child will learn some interesting food- related words— and pick up a few valuable kitchen skills.
• Play “Alphabet Mix-Up.” Let your child choose a word. Together, put its letters in alphabetical order. Now put them back in the right order.
• Get your child in the habit of writing thank-you notes when receiving gifts. Not only does it teach good manners, it also gives your child a chance to hone creative writing skills.
• Have some extra snapshots lying around? Let your child use them to illustrate a family story. Staple a few sheets of construction paper together to make a book, then encourage your child to write a tale about the family. As a finishing touch to the masterpiece, have your child glue in the old photos.
• Make one dinner each month a “Book Character Dinner.” Have everyone come to the table dressed as a favorite figure from a book. With characters like Peter Rabbit and Madeline eating together, it’s sure to be an interesting meal.
• Get more involved with your local library. Searching for books is wonderful, but many libraries also offer a host of programs to keep kids interested in reading. See what activities, contests and events your library has planned this month! Make plans to participate.
• Read a book together. Then see the movie based on the book. Compare the two.
• Invest in a set of word magnets. Look for a set with words geared specifically to children (featuring words like dinosaur, magic and rainbow). Stick them on the refrigerator. With each visit to the refrigerator to get a snack, your child will end up with a mind full of words.
• Go on a long walk around your neighborhood or through the park. Ask your child to write about it using some dried leaves, pine cones or feathers from your journey to illustrate the tale.
• Take a trip down memory lane! Think about the books you most loved as an elementary schooler and introduce them to your youngster. It will remind you why the classics got to be that way.
• Have a goofy theme dinner! Take one of your child’s favorite book characters (like E.B. White’s Stuart Little or Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web) and serve a dish the character would eat. For example, little mice surely love cheese, and pigs—well, they’ll eat just about anything!
• Get your child hooked on a series! These books are a wonderful way to keep your child interested in reading. Since they never really “end,” (there’s always another edition around the corner), your child will always be curious about what’s going to happen next.
• Have a “No TV Night” once in a while. Instead of the family zonking out in front of the tube, pop some popcorn, pour some juice and have everyone snuggle up on the couch with a good book.
• Going on a long car trip? Make sure your child has plenty of books to pass the miles. Old favorites are always a good choice, but a few new titles may postpone cries of “Are we there yet?” coming from the backseat.
• Expose your child to different kinds of books. If your child always runs straight to the sports section at the library, wander toward the photography aisle. If your child only has eyes for mythology, give a little nudge toward children’s poetry and see what happens.
• Make an ABC meal. Write each letter of the alphabet on a slip of paper (leave out X and Z). Put the letters into a bowl, then with eyes closed, have your child select three (or more) of them. Together, think of a food that begins with each letter, then help your child turn them into a delicious literary menu.
• Make one corner of your home a “reading and writing” area. Fill it with magazines, newspapers, books, crayons, paper and markers. Encourage your child to spend lots of time there.
• Surf the Internet with your child. There are lots of terrific, kid-friendly sites for young readers. Not sure where to begin? You might start with pbskids.org.
• Have your child create new stories by mixing characters from old ones. Pick a handful of standbys, such as Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy and Tom Sawyer. Ask your child to choose two or three and weave a wild tale combining all the characters.
• Make sure your child spends at least a few minutes in front of a book instead of the TV. Even past the age of nap-taking, children are never too old for some quiet book time each day—whether it’s right before bed or just after breakfast.
• Make up a secret code with your child. A number might stand for each letter, for example. Use the code to write notes to each other.
• Cut out an ad from the newspaper. Have your child cross out the adjectives and replace them with opposites. A large house with fresh paint would become a small house with old paint, for example.
• Play an animal alphabet game. Try to think of one animal that starts with each letter of the alphabet. The only letter you can leave out is X. Have your child create an animal “encyclopedia.”
• Give an old story a new ending. When reading your child a well-loved book, stop halfway through and ask your child to come up with a different (though still happy) outcome.
• Allow your child to stay up late to read on a weekend. Think of ways to make this extra fun, such as reading by flashlight or making a favorite snack. Then let her sleep late, too.
• Switch things up a little! Instead of reading to your child, ask your child to read to you. Whether you’re stuck together in traffic, fidgeting in the doctor’s waiting room or behind an endless line of carts at the grocery store, reading aloud is an excellent way to pass the time.
• Have your child tell a story from an inter- esting point of view—The Three Little Pigs from the wolf ’s perspective for example, or a birthday party from a present’s point of view.
Make Reading a Daily Pleasure
To make reading a daily pleasure, encourage your child to read about interesting topics. And remember that reading for pleasure doesn’t have to mirror what your child is reading at (or for) school. Make sure you have different types of reading material around the house — books, magazines, newspapers, brochures — and even comics. To encourage your child’s leisure reading:
Make reading a tempting option
To help your child develop a reading habit:
• Be a reading role model. Show that you read for fun. Keep books and magazines around that you’ll want to read—and do the same for your child.
• Make a list with your child of interesting topics (sports, dinosaurs, the night sky, etc.) and find books or articles about them.
• Leave reading material in relaxing spots, such as on a couch or bed, for you and your child to enjoy.
• Subscribe to a children’s magazine. You can find magazines on any interest. Your child will love getting it in the mail, too.
• Set up a “reading tent” in the backyard. Or throw a blanket over a couple of kitchen chairs. Give your child a “reading flashlight.”
• Visit a special reading spot on the weekends, such as a park.
• Create a reading nook in your child’s room—a comfortable chair or some pillows in a corner. Add a shelf or box for books.
• Allow some quiet time for reading before bedtime each night.
Make reading a social event
Many children get so wrapped up in activities that they have little time for reading. To blend friends and books, encourage your child to have a:
• Book swap. Have your child invite friends over to exchange and talk about their favorite books.
• Book party. Organize it around a favorite series. For example, have a Nancy Drew party. Play Clue® or another mystery game.
• Write-a-story party. Have everyone sit in a circle. Give each child a sheet of paper. Begin by having children write a sentence on their paper, then pass the paper to the next child to write the second sentence.
• Have them continue passing the stories until all group members have written a sentence for each story. They will have fun reading each new story aloud!
• Joke party. Invite children to bring books with jokes or riddles. Let them take turns reading aloud to the group.•
• Play-reading party. Give everyone a copy of a short, easy-to-read play script. Encourage them to be dramatic and ham it up.