A Better Way to Read to Children

by Mary Ann on January 22, 2015


I was listening to my daughter read Charlotte’s Web to her small children. Every few sentences she would stop and say something like “What does maneuver mean?” or  “What does loft mean?” or What does slop mean”? or  “What is a manure pile?”

downloadWhen the term manure pile came up again, later in the story, my daughter emphasized the term as she read. Then she asked, “Do you remember what manure pile means?” I heard, “Eweee, a pile of poop.” Then laughter.

In the story the cows were described as patient. Right now Jodie is working on helping her children learn to be patient. When she read that word she stopped and said, “Patient means to wait quietly till you get what you need.” Knowing looks from the kids.

At one point something happened that wasn’t right and one of the characters in the book said, “You’re going to catch it.” Jodie asked the kids what that phrase meant. They weren’t sure so she replied, “It means you are going to be in trouble.” Then she said, “You’re going to catch it Jack. You’re going to catch it Maggie. You’re going to catch it Mary.” Big smiles all around! Jack said in a loud, happy voice, “You’re going to catch it mom!”

“Do you know what asparagus is?”

A chorus of “No.”

“Well it’s like a great big piece of grass that people eat. It’s yummy. We could buy some, eat it and pretend that we are cows. Should we do it?” A chorus of yeses! “It sort of looks like a spear”, Jack said.

Next there was another conversation about slop. “If some people don’t like something they say it tastes like slop. But the better thing to say is, I don’t like this.” Then there was a conversation about manners.

Then a conversation about freedom ensued. The animals in the story were glad they weren’t tied up or penned in. Jodie said, “Isn’t it interesting that everyone wants a little freedom, to be able to choose what they want to do.” The kids had a lot to say about that! They all talked about freedom and choice and responsibility.

images (1)At one point in the story the goose was telling another animal to twist, turn, skip, slide and run. Jodie said, “She isn’t helping him. Why isn’t it helpful?” Jack replied, “She’s teaching him to run away. She is getting him in trouble.”

At one point in the story Jack said, “That part isn’t in the movie”. Then they had a discussion about why things in books aren’t always in the movie. They decided it was good to read the book first and get the whole story before seeing a movie about the book.

Let’s see, this took about 30 minutes. The ages of the children were 7, 5, and 3. They were totally engaged and involved. I think they got through one, maybe two chapters. It is going to take some time to get the whole book read. : )

Charlotte13What did they talk and learn about:

• The meanings to many words that were unfamiliar and that are important to understanding the story.
• They learned about some character traits such as patience and responsibility.
• They talked about freedom and why it is important and why people like it.
• They learned the meaning of a new phrase; you’re going to catch it.
• They planned the next family activity – to buy, cook and eat asparagus and be cows.
• They talked about manners and what to do if you are eating and you don’t like something.
• They talked about the difference in written stories and movies and why they might not be the same.

This is how to read a book to children. It is fun, it is interactive, it holds attention, it is learning at its best. Reading time as a family is not about getting through a book. It is about bonding, laughter, happy feelings and learning together.

Remember that adults are end product driven, for the most part, and kids are process driven. We want to read, move along at a reasonable pace and get it done, then on to the next book. Kids want to experience something while they are reading. They want to experience “family”.

What great book have you read with your family recently? Let me know. : )

P.S. Here is a great tutorial from Audrey Rindlisbacher at the Tenboom Institute on how to get children ages 10-12 to engage with you and the books they are reading. By the way, Audrey and Blaine are moving all their great book discussions, reading videos and book reviews to a new home. Visit them here.  The page name “Books You’ll Love” speaks more clearly to what they are all about, books you really will love!!

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IMG_0025 upThere was flour ALL over my kitchen floor!

Benny, my 2 year old grandson caught me cooking and he was desperate to help. I was making gingerbread men, a Christmas tradition and needed about 2000 of them. No, that is not an exaggerated number. Now when I am cooking by myself I can do that in no time because I have been making these men for about 50 years. But when you put a 2 year old20141212_150029 2 into the mix the whole equation changes!

He was standing on a stool by my side rolling, patting, cutting, eating, spilling, dropping flour, stacking Christmas packages (which are also on the counter, which is where our tree sits)…..and he was having a great time. I, on the other had, was feeling a bit fussed. I didn’t want his “help”. I just wanted to get the
job done. There it is…adults are end product driven while 2 year olds are process driven and he was really enjoying the process.

