September 2015 Posts

Kid Talk Tuesday: Reliable Reading Strategies for Kids – Guest post by author Kathryn O’Brien

Getting your kids to read can be a challenge these days with all the distractions! Wondering what your approach should be? Join us as author Kathryn O’Brien discusses some tried and true reading strategies for kids!

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Long before Dr. Seuss put a cat in a hat or invited kids to hop on Pop, parents have been concerned with improving their children’s reading skills.

Every decade or so, a new idea in education sweeps the nation. During the 1950’s, Dick and Jane ushered in the “Look and Say” approach, which was replaced ten years later with direct phonics instruction. Whole-language dominated the 1980’s, prompting a sharp return to phonics toward the end of the millennium. Currently, of course, the hot-button issue is deeper-thinking Common Core State Standards. With each trendy philosophy, teachers either cheer or complain. Administrators defend or dismiss. Politicians advocate or denounce. And parents are left wondering whether their kids will be helped or hindered by the latest and greatest approach.

 

As a former primary teacher and current Director of Instruction in a Christian elementary school, I regularly encourage parents and teachers to disregard the most recent frenzy and opt for tried and true, common sense strategies when it comes to enriching reading aptitude. Here are a few suggestions to get started.

#1 Fun Counts– It’s a simple formula: kids who enjoy reading equals kids who become better readers. Investing time to find books that are tailored to fit your child’s interests, hobbies, curiosities and funny bones, will result in improved reading. A National Research Council study from a few years back maintains that one major cause of low reading ability is a lack of motivation (Snow et al., 1998). So if your child just can’t wait to dive into a comic book, let her! If your kid doesn’t want to put down a book about ogres, don’t force him to. From lizards to Legos, baseball to ballet, find books that excite, inspire and enthuse your child’s unique personality.

#2 Get’em Hooked– Unfortunately, one book won’t last forever. A major key to fueling the reading fire is finding a series that makes your child want more. I recommend trying The Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker to share God’s truths in a fun and creative way. For an exciting historical context, give Bible KidVentures Old Testament Stories a try. For kids who loves all things silly, check out Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants with 70 million copies sold or the Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel. Just like you and me, finding a favorite series is a surefire way to keep the pages turning.

#3 Let’s Get Together – Millions of adults join book clubs each year for one simple reason; sharing a great story makes the experience even better. So why not try book club at home? Set aside time each week to read a book together. Choose a title your child enjoys and purchase your own copy. Partner-read by alternating pages. Struggling readers can take turns with paragraphs or even sentences. Kids benefit greatly from hearing one-on-one modeling of correct pacing, expression, tone and pronunciation of new vocabulary.

#4 No Question About It– Whether your child is partner-reading or reading independently, be sure to stop frequently for inquiries. Start with the basics: who, where, when, what? But don’t quit there. Delve deeper by asking the biggies: how and why. Questions that start with how and why introduce children to a more sophisticated set of comprehension skills (inference, prediction, categorization) and important critical thinking relationships between ideas (compare and contrast, cause and effect). Don’t allow kids to simply guess and move on; invite them to become Reading Detectives by searching for evidence in the text that supports their answers.

#5 See the Big Picture– As your child reads, ask him to visualize the story in his mind. Encourage her to describe the details she sees. Keep crayons and markers on hand to illustrate, making a valuable concrete image. Graphic organizers, like “Word Webs,” are another great way to create a solid picture of written words. Simply write the main idea or main character from a story in the middle of a page, then surround it with related details. “Story Maps” make good graphic tools as well; just sketch the main events of a story in the sequence in which they occur. Any way that children are able to diagram, chart, frame, illustrate, or graph a text is a reliable way to ensure comprehension.

If these strategies feel a bit overwhelming, choose one and give it a shot. Add more activities as you feel comfortable. Don’t get bogged down by pressure from politicians, academia or the PTA; simply share with your children the reading strategies that have stood the test of time.

