Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quick Tips: Getting Your Preteen or Teen to Read

Normally when I post quick tips, I've included the author's bio and picture. But these are my tips. If you're new to my blog, you may not know that much about me, so I'll include my brief author bio:

Kathy Cassel, M.Ed., lives with her husband, four of their eight children, and an assortment of pets in the Florida panhandle. Kathy is the author of thirteen books including: The Middle School Survival Manual (Concordia Publishing House, 2010), The Christian Girl's Guide to Being Your Best, The Christian Girl's Guide to the Bible, The Christian Girls Guide to Me: The Quiz Book, Just for Me: The Bible,  Just for Me: Friends, Just for Me: My Family (Legacy Press), One Year Devotions for Girls Starring Women of the Bible  (Tyndale, 2011), The One Year Book of Bible Trivia for Kids  (Tyndale, 2013), Promises for God's Princesses (Tyndale 2014). 

Quick Tips: Getting Your Preteen or Teen to Read

Reading benefits everyone, but preteen and teen boys, even the ones who were avid readers in elementary school, are among the most reluctant readers. Getting them to read takes time, creativity and personal involvement.

  • Read aloud to all your children no matter their ages. Let the most reluctant reader choose the book or a book on CD. Read or listen to a chapter a day at dinnertime or bedtime. Or, draw your child into a book by reading an exciting portion of a book to your child and then hand it to him to read on his own.
  • Explore different genres of books with your child—biographies (especially of sports heroes), fantasy, science fiction, suspense, realistic fiction, science and technology and so on. Find out what he wants to read.
  • Find a way to tie the books to the real world. Use family vacations to visit the setting of a book. Look for movies based on the book and compare the book with the movie.

Some of the book/movie combinations we've done are:
Harry Potter
Hunger Games--reviews HERE and HERE
The Fault in Our Stars (parental guidance for sure! I will be reviewing on my teen blog soon)
City of Ember (will be reviewing soon)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Voyage of the Dawn Treader

You can check out my post about favorite teen novels HERE (These are all secular and not my personal list.)
What book/movie combinations have you read/seen and which did you like better--the book or the movie? Does it make a difference if you've read the book before seeing the movie or after?

What is your preteen/teen's favorite book?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Be Involved at Your Child's School

What's the biggest factor in your child's school success?

You are!

     It's important to be involved in your child's school. Whether you have an hour a week or just an hour a month to spare, the time you give will not only help the school or teacher, but it tells your child that his or her education is important to you.
     Children whose parents take the time to be involved usually do better at school. They work harder because they sense it's important to their parents. Also Mom or Dad has a  better idea how to help with studying and homework because they're familiar with the classroom, the teacher, and what's being taught. Being in the school also allows parents to have an influence on students other than their own children, instill values, and speak to school personnel about troubling issues.
     Whether you are at home or work outside the home, there are ways you can help. Here are some ideas to get you started:
     1.  Xerox tests and worksheets. This frees the teachers and office staff for more important jobs.
     2.  Staple together papers that go home with the students. Stapling 25 sets of papers per class can take up a lot of valuable time.
     3.  Stock the teacher's boxes with memos, flyers to go home with their students, and other papers they need.
     4.  Offer to decorate the front hallway. You can put up seasonal displays, and information about school events, Red Ribbon Week, D.A.R.E., and sports events. You could also ask teachers for student work to display.
     5.  Take photos of school events, field trips, and life around the school. Put together a bulletin board displaying those. Students will enjoy seeing themselves.
     6. Take charge of the soup labels and box tops for education. Cutting and counting those is an overwhelming job for an overly busy teacher or office staff member. If your school doesn't take part in these programs, get the information and present it at a PTO meeting.

     7.  Take part in fundraisers. Help count money, tally orders, and figure out prizes.
     8. Organize a school clean up day to pick up trash, repair or paint playground equipment, fix up the grounds, weed and mulch outside garden beds, and make minor repairs to the classrooms.
     9.  Take your talents into the classroom. If you can draw, offer to teach a weekly or monthly lesson to your child's class. If you're a writer, hold an in-class seminar or talk about your work. If you're a computer whiz, take your computer into your child's classroom and teach them or offer to teach computer lab once a month. You could also design a school or class webpage. If you're a carpenter, build a small stage or treehouse for your child's classroom.
    10.  At the middle school or high school level, offer to hold an enrichment class in your area of expertise before school, during lunch hour, or after school.
    11.   Host a teacher luncheon once a grading period. Send home notices with students asking them to send in food on a certain day. If that's too much, have a donut or muffin day for the teachers and staff.

