Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Parade of Patriotic Reading Activities & Games

We are fast approaching the 4th of July Weekend and with it the unofficial milestone of mid-summer, too. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were enjoying the season's first barbecue over the Memorial Day Weekend? Time marches on, as they say! Before we know it, Labor Day will be looming, and children will be returning to school. For now, though, let's enjoy the summer, right?

Yes, we can all definitely manage to have fun in the sun this 4th of July, but at the same time, keep the kids far from the summer slide with an array of enjoyable reading activities and games having a patriotic flare. This week, we have collected a group of these resources to keep kids reading, thinking and learning all weekend long---and beyond. That way, long after the holiday weekend is history, your children (or grandchildren) will be skipping around the summer slide and well on their way to gearing up for the coming school year while still having fun this July 4th.

Remember to KEEP them reading and learning ALL summer long! Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July with your family!

Patriotic Reading Activities & Games

4th of July Activities and Games for Kids---(for K-8) from
Popular list of direct links to patriotic activities and resources specifically for July 4th

Patriotic Activities for Kids---(for K-5) from
Various patriotic activities for younger children

U.S.A. Patriotism Theme Unit---(for K-8) from
Patriotic-themed printables, worksheets and activities

Patriotic and 4th of July Worksheets and Printables---(for K-5) from
Patriotic worksheets, printables & reading comprehension activities

Best Crafts for Kids Patriotic---(for K-8-all FREE)
Collection of Android APPS for children with various patriotic offerings: crafts, songs, poems and more!

Just for Fun---and Creativity!

Fireworks Arcade---(for ALL ages-FREE) by Big Duck Games, LLC
Versions compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Android
Fireworks Arcade is a fun-filled APP for all ages, and a showcase app for multi-touch and graphics. Tap or drag to create brilliant displays of light and sound. Compete or relax in one of several game modes. Paint art with firework shapes. Or just watch a generated show. How you play is up to you, so get creative.
For iPhone and iPad:
For Android:

For more information on customizable reading tools for dyslexia, better focus & attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dyslexia's Strengths, Talents & Gifts

Very often, parents hear only what is negative about their children who struggle to read. At parent/teacher conferences, educators may quickly broach the topic of reading difficulties for a particular child, enumerating a list of challenges that must be addressed. Much less frequently, the discussion will mention the strengths of these children who are struggling readers, especially when these readers have dyslexia.

Did you know that many children and adults with dyslexia have specific strengths and talents? Yes, they do, and we hope to enumerate those here in our blog this week. We also hope that teachers and parents will take a long look at this list and begin recognizing these gifts and special abilities of some of the challenged readers they know and care about in their classrooms and families. If they do, those who struggle to read will improve self-esteem and realize in themselves that they have much more to offer our world than others might think.

The Strengths, Talents and Gifts of Dyslexia

Children and adults with DYSLEXIA are often:


In addition, persons with DYSLEXIA frequently possess these strengths:

-Have the ability to see the "big picture" with projects, ideas, etc.
-Possess strong, problem-solving skills
-Have excellent, critical thinking and reasoning skills
-Can think in fully-interactive, 3-dimensional environments
-Demonstrate lateral thinking
-Conceive objects from every possible angle
-Are capable of short periods of high focus
-Are acutely aware of surroundings
-Often inclined to think "outside the box"
-Can see patterns, connections and similarities that others cannot

Do any of these strengths look familiar as you think about your child or student with dyslexia? If not, please take another look. If you see several items that apply to a child you know, help him to channel that strength or further develop those talents. If you do, you will help him move in the direction of improving his self-esteem AND his chances of becoming a reader less challenged.