It would have been so easy to say, “Benny, grandma is busy. Run upstairs and I’ll let you know when I am done.” I have been known to do that and I was sorely tempted. But here is what I did instead. I watched him for a few minutes as I kneaded my ball of dough. I saw his sheer delight in doing something new. I observed as he “floured” the counter and the floor so his men wouldn’t stick. I listened to his laughter as he rearranged my utensil drawer. I watched him stack up the Christmas packages into a tower and then

IMG_0024 (1) upwatched as they came IMG_0027 uptumbling down. And guess what….my heart softened. I loved watching him. It was fun. He made the whole project worth while.

Right, it did take a lot longer. Yup, my floor was a disaster. Yes, I had to eventually re-do the utensil drawer. Uhuh, the packages had flour on them and the corners were a bit flattened. But we made a memory. He will remember and I, for sure, will remember.

The best gift we can give to our children is to let them be children, let them experience what is new, exciting and different and not fuss with them about it, to be Present with them and make them more important than the project. We and our time are the very best gifts. We can be Present, even when we are busy, if we will value children and the process more than the end product. In fact, when it comes to our children and grandchildren, the end product should always be relationship and memory!

IMG_0023 up

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blender flowersI came home last week and on the counter was my blender…filled with flowers. I loved the flowers but I couldn’t understand why they were in the blender!!

When we moved last time I really downsized. I kept only two vases. Right now one is filled with plants I am rooting. That left just the red one under the sink…too narrow of a neck for the flowers I found on my counter, in the blender.

I took a minute and stood in the middle of my living room and thought about what I might have that I could put this big, beautiful bouquet of flowers in. I mean, I couldn’t leave them in the blender. Right? Only a man would put flowers in the blender! Right?

I have a curio cupboard filled with stuff. Some things are antiques from long dead family members, some are just odds and ends picked up here and there. In the cupboard I discovered a beautiful clear, glass cookie jar. It was perfect for the flowers and the arrangement looked so nice.

Here is the thought that I had when the flowers were arranged in that beautiful, glass jar:glass vase flowers

“What’s wrong with Don? He could have found this jar just as easily as I did. Why in the heck did he put those flowers in the blender? Men!”

Now in my past life this is what would have happened when Don got home:

Hi Don. Thanks for the flowers. They are beautiful but why did you put them in the blender?”

“Well, I couldn’t find a big enough vase.”

“Honey, there was a glass jar right in the curio cupboard. You can see it as well as I can. You just have to look. Anyway, thank you for the flowers. I love them.”

Ladies, does this scenario sound familiar to you? I am sure it does. Here my man brought home flowers but he would have gone away feeling unappreciatedquotesunappreciated for his efforts and I, well, I would think that despite the fact that he brought home flowers, he was kind of lame for not putting them in something pretty, instead of the blender. In fact, I would have thought he was sort of lazy for not taking the time to find anything else.

Fortunately, I had time to think this through before Don got home and I am old enough to have been down this road many times in the past. I was looking for a new road! Here is what I realized. He wouldn’t have been free to use that glass jar even if he had seen it. Why? Because he wouldn’t have known if it was an antique or just stuff. If he had used it I might have come home and said, “Gee Don, why did you use that. It was Great Aunt May’s and it is worth a lot of money. Why do you think it was in the curio in the first place!” I’ll bet this sounds familiar to many men. They just can’t do it right.

I was telling this story to a friend the other day. She nodded her head and said, “Monty is always saying, “Can I do anything right for you? Anything?” Gee, Don has said that to me! It isn’t that they really can’t do anything right. It’s really about complaining because it isn’t done the way we think it should be done.

This is the bind that our husbands and our children find themselves in quite often. They do the best they can but it just doesn’t make the grade and we let them know it.

I propose that it is better, more often than not, to just accept what is offered without complaint or criticism.

For example:

  • Your husband bring flowers home, can’t find a vase, and so he puts them in the blender. Kiss him soundly and say, “Thank you so much sweetheart!”
  • Your 12 year old son does the dishes without complaint. When he is done you notice that he hasn’t swept the floor so you point it out. “Sigh”, this comes from the son. It would be better to give a quick hug, say thanks and acknowledge that the job was done with out complaint. Then, if you must,  at a much later time mention that when he does the dishes next time would he please sweep the floor.
  • Your husband helps the kids with their baths. There is a lot of laughing and good times going on. When they are done and in PJ’s and sittingimages on the couch you huff out of the bathroom because there is water all over the place and the towels are on the bedroom floor. You do one of two things – march into the living room, angry that you are again stuck with cleaning up, and loudly ask everyone to go clean up the floor and hang up their towels or you stay quiet and just put on your martyr face so that HE knows that you are upset. It would be better to join everyone in the living room, even if for only a few minutes. Give some quick hugs, thank your spouse for a job well done and then quietly wipe up the floor and hang up the towels. Later, in a day or two, if you must, you then ask him to wipe up the floor and have the kids hang up the towels next time, please, with a smile.
  • Your five year old sets the table for dinner. He forgets the napkins and two plates don’t have forks. He comes to you beaming from ear to ear and lets you know he has done the job. You point out that there are no napkins and forks are missing. Job gets finished, smile gone. It might be better to give the five year old a big hug and ask him if he wants to learn how to fold napkins in a really cool, new way. Sure he does. You show him how, help him do it and now there are napkins on the table. You quietly put on the two missing forks. Later you have a Family Learning Time and everyone practices setting the table.