Kathryn O’Brien has been published in numerous parenting and teaching magazines, including ParentLife and Shining Star. As a former elementary school teacher, Kathryn continues to write on education topics and blogs regularly at kathobrien.com.

Not Your Average Moose at Camp: Exclusive Guest Post by Author Jerry Jenkins

Remember the moment you committed your life to Christ? We’re excited to share this exclusive short story by Jerry Jenkins about a teenager and his moment of commitment to sharing the gospel. Read until the end – you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Jerry Jenkins is author of the Left Behind: Kids Collection Series.

When a young teen nicknamed Moose showed up at Camp Hickory in Round Lake, Illinois, one summer as a junior counselor to 9- and 10-year-olds, he was ready for some fun.

Moose came from a devout Christian home. He had become a believer as a child and enjoyed everything about Sunday school and church, but he was laid back about his faith. Moose didn’t want to push his beliefs on anyone.

The highlight of the week arrived. A local church softball team came to play the staff. They were led by a superstar named Johnny Ankerberg, a collegian who was also a preacher. He was a friend of Moose’s.

Ankerberg asked what he should speak on that night in the service.

“Well,” Moose said, “there are a lot of phonies here. Maybe something on really being what you say you are all the time.”

That night Moose sat waiting to counsel any who wanted to receive Christ or rededicate their lives.

Ankerberg jumped right into his topic, challenging the crowd: “Are you really a Christian, or are you just playing at it? Do you paste a smile on your face and sit still in church but sneak around doing bad things with your friends at school and on the weekends?”

Not me, Moose thought. No smoking or drinking or vandalism. I don’t even swear.

But then Ankerberg shifted gears. “Maybe you’re not doing anything wrong. Maybe you think you’re okay with the Lord.”

Suddenly, it seemed as if there were no others in the room but Moose and John. As the big kid sat staring at the preacher, John began to hit home. “Do your friends even know you’re a believer? Or are you a secret-service Christian, saving your faith for Sundays and home? Have you ever even told them about Jesus?”

Moose’s pulse raced. Was he one of the phonies he himself had referred to? John began a list of the dangers of keeping quiet about your faith; how the world and friends and influences could rob you of your love of Christ. How people you care about could be lost because you were afraid of offending them.

“Who will stem the tide of invisible Christians?” John thundered, and suddenly Moose knew personally what the old term meant, falling under conviction. He shuddered, his heart galloping. “After what Jesus did for you on the cross, can you not suffer a little embarrassment for Him? I’m looking for young people who will say, ‘I will stand for Christ by God’s grace, even if I have to stand alone!’ ”

How Moose wanted to take that stand! If God would give him the courage and the power, he could do it!

John finally asked for people to stand if they were ready to make that commitment, and Moose leapt to his feet. He was near tears, ready to burst. He ran from the screened-in assembly hall, out into the darkness past the fellowship hall, and into the parking lot, where he found a friend’s car. He lay across the front seat, crying out to God for forgiveness.

“I will share my faith! I will tell others about You! I don’t care what they think about me or even if they ever agree. I want to be the kind of believer You want me to be.”

When Moose finally left that car, he sensed God’s forgiveness and even felt his first burst of courage. This would not be one of those annual rededications that didn’t take. Moose felt like a new person.

When he went back to school that Fall, he shared his faith with his friends. He became a writer and became passionate about spreading the news about Jesus that way too.

Several years later, when Moose was newly married, he became editor of a high school Sunday school paper. From there, he went on to become editor of two Christian magazines and then became a book publisher.

In the meantime, on the side, he wrote more than 180 books, including many about professional athletes.

It’s been said that big doors turn on small hinges. Moose traces his life’s work and ministry back to that summer at Camp Hickory where God spoke to him.

Statistics show that more than a quarter-million kids become believers at camps and conferences each year. And more than 500,000 Christian leaders trace their choice of profession to decisions made at camp.

But Moose is more than a statistic. I ought to know.