Sources & Resources:

10 Little-known Advantages of Dyslexia by Marianne Sunderland
This article from the Abundant Life blog lists some of the special talents and abilities of those with dyslexia. Also, a list of careers or vocations that work well for persons with dyslexia is provided.

strengths of dyslexia by Aidan Fitzpatrick
Basic list of strengths for persons with dyslexia

For more information on customizable reading tools for dyslexia, better focus & attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Helpful Learning Activities for Children with Down Syndrome

If you have a son or daughter with Down Syndrome, you know that your experience with parenthood is quite different from that of other parents. You also know that with each day that passes, you experience the sweet love of a child who is so special and most precious. You have found that this child has enriched your life in ways that you could never have imagined.

At the same time, did you also know that early intervention programs that integrate special education with speech and physical therapy have been shown to boost the developmental potential of children with Down syndrome? Even though the skills and abilities of children with Down syndrome may vary greatly, many grow up to live independently or in supportive, group environments. It is also very possible for them to successfully hold jobs, especially when they are provided with the appropriate training and assistance.

For many children with Down Syndrome, education begins in mainstream schools. However, some parents choose special schools or schools that have programs tailored for their children. As the parent of a child with Down syndrome, you can be proactive to ensure that your child gets the support and education he needs---AND to which he is legally entitled.

The Need for Gross Motor & Sensory Activities

For all children, the development of gross motor activities is very important. However, these activities are even more critical for children with Down Syndrome. Children with this diagnosis are usually born with very low muscle tone, which means they will need to work considerably harder to develop their muscles. Because of this, children with Down Syndrome may often experience sensory issues as well. As a parent, you can help promote the development of better muscle tone through the use of specific gross motor activities. You can also positively impact the sensory processing issues with appropriate activities as well.

Help for Visual & Auditory Challenges

Children with Down Syndrome often lag behind their peers at every age regarding visual acuity. In addition, focus is usually quite poor, as they tend to under-accommodate by quite a large amount, whatever the distance of the target. This means that close work, especially in school, must be more difficult for these children because much of what they attempt to read or work is out-of-focus. Once again, parents can help with some of these struggles with the right activities, tools and guidance.

Orofacial development as well as craniofacial development associated with Down's syndrome can often contribute to inner, middle and outer ear problems. These issues might manifest themselves in the following ways: the adenoids may be large and/or the nasopharynx may be small; swallowing may be impaired and/or the Eustachian tube itself is very narrow and more horizontal than usual.

Children and adults with Down Syndrome may often have difficulty processing speech (especially with peripheral noise) and in locating the source of a sound. A mild hearing loss will make these tasks even more difficult. Persons with Down Syndrome do not usually complain of a hearing difficulty. Therefore, it is very important for hearing loss and middle ear disease to be detected with proper testing and evaluation so that remedial action is not delayed. At the same time, it is possible to help promote better auditory development by introducing some appropriate activities here, particularly with children.

This week's article is dedicated to the children (and their committed parents!) who are challenged daily with the learning struggles of Down Syndrome. We have gathered here many resources and activities to help with the unique needs of children with Down Syndrome. We hope they will benefit a special child you love---AND you!

Helpful Learning Activities for Children with Down Syndrome

12 of Our Best Gross Motor Activities from the We Can Do All Things blog
A good list of gross motor activities for Down Syndrome with links.

Let's Talk Learning. by Megan Landmeier, My Stubborn Miss blog
Article (and blog) written by the mother of child with Down Syndrome. She presents gross and fine motor activities together with matching, counting and even foreign language!

12 Booster Activities for Kids With Down Syndrome by Vicki Vila & Parents Magazine
Learning activities to help your child with cognitive and educational development.

PT & OT for Children with Down Syndrome by Stephanie Seguin, Chasing Hazel blog
Physical and occupational activities to do with children who have Down Syndrome. )

Your Child Has Down Syndrome by Els Rengenhart &
Children with Down Syndrome often suffer from sensory processing disorder as well. The activities here may be helpful for poor muscle tone and sensory issues.

Internet: Working With Children With Down Syndrome by Judith Maginnis Kuster & The ASHA Leader
Language and phonology activities as well as feeding and swallowing resources and information for parents of children with Down Syndrome.