There are three things I am pointing out here:

  • Sometimes it is wise to just accept the job as is and be grateful. No complaining!
  • Timing in teaching is everything. We all want to feel valued for what we do even if it isn’t perfect.
  • Even though we want our family to do their best, their best isn’t always going to be our idea of “best”.

I have two goals for 2015. One is a carry over from 2014 – stop complaining. The second is the other half of the first, be kinder. Let’s all complain less and be kinder in 2015. I think we will like the results.

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Why New Years Resolutions Work Poorly

Mary Ann Johnson

Mary Ann Johnson

I have been thinking about New Years Resolutions. New Years resolutions are a sure fire way to not changing, for many reasons. You can read what I have learned about making and keeping New Years Resolutions right here. Trust me, this is worth reading! ; )

The Correct Goal is More Important than Many Goals

In 2013, about three months before the New Year, I began contemplating my one BIG goal for 2014. I did a lot of “knee time” to get a handle on the one thing that would help me the most in the New Year, my perfect 1%. I was shocked by what finally came to me but it has proven to be a game changer in my life. Stop complaining. It is still a work in progress and I am keeping it again for 2015. You can read all about that perfect 1% here.

In the fall of this year, 2014, I decided that I wanted to focus on a spiritual goal for the year 2015. I wanted something that would increase my personal relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ and that would give me courage and direction for what I need to do in 2015. I gave it a great deal of thought.

Then in late September I read a small article, meant for youth, about how to have more effective prayer. There wasn’t anything new in it, after all I have been praying and learning about prayer for over 60 years. However, the difference was that I was in a place where I was ready to take my own prayers up a notch. I was ready to “do” something new.

How to Have More Effective Prayers

The article said to make a list before you pray. Yup, actually write stuff down before you pray. Yes, I open my eyes and look at the list as I pray so I don’t forget anything important. This is what the list looks like:

• What I am grateful for this morning
• Thoughts and actions that I need to repent from
• People I should pray for
• My own concerns and desires

This idea sunk deep into my heart and I determined that I would do this every morning. I have prayers at night too but I am usually tired so I do this for my morning prayer.

• The first thing I noticed was that it took some time to ponder and get input from the Spirit as I made this list.
• The second thing I noticed was that the depth of my prayer and the time it took changed. The Spirit is much stronger, I am moved more often and my prayers have gone from a few minutes to…well sometimes, pretty lengthy. I have gone from talking “to” God to talking “with” God. It has become more of a conversation. I talk, I listen, I feel and then He talks to me.
• What I mean by that is the third thing that I have noticed. I get impressions of things that I need to do during the day. Sometimes it is for me, concerning the desires or problems that I have. Sometimes it is something that I need to do or say to someone I prayed for. Now I always have a notebook and pen when I pray so that I can capture my thoughts and then follow through as quickly as possible. The minute the impression comes I write it down, yes, right in the middle of the prayer. : )

The Results of More Effective Prayer

The whole process takes more time. I have had to get up a bit earlier. But the results have been quite remarkable. Here is what I have experienced:Prayer

• I have more peace even when a day gets out of my control
• I have so many more impressions for my own life that make the day flow well. Turn here, don’t do that, why not do this, try this….and on and on. It has been very remarkable. I think what has actually changed is my ability to hear. I have probably always had this many impressions to help me in my day but I haven’t heard them. Now the time I spend in reflection and prayer in the morning seems to have opened my “spiritual” ears.
• As I follow these impressions my day goes better. My results are increased. I feel supported and, frankly, deeply loved.

I hope that there is something here that will sink deeply into your heart and that you will move into the New Year with something to “do” that will change your life. I love you all very much.

Mary Ann

PS If you have a terrific plan for the new year, if you have a spiritual goal or a kindness goal, or any goal for that matter, why not share it with us so that we can all be edified and grow together.

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