Moose was my nickname.

Jerry Jenkins is a novelist and biographer, author of the bestselling Left Behind Series. He teaches writers at JerryJenkins.com.

The Arc Podcast #2 – Street God

The newest episode of The Arc is out and we’re talking about the new book, Street God by Dimas Salaberrios.

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Listen to episode two by clicking here.

or

Download the episode on iTunes here.

 

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His street name was Daylight. But he was a nightmare. On the streets of New York, darkness and violence reigned. Dimas “Daylight” Salaberrios popped his first pill when he was eleven years old, and just days later, he was selling drugs to his schoolmates. By fifteen, he was facing time at the notorious Rikers Island Prison. It was never safe to turn your back, and Dimas saw only one chance to survive: to become a street god. He would be the richest, most powerful ruler in the hood . . . or die trying.

But in one terrifying moment, with a gun pointed at his head, Dimas had to decide: How far would he go? Was he finished taking reckless chances to rule as a god of the streets? Would he dare to entrust his life to the real God—an even riskier path? Because that God would send Dimas back down the darkest streets he’d ever known on a rescue mission after those still in danger.

Street God is the true story of one man’s against-all-odds journey from the streets to the altar and back again. A modern-day The Cross and the Switchblade for a new generation, it reveals that we’re never too far gone for God to change us—and shows how a single spark can illuminate even the darkest existence.

Learn more at: streetgodbook.com

A Lifetime Love of Reading in a Few Minutes a Day by Amie Carlson

Guest post from Amie Carlson, Product & Marketing Manager for Focus on the Family Kids/Media and Faith That Sticks.

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I have always loved to read. Ever since I was a small child, some of my fondest memories involve my storybook “friends” like Alexander (and his terrible, horrible day), Harold (and his purple crayon), Anne (of Green Gables fame), and Laura in her little house on the prairie. While it is true that some children are more prone to loving books and reading than others, this is a habit that can be taught with some simple intentional practices.

It is never too early to start reading to a child. I started when my first child was still in utero—reading aloud any book I was already reading just to get him used to the rhythm of my voice. There were books everywhere in my house. I was fortunate to have a mother who worked at a bookstore, and she brought new books home every week. We quite literally had hundreds of children’s books to choose from all the time. As a matter of fact, one of my son’s favorite things to do at naptime when he was two years old was to pull all the books off the shelf, lie down on the big mountain of books, and fall asleep!

Having all these books didn’t stop me from making the library a regular part of our week. As soon as my child was toddling about, we were attending story time every week and coming home with yet more books. We kept them in the car, in the living room, in the kitchen . . . anywhere we might have a spare moment to read.

Beyond sheer accessibility to books, I was also intentional during reading time. I used a different voice for each character and injected energy when I read. I asked questions along the way to keep him engaged and had him find pictures and sound out words as he got older. As he grew, questions went from “Can you find something red?” to “What would you do if you were the main character faced with this situation?” Connecting personally to a story and learning how to use imagination is a valuable skill that children can learn and use in their adult lives.

As my second child was born, it was not uncommon to find my son lying on the blanket next to his sister, reading her a story. She loved hearing her big brother’s voice even when she couldn’t follow the pictures.

When my children got old enough to read on their own, I continued the tradition of weekly library visits so they could choose their own books, but I didn’t stop reading to them. While it wasn’t as regular as before, they still enjoyed sitting and listening to a story and discussing it along the way. This was especially true of my youngest daughter, who was an audio learner. She listened to books on tape every night when she went to bed—allowing her mind to create pictures from the stories. She is nineteen now, and still pulls out the old favorite childhood books for me to read to her when she is sick or just wants to walk down memory lane. She even reads the books aloud to the dog—although he doesn’t sit quite as attentively as she would like.