Playing to Their Strengths: Teaching Children with Down Syndrome by Vicki Vila & the Thoroughly Modern Messy blog
Article (and blog) written by the mother of a child with Down Syndrome.

Other Resources and Sources for Information about Down Syndrome

Parenting a Child with Down Syndrome from WebMD
Reliable information about the signs and symptoms of a child with Down Syndrome.

Activities for Down Syndrome (Pinterest Board) via
A large collection of activities and resources for families of children with Down Syndrome.

Eye and Vision Problems in Children with Down's Syndrome by J. Margaret Woodhouse &
General information about vision issues of children with Down Syndrome (from the UK).

Hearing Impairment & Down's Syndrome by Susan Snashall &
General information about hearing issues of children with Down Syndrome (from the UK).

For more information on customizable reading tools for better focus & improved attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Our Journey at and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Motivate Teen Boys to Read

With Resources to Help Parents & Teachers
(Updated December 2014)
It's no secret that not all children like to read. However, when you add teen boys to the mix, reading can often be at the bottom of the list of "fun things to do" (or NOT on the list at all!), especially when other activities compete for their attention.

We are well into the throes of summer now that June has arrived, a particularly good time to spend a few hours reading for pleasure under a cool, shade tree in the backyard. However, how many teen boys do you know who would rather read indoors or out in the middle of the summer than do something else? Sadly, you are not alone if you do not know even one such reader. So, what is it that keeps boys from wanting to read today?

1. So Many Activities!

Most teenage boys are involved in many activities that can keep them more than a little busy (and their parents with them!) Their attention is drawn to organized sports, scouting, social activities and more. Of course, we can't forget their schoolwork, either. So, their time is indeed spoken for throughout each week and on weekends, too.

To be honest, there are some parents who over-book their children's free time, enrolling them in structured programs every night of the week AND throughout the weekend, too. There is sometimes a tendency to over-structure a teen's leisure time to prevent idleness and boredom. This can be especially true during the summer months when mothers and fathers are at work. There are many situations where parents literally "camp" their teens to the extreme, using such activities as supervision for their children during the summer vacation period---not always a good idea! In addition, these arrangements can offer very little time to read for pleasure!

2. Reading = Homework (NOT Fun!)

Boys often connect reading with assignments and homework. It is difficult for some boys, especially those who prefer physical activity and movement, to even think about sitting and reading for an extended period or as something to be enjoyed. Many teen boys only read in school. When the school day ends, so does their reading, and the after-school pastime of choice is very often the TV or a favorite video game.

3. Unworthy Selections

Many book titles for teens explore topics more interesting to girls than to boys. Teen romances are prevalent, but these are the last thing that would be interesting to boys. Boys need books about characters and topics that truly appeal to them.

4. "Readers Are Dorks & Nerds!"

It's really a shame, but in our culture, boys very often perceive reading as "nerdy" or something only a "brain-iac" would do. Reading is not usually seen as a "macho" or manly way to spend one's leisure time, particularly if you are a teenage boy.

5. Some Are Actually Struggling Readers

This will not be good news to many parents, but it is a fact that many children cannot read or struggle significantly to read. It is a sad statistic that 1 in 5 school-aged children (20% of those from ages 5 to 18) in the U.S. is challenged with a language-based reading difference. Too many of these children are boys--even teen boys who struggle to focus, track, comprehend and retain what is read.

Solutions to MOTIVATE Your Teen Boy

So what is a parent to do to encourage a teen son to read, particularly during the summer months to help prevent the loss of learning and developed reading skills?

1. Plan for Good Reading Time

As a parent or grandparent, refrain from over-structuring your teen's schedule. Even though your teen son or grandson may want to participate in back-to-back activities each week, arrange or allow for some genuine "down" time where he can relax, recharge and re-create himself in some quiet or in a peaceful corner. These are times that will be more conducive for him to read for pleasure or by choice.