     12.   Help with lunchroom or playground duty. This is a good way to get to know the students, meet your children's friends, and have an impact on many children at one time. A smiling face and friendly attitude will draw them to you.
    13.  Organize a pen pal program. Do you have nieces or nephews in another town or state? Pair off students in that classroom with students in your child's classroom. Letters could be written once a month and sent to the school to be distributed to each student.
    14.  Grade tests or check homework assignments for a teacher so they can spend their time with the students.
    15.  Tutor a student who is struggling. This will help the student improve and free the teacher from trying to work with a child who can't stay up with the class.
    16.  Read to the students. Dress up like a character in the book, give background information on the author, and make the book come alive for the students. It'll encourage them to read it again later on their own. Consider doing hands-on activities such as reading "Stone Soup" and having the each child in the classroom bring in vegetable to add to your own stone soup. Cook it in crockpots during the day to be shared at the end of the day as a follow-up activity.

    17.  Cut out and paste together projects for a teacher. Getting projects ready for the younger grades can be very time consuming.
    18. Find out what special supplies teachers will need during the year such as baby food jars, plastic butter tubs, strawberry cartons and so on. Make up a notice and send it home with students asking parents to save and send in those supplies. Organize them until they're needed.
    19.  Call the local paper about special events taking place so that they can send a photographer and represent your school in the newspaper.
    20. Support the teachers and send them notes of encouragement. Everyone needs a boost once in a while!

What ways have you been involved at your child's school?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Quick Tips: Beating the Winter Blues

Life Coach and International Speaker Anita Agers-Brooks is the author of many books including Getting Through What You Can't Get Over -- Barbour Publishing and First Hired, Last Fired -- How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market -- Leafwood Publishers. Here are her insights on beating the winter blues. 

Beating the Winter Blues

You can get through things you’ll never get over, even during the most depressing month of the year. In January, when Christmas bills are flooding in, when cold and flu season peaks, when the sun hides behind dingy clouds, when cabin fever makes you want to escape, depression runs high. This year, refuse to let the winter blues beat you down.

Here are some things to try. 

  • Set one tiny goal, and accomplish it. 
  • Write your gratitude down. 
  • Schedule one thing you can look forward to within the next 30 days.
  • Eat natural anti-depressants: cashews, walnuts, bananas, green chile, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit, tomatoes, Chia seeds, and omega-3 rich fish. 
  • Go to bed at a proper hour. 
  • Get moving.
  • Read the Bible daily.
  • Meditate on one scripture.
  • Give God fifteen minutes of focused prayer.

You can connect with Anita on her website
or her author page

Have you battled the winter blues or depression? What helped you? Please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quick Tips: Keeping Your Mind Sharp

Today's Quick tips are from author and speaker Jennifer AlLee.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp
We’ve all been told how important it is to exercise our bodies. Did you know it’s just as important to exercise your brain? Here are some ways to keep it limber and running smoothly:
· Do Puzzles. Crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, Sodoku and the like are great ways to keep your brain working.
· Learn Something New.  Whether you take a night class at the local community college, or use an instructional program at home, learning a new skill requires you to think in ways you normally wouldn’t.
· Interact with People in Real Life. Using social media, email, and texts to keep up with friends and family is fine, but don’t neglect face-to-face get-togethers. Having a conversation with someone in the same room requires concentration and focus. Give your brain a break from multi-tasking.

Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and spent the first ten years of her life living over a mortuary one block away from Hollywood and Vine. An avid reader and writer, she completed her first novel in high school. That manuscript is now safely tucked away, never to see the light of day again.
Her first novel, “The Love of His Brother,” was published by Five Star in November 2007. She has had several more books published since then including her newest:

Jennifer resides in southern Nevada with her husband and teenage son. To learn more visit

Jennifer shares this story about herself :  My first brush with fame came the day I was born in Hollywood, California, and my basinet neighbor in the hospital nursery happened to be Michael Landon, Jr. When she should have been looking at me, my Aunt Karen instead gaped at the man beside her and nearly passed out when she found she was standing next to Michael Landon, Sr. at the nursery window. And so, my connection with the entertainment industry had begun.

Please leave Jennifer a note or question in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Favorite Picture Books Old and New

I read to my kids. I've read to them since they day they entered our home (some from the hospital, some from Haiti, one from DesMoines). Even though the youngest three are 14, 10 and 10, I still read picture books to them. We read over 100 last summer. Some of them aren't yet on this list.

This week I read to my granddaughter for the first time! She fell asleep, but that's okay. We'll have lots more reading time.

There are some series where all the books could be listed, but I don't want to do that. So here's what I came up with. There are actually 110 books on the list. I have probably forgot some, so if  your favorites aren't on the list, please let me know in the comments section.

I only have pictures for a few of them because it takes time to add the pictures.