Instilling the tradition of reading aloud while my children were young allowed me to have conversations with them and help plant good values in them without them even realizing it. When a character in a book was facing a moral choice, we would discuss it. We would talk about what the Bible would say about it. We would problem solve together and discuss different outcomes and consequences of decisions. This was a great way for my children to figure out their faith in a way that helped them make it personal.

You can help your children fall in love with books, no matter their age. One easy way to encourage young children to read is to introduce them to the Faith That Sticks story and activity books. Each book is short and filled with activities and questions that will help your child learn how to make connections and develop the skills of a reader. Creative stickers will keep your child engaged along the way. As you share regular story time with your children, you will soon see that they have their own cast of storybook friends, just like I did!

Fearless Parenting: Shepherding Children in Such a Time as This (Guest post by Heidi St. John + conference ticket giveaway)

Guest post by Heidi St. John from The Busy Mom. Visit her website at – heidistjohn.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Recently, I heard a pastor talking about high school and college age kids. “We’re losing them,” he said woefully. I put my paring knife down and strained to hear the radio above the noise of my busy household. “Survey after survey says that our kids are walking away from God,” he continued. “This generation of Christian young people has largely rejected the beliefs of their grandparents and even their parents. We are a generation in crisis.”

It was fearful, sobering news to be sure. Parents today are dealing with things our grandparents could not have even imagined. Today’s young people the first generation of kids who can click open YouTube and witness the beheading of a Christian in Syria. They are living with the redefinition of marriage and watching the Church struggle to live out the Word of God in a culture that has rejected Him. Today’s churches are divided over issues that were once “no-brainers” like homosexuality and the authority of Scripture.

What has happened to the “faith of our fathers?” Somewhere along the line, we got lazy. We stopped reading our Bibles and in so-doing, we have become biblically illiterate. We have embraced indifference. Now, we are reaping the rotten fruit of indifference and laziness. The pastor who warned his congregation that they were losing their kids was right, but there’s more to it than that. The truth is that you do not simply “lose” a generation of kids. You lose a generation of parents—then you lose a generation of kids.

I believe we’ve become a fearful people. We’re afraid to speak the truth of God’s Word, afraid to live it out in where we may face rejection for it. Fear is a powerful weapon, and it has penetrated the hearts of many of God’s people today. The devil is using fear very effectively against Christians right now. Many are afraid of persecution—afraid of being labeled. As Christians, we serve the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—and I’m curious: when did He sound the retreat?

Children are Like Their Parents

As parents, our response to a culture in spiritual decline speaks volumes to our children. Children learn how to navigate the culture by watching their parents. If our children see fear and indifference in their parents, chances are good that they will also become fearful and indifferent. We know this because God’s Word tells us in Luke 6:40 that “When a student is fully trained, he will be like his teacher.”

It’s a powerful reminder that our kids are going to follow in our footsteps. It’s also a powerful warning not to become complacent as we walk out our faith today.

As God’s children, we must learn to filter everything through the Word of God. It’s time to study the Bible—for ourselves. When our kids ask the questions this generation is asking, we need to be ready to take them directly to the Bible. Our actions bear witness to our beliefs. They speak for us. Our response to the culture speaks volumes about our faith and understanding of God and His Word.

Shepherding today’s generation is challenging, but God placed you and your children here, right now, for such a time as this. Following God fearlessly does not mean the absence of fear. Instead it means that our faith is greater than our fear. No matter what happens around us, from political unrest to spiritual attack, God’s Word is true, and it does not change. We can trust God. We must trust Him as we parent these precious children.

Let your children see that trust lived out in your everyday life.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Fearless Conference Ticket Giveaway!

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We’re giving away 2 tickets to the Fearless Conference!

To learn more about this fantastic conference visit – heidistjohn.com/comeaway

If you win you can use the tickets for your self, or gift them to a friend. We’ll chose the winner on September 25th.

Here’s how to enter:

-Fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
-Follow the directions to earn extra entries.
-We’ll chose one random winner on September 25th, and 3 random winners will receive a parenting book prize pack from Tyndale!

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