2. Reading CAN Be FUN!

A trip to the local lending library with your teen son is a great activity, whether it is over the summer or during the school year. However, during the time offered by the summer break, he might actually enjoy leisurely searching and discovering books AND magazines that interest him. Yes, magazines serve up smaller "bites" of reading that can be more approachable and more readily "digested" by a teen boy. Consider publications such as Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated for Kids, ESPN, Teen Ink or others that might appeal to your son's interests. If you have a truly reluctant reader, you might suggest an age-appropriate graphic novel or even a comic book of interest to encourage him to read.

3. Teen Boys' Favorite Topics & Selections

Speaking of interests, it is important to keep in mind that the genres or types of books that parents like may not appeal to their teen sons. In fact, many parents and even some teachers often think that since they themselves enjoy fictional or novels, their teen children and students automatically like fiction. This is actually not the case. As a matter of fact, there are many teen boys who much prefer non-fictional or informational reading than fiction.

So, if you have a reluctant teen reader, it might be a very good idea to help introduce him to non-fiction in an area of his interest. Many teen boys enjoy reading about nanotechnology, computer software being developed, programming or coding, and these are just topics in the realm of technology. If you have an young athlete, help him locate biographies about sports figures such as Yogi Berra (Did you know this baseball hero was an active participate in the D-Day operations of 1944?), Stan Musial, Lynn Swann, Jesse Owens or another interesting athlete in a favorite sport.

4. A Comfortable, Favorite Place to Read

Although traditionally teen boys may think that reading is "dorky" of less than fun, provide your son with a quiet and comfortable are of your home when he might retreat, rest and read in peace---away from the TV or the seemingly ever-present video games. He will see this spot as a SAFE area where no one can joke, jest or make fun of the reading he would like to do. Provide comfortable seating that might also include a desk and cushioned chair. Appropriate lighting will also be important. This might be provided by a window with window coverings that are adjustable for heat and light or lamps with 3-way bulbs.

5. Provide Real Help for What Could Be a Struggling Reader

Always keep in mind that a reluctant or resistant reader may be a struggling reader. How will you know for certain? By the time a boy is in his teen years and not interested in reading at all, it is important to consider professional evaluation. Yes, it is very possible that his school has not noticed nor addressed a serious reading challenge that he has faced, and he may not be able to articulate what his reading experience is really like. The summer is an excellent time for such an evaluation.

First, you might consider scheduling a visit for your child to to see his pediatrician to rule out any physical issues causing an unknown reading challenge. Then, the next medical professional to visit should be a developmental optometrist (not a regular ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician). This particular specialist can evaluate for vision-related and many language-based learning differences (i.e. dyslexia, convergence insufficiency, etc.) Not all schools can (in fact most schools cannot) evaluate for some of these learning issues. Ask your child's pediatrician for such a referral or visit the website of the College of Optometrists and Vision Development at to locate such a medical professional in your area.

There may be a very good reason why your teen son is a reluctant reader. Find out over this summer vacation time, and he will be much better prepared for the coming school year!

Reading Resources for Teen Boys

A web-based literacy program for boys founded by author and First National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka. Our mission is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.
Our mission is to transform boys into lifelong readers. We are an organization of parents, educators, librarians, mentors, authors, and booksellers.

7 Great Books for Reluctant Readers in Middle School---by Elizabeth Babbin &
Getting middle-schoolers to read can be difficult unless you find titles they can relate to as they struggle to sort out who they really are. These books have the power to engage reluctant readers and keep them interested.

Top 12 Young Adult Books for Reluctant Readers---by Jessica Piper (from

Book lists of all types of fiction books for teens (for both boys and girls)

College of Optometrists and Vision Development
Locate a developmental optometrist in your area with the "Locate a Doctor" tool on this website. This medical professional can test, evaluate, diagnose and provide various treatment options for vision-related and some language-based reading challenges.


Motivating Teenage Boys to Read---by Kristen Bevilacqua

Teenagers and Reading---from RIF (Reading Is Fundamental)

For more information on customizable reading tools for better focus & improved attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at