These are in no particular order.
1. Blueberries for Sal, McCloskey 

2. Make Way for Ducklings, McCloskey

3. The Little Engine that Could, Piper

4. Goodnight Moon, Brown

5. The Runaway Bunny, Brown

6. Paddington Bear, Bond 

7. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Burton

8. Madeline, Bemelman

9. Corduroy, Freeman

10. Millions of Cats, Gag

11. Caps for Sale, Slobodkina

12. Harold and the Purple Crayon, Johnson

13. The Snowy Day, Keats 

14. Green Eggs and Ham, Seuss

15. The Cat in the Hat, Seuss

16. Horton Hears a Who, Seuss

17. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Martin

18. Very Hungry Caterpillar, Carle

19. Ten, Nine, Eight, Bang

20. The Polar Express, Van Allsbury

21. Where Wild Things Are, Sendack

22. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Viorst

23. Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, Archambault

24. Amazing Grace, Hoffman

25. Are You My Mother, Eastman

26. Clifford the Big, Red Dog, Bridwell

27. Don't Forget the Bacon, Hutchins

28. The Doorbell Rang, Hutchins

29. Better Not Get Wet Jesse Bear, Carlstrom

30. One Morning in Maine, McCloskey

31. Just Grandpa and Me (Little Critter), Mayer

32. Saint George and the Dragon, Hodges

33. Berenstain Bear and the New Baby, Berenstain

34. Time of Wonder, McCloskey

35. In the Night Kitchen, Sendak

36 The Berenstain Bears:The Spooky Old Tree, Berenstain

37. Winnie the Pooh: The Blustery Day, Slater

38. Just Like Daddy, Asch

39. Raggedy Ann and Andy's Grow and Learn Library

40. Pretzels by the Dozen, Hunt

41. Three Trees, Hunt

42. I Like Me, Carlstrom

43. The Crippled Lamb, Lucado

44. Abby, Caines

45. Just in Case You Ever Wonder, Lucado

46. Mop Top, Freeman

47. A Country Far Away, Gray

48. Golden Bear, Young

49. Humpy, Grumpy Camel, Tangvald

50. The Best Thing About Christmas, Tangvald

51. Mama Do You Love Me? Joosse

52. The Gingerbread Man, Aylesworth

53. The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Lawrence

54. Jambo Means Hello, Feelings

55. The Boy with a Drum, Wilken

56. Jamaica Tag Along, Havil

57. Will You Be My Pet, Tusan

58. Fiddle I Fee, Sweet

59. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Willems

60. While You Were Sleeping, Butler

61. Pokey Little Puppy, Lowrey

62. I Love You This Much, Hodges

63. The Elf and the Shoemaker, Grimm

64. Where's Spot, Hill

65. Goodnight Gorilla, Rathmann

66. George Washington's Cows, Small

67. Sheep in a Jeep, Shaw

68. Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and the Yellow Sled, Lindmann

69. Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and the Strawberries, Lindman

70. A Chair for My Mother, Williams

71. Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type, Cronin

72. Curious George, Rey--I am split on these. Engaging story but to me it teaches that it's okay to disobey as long as good comes out of it

73. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Numeroff

74. Grandfather's Journey, Say

75. Little House picture books, Ingalls Wilder

76. Ira Sleeps Over, Waber

77. Harry the Dirty Dog, Zion

78. On the Night You were Born, Tillman

79. A Child's Garden of Verses, Stevenson

80. Leo the Late Bloomer, Kraus

81. Sail Away, Crews

82. The Monster at the End of the Book, Stone

83. Amelia Bedelia, Parish

84. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Barrett

85. Richard Scarry's Cars and Truck and Things that Go

86. Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy Town

87. A Tree is Nice, Udry

88. The Giving Tree, Silverstein

89. Good Night Baby Bear, Asca

90. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Waber

91. Trucks, Crews

92. One Fish, Two Fish, Seuss

93. The Story of Ferdinand, Leaf

94. Stone Soup, Brown

95. Miss Nelson is Missing, Marshall

96. An Amish Christmas (and several others), Ammon

97.Olivia, Falconer

98. Frog and Toad are Friends, Lobel

99. The Little House, Burton

100. The Relatives Come, Rylant

101. Drummer Hoff, Emberley

102. Many Moons, Thurber

103. The Biggest Bear, Ward

104. Song and Dance Man, Ackerman

105. White Snow, Bright Snow, Tresselt

106. Hey Al, Yorenks

107. The Big Snow, Hader

108.Finders, Keepers, Lipkind

109. God Gave Us You, Bergen

110. Let Me Hold You Longer, Kingsbury

What have I forgotten? Which of these are your favorites? Please leave me a comment.

This was one of my baby gifts to my daughter.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

Verse for 2016

For the past three years, I've chosen a verse for our family.

In 2013 I was thinking about Jesus's words in John 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

I used those words in a "discussion" with someone who took verses out of context to say you believe in any God you want because everyone's path is different. I "argued" that every path had to lead to the foot of the cross. And I used John 14:6 because those are Jesus' own words. (NKJV)

Shortly after that I went into the Christian bookstore, and they had that verse on a sweatshirt that happened to be on sale. I bought one for both Jasmine and myself.

So I claimed that as my verse for the rest of that year and the next.

Last year I chose Matthew 5:16-18
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (NKJV)

I thought of this because every year on either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, we light sparklers and talk about how Jesus is the light of the world.

This year friends joined us.
As the kids left for school, I would tell them, go glow in the dark.

Ty made this out of glo sticks.

This is our verse for 2016:
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (KJV)

Do you have a verse for 2016? If not, why not chose one?