This year, Lollaland has partnered with Raising a Reader to promote the development, practice, and maintenance of home literacy routines. At Lollaland, we are all about routines as well, and we do our best to encourage routines around family mealtime. Lollaland is excited to be donating 15% of our profits from any of our mealtime pieces to Raising a Reader, so please consider bringing our microwaveable, US-made plates, bowls, and dipping cups into your home and supporting children's literacy!
As millions of children across the U.S. end their summer vacations and head back to school, parents are getting ready to ease their kids back into the school-year routine of homework, extracurricular activities and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Raising A Reader, a national nonprofit organization that provides resources and guidance for families to implement home-based literacy routines, suggests as part of that routine, parents work in regular time to share books with their children above-and-beyond their required schoolwork.
Research shows that the time caring adults spend sharing books with children has a direct relationship on their academic success. Whether building background knowledge and vocabulary, comprehension skills, social and communication skills or reinforcing the idea that reading is not just something associated with school, home book-sharing routines are essential to childrens’ success.
“During the school year, many families become so consumed with schoolwork that the habit of sharing books for pleasure seems like an unnecessary distraction,” said Gabrielle Miller, Ed.D., president and CEO of Raising A Reader. “Parents need to remember it is more important than ever to find a few minutes each day to keep the reading habit alive. Aside from the innumerable cognitive, academic and social benefits, children begin to understand that reading for pleasure actually helps improve their success in school and in life.
Here are some tips for parents to make reading a larger part of the school year:
Raising A Reader is a 501c3 charitable organization dedicated to helping families develop, practice and maintain literacy habits for children ages 0-8 that are critical for a child’s success in school and in life. The program is evidence-based, with more than 32 independent evaluations showing that Raising A Reader significantly improves language and literacy skills, cognitive development, communication and comprehension skills, school readiness and social competence. Raising A Reader is implemented through a network of community partners that comprise more than 2,500 locations across the country including public school systems, libraries, afterschool programs, community agencies and other organizations both public and private. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, Raising A Reader was founded in 1999 and has served more than 1.25 million families nationwide. More information is available at RaisingAReader.org, @RARnational (Twitter) and RaisingAReaderNational (Facebook).
I was thinking about blogging about an interesting article I read the other day, but I received an email late last night that read, "Today would have been G's 5th month birthday. On 3.16.2012 at 2 a.m. G had her last meal. I stayed up with her until 3 a.m. that morning, checked up on her and fell asleep."
The niece of the pastor who officiated my wedding passed away on March 16th at around 7 a.m. I had heard the little girl had been born with complications, but I was under the impression she was getting better and doing well.
When I read this email, I cried and my heart literally hurt. I don't know if other parents feel this way, but becoming a parent has made my level of emotion and empathy skyrocket. I find myself getting choked up watching a Google commercial or reading Love You Forever by Robert Munsch to my girls at bedtime.
I am going to need a while to process how a family can even begin to cope with a loss this great. The email went on to describe how one of her older children responded to the news of his baby sister's passing, "He wanted to see her. He wept by her bedside where she was laying down and just wanted to hold her. He's very quiet in his demeanor and not very emotional. He kept thinking that she was going to wake up. He grabbed our stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat. He was desperately searching for G's heartbeat."
I hope this blog post is today's reminder to hug your children and show & tell them you love them. I find myself simply going through the motions and trying to get through another day as a busy mom. This incredible loss has given me a renewed sense of thankfulness for my family and loved ones.
For the past few months, my husband and I have been visiting various preschools, trying to decide on the “right” school for our daughters. To preface this discussion, our girls have been attending a childcare facility since they were 18-months-old, because we both work full-time. We had a nanny for the first 18 months, but once the girls began to walk and needed more socialization, we decided to put them in daycare/school/early childhood education center/preschool - what have you. Whether you’re on the hunt for a pre-kindergarten like we are now, or just beginning to think about preschool, here is my synopsis of the varying philosophies of early childhood education, as I saw them on the tours I went on.
Academic - The classrooms in academic preschools were orderly, spotless, and displayed all the things you would expect (A is for apple posters, calendars displaying the date & weather, and nametags neatly taped to desks). This type of preschool would fit into the most traditional philosophy of teaching and learning. The classrooms & days were structured, “teacher-directed,” and focused on formally preparing for kindergarten (learning letter names & sounds, how to count, etc.). Play happened during recess times and classroom etiquette was en pointe: raising hands, following instructions, and sitting at desks. The academic preschools reminded me of my own experiences with schooling.
Montessori – Montessori classrooms were also very orderly and clean, but the artwork on the walls had more variation than the ones in the more Academic classrooms. Children were quietly working at desks, some on math, others on reading. A few things that stood out as different/unique were the mixed age groups coexisting in one classroom, children choosing what they wanted to work on, and the concentration level of the children.
We toured a few Montessori schools and the most confusing part was that anyone can use the name “Montessori.” Therefore, XYZ Montessori, does not necessarily mean that they teach using the Montessori method. There is, however, a website (http://www.montessori.edu/) dedicated to providing detailed information on how to recognize real "Montessori.”
Play-based - In the play-based preschools, children were playing indoors and outdoors, with, what appeared to be, very little structure. The artwork displayed on the walls was varied and unique, and I did not see any traditional posters (alphabet, numbers, and calendars). Maybe two children were sitting at a desk at any given time, and teachers really took a back-seat, for lack of a better description. Play-based schools believe that children learn best through play, so children choose their own activities based on what interests them at the time. Teachers serve as facilitators whose role is to challenge children to expand upon their particular interests.
Waldorf - Children were working in small groups around the classroom and outdoors, and seemed to playing or engaged in other hands-on activities. Like the play-based school, the Waldorf school had unique artwork on the walls. Waldorf programs emphasize a “child-centered” philosophy, based on the idea of educating the whole child—body, mind, and spirit. They do not focus on academics, in the traditional sense, but instead offer a heavy dose of hands-on activities, imaginary play, and teamwork in a warm, nurturing environment that feels more like a home than a school. You can learn more about Waldorf preschools at www.whywaldorfworks.org.
I hope you found this superficial description of a few early childhood education philosophies helpful. If anything, it will give you a few new terms you can use in your Google searches.
The best advice I got on choosing a preschool was to go with your gut and do what makes sense for you (your child may be on the active side or more reserved, you may need longer hours, your child may not be potty trained, etc.). As time-consuming and confusing as this journey was and still is, it has been the perfect opportunity for my husband and me to openly talk about what we want for our children in schooling and in life.
I will end with a piece of unsolicited advice. Although parenthood is taxing, and we often feel like we cannot add one more thing to our days, start thinking about schooling early. Unlike elementary schools, preschools are not free and often have ridiculously long waiting lists. You will have many more options if you start the process early.
Many parents ask us why Lollacup was designed as a straw cup rather than a traditional sippy cup. Well, when it was time for my daughter to start drinking from something other than a baby bottle, I had no idea I would be faced with such a myriad of choices. Being a confused, first-time parent, I turned to my pediatrician who recommended I try straws, if at all possible.
If you conduct a basic internet search about transitioning your child from the breast/bottle to a sippy cup or a straw, you'll find a slew of articles written by bloggers and the like about the advantages of straw use in infants and toddlers. I delved a little deeper and talked with a few speech pathologists, pediatricians, dentists, and parents about the real reasons some people recommend straws over sippy cups.
Here is my take on the issue and the reasons I prefer straws over sippy cups:
- Speech advantages: "At the therapeutic level, straws have the promise of addressing a multiple array of disorders and muscle groups far beyond traditional practice." taken from "Advance," a publication for speech-language pathologists and audiologists. If straws are frequently used in speech therapy, they must contribute to the development of important muscles that enhance or at least support speech. You can find more interesting articles (from WebMD, Livestrong.com, etc.) on the straw vs. sippy cup debate on the FAQ page of the Lollacup website.
- Convenience: Weaning a child from anything (breastfeeding, bottles, pacifiers, thumbs, etc.) can be a nightmare, and I just didn't see the need to wean my daughter from a bottle to a sippy cup and then later to a straw/regular cup. I found that getting my daughters accustomed to drinking from straws or regular cups at meals and snack times meant one less thing (bottle/sippy cup) to pack when going out, since most restaurants provide small plastic cups with a lid and a straw.
As parents, we are always trying to do what's best for our children, and everything we do on their behalf involves careful thought and consideration. I believe that decisions like using a straw vs. a sippy cup are largely a matter of preference and may not have any long-term affects on children.
However, my husband and I weighed the options, chose to use straws with my daughters, and just couldn't find the right cups for them, so we created the Lollacup.