Great beginning chapter books for girly girls!

>> Monday, October 03, 2011

Lately I have had several people ask me about Maren's reading skills. She loves to read and keep up with what is cool with her peers. So, she'll check out the iCarly and Justin Bieber books, not to mention Fly Guy and Captain Underpants. She'll even come home with Babysitter Club books. And, I'm THRILLED because she can read them all!

Now, the more difficult chapter books she cannot read from start to finish. We co-read them; that is, she'll read a page, and then I'll read a few pages. I have watched her phonics skills grow by leaps and bounds when she is reading the "cool" books. But, when it comes to her Accelerated Reader tests, she has some problems with the longer books. The AR tests often have inferential questions that she will miss, or ask for details that didn't stick with her as important. So, we try to choose books she can do well on for her AR tests. Her higher scores boost her confidence and keep her motivated to read a variety of material. Sometimes, that means she is test on easy, easy books (like 10 page books about Frogs, or Police Officers).

So, what easy chapter books make for good reads for Maren -- ones that she wants to and can read independently, yet retain enough to take AR tests on and pass (fingers crossed)?! Well, to begin, the Mercy Watson series is fantastic. The stories are funny and the details are presented in memorable ways (like Mercy the pig loves buttered toast!). The stories are ones she can tackle all on her own and take the test with confidence. The stories keep her grinning from ear to ear. Kate DiCamillo, the author, has a few other wonderful chapter books that an early chapter book reader can tackle with confidence, like Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa stories. These stories are charming, and like Mercy Watson, don't overwhelm Maren with Details. Bink and Gollie have been great because they push her inferential skills just a bit further than they are because the books often require inferential leaps and an understanding of basic irony.

Of course, Kate DiCamillo isn't the only author of good entry-level, girl-oriented chapter books. Maren has also adored Amelia Bedelia, a little girl who takes everything literally! Again, these books have helped build Maren's inferential skills as she realizes the humor in how Amelia responds to the world! Oh, and Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows wonderfully engaging best friends who have a fabulous fashion sense! So, if your child isn't enthralled by Frog and Toad, and Mr. Putter and Tabby, or even the Magic Treehouse or Schoolbus, keep looking. There are some great girl reads ready to motivate your girl! Now, Maren is loving Judy Moody and with a little help, she can make it all the way through in a few days! She can tell me all about the book and the big details, but AR tests? Not ready for those yet!

Do you have favorite books for your child? Chapter books, read-alouds, co-readers? Easy readers? Challenging readers? Let's share!


The power of persuasive appeals: lessons from a 10 year master manipulator

>> Sunday, October 02, 2011

Little Miss Magic has always gotten what she wants. Truth be told, she rarely hears the word "no." Part of that is that she is the middle child and only girl, and the other part is that she is just so darned cute and funny! We hate saying "no," and when we do, she puts on the saddest face you have ever seen...and her tears are so genuine, until a few seconds later when she hears "Yes," and starts to giggle. Then, I realize I have been taken for the 9000th time! Here's the face that breaks my heart! Photobucket

Lately, she's gotten a bit snotty and has begun rubbing manipulation skills into her brothers face with the standard, "Ha, I got x and you didn't." When we have caught her, we have realized that she is getting obnoxious -- but in such a cute way ;-). Regardless, we have decided to try "no," and "wait," just a little more often, even if it hurts me more than her. She's gotten the hint, and is learning her tears don't always work.

Well, she wants her room painted a pale purpleish blue. We bought paint at Sherwin Williams 40% off sale two weeks ago. Oh, is she getting impatient!!!! But, after asking and sobbing, and realizing that "when we get time," means "your tears don't work," she wised-up and stopped the daily pestering.

This morning, she walked into our room in full Little Miss Magic mode, chipper and cute, funny and affectionate. Oh she was turning it on. Then, she turned and said, "Am I a hero?" Why Maren, do you think you are a hero? She replied, "Yesterday, I caught the dogs by myself." Ah, she is right. The dogs pushed through an open window and while we were frantically looking in the woods behind our home, Maren spotted them down the street. She somehow got ahold of their collars and waited until Jon emerged from the woods and called to him. He went and grabbed the 70 pound jailbreakers :-).So, yes Maren, you ARE a HERO!

Well, we should have known...her follow up was, "I am hero. I saved Cubby and Tiki. Can we a big breakfast?" Simple enough request, it is a Sunday. So sure! "Can I go watch TV?" Again, it this weekend, so no problem. "Can I vacuum my room?" Wow, girl, go right are so grown-up!

Then, she finishes us off: lowers the bomb. "Today can we paint my room?" She had us. She gave us a reason to congratulate her, asked us a series of yes questions, the came in for the kill; she used the foot-in-the door persuasion tactic! And, of course, we caved.

Today, her room will be a lovely shade of light purpleish/blue!


31 for 21 begins! AKA Creating equality through friendship.

>> Saturday, October 01, 2011

Lately life has been in high-speed and I have failed to post much in the past year or two. Truthfully, our daily life with three kids seems to focus very little on our daughter's extra chromosome. As she gets older, it gets so easy just to see her as Maren, a girl who loves iCarly, playing with her two dogs, drinking from the OJ jug (gross!), blasting Katy Perry and Justin Bieber tunes, and obsessing over her wardrobe and matching headbands! She is 10. Oh boy, is she ever a tweener!

But, then there are moments when I stop and get teary-eyed. Those moments when I realize that Maren is such a typical girl because of her friends who see her as a typical girl -- who include her in their gossip and girl-chatter -- who sit with her at lunch and invite her to their parties. These girls don't hang out with Miss Magic because they have been forced to by well-meaning adults, nor because they have been shamed into by teachers or administrators. At their age, they haven't decided to sign-up to be a buddy for her because it would look good on their college applications.

They chill with Maren because they genuinely like her; they enjoy her company. Sure, they know she is different in some ways, but they see the "more alike." Why? These girls are popular girls, truthfully, the kind I never hung out with as a child. I have lots of ideas and it is probably a combination of all of them: the girls come from good homes where there parents have always valued individuality and don't speak ill of others based on superficial differences; they go to churches or community organizations that focus on what being a good person really means; they have been in inclusive settings since they began school and don't see disability as foreign; and when they have questions about difference, they can ask them and get honest and heartfelt answers.

These girls just "get it," and when they are old enough for Camp PALS or Best Buddies, chances are, they will embrace them. They won't see it as resume fodder or a compulsory activity. I believe in my heart of hearts they will join because they know the value of friendship and respect, and understand that it goes both ways in a relationship. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan D. Williams is quoted as saying, Friendship is something that creates equality and mutuality, not a reward for finding equality or a way of intensifying existing mutuality."

To the kids who develop friendships with children with Down syndrome and other special needs, you are creating equality! And, to the parents who raise children who can see the friendship potential in all children, thank you for making our journey so beautiful.

Now, in honor of DS Awareness month, I'm going to try to blog more regularly as part of the 31 for 21 challenge! I'll talk about the daily life of my Little Miss Magic...and anything else I can think of to honor this wonderful month!


Maren, her boys, and Flex Luthor

>> Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just a short post...not so much about Maren, but about her new "limo;" she needs to be driven in style, you know ;-).

After driving myself bonkers looking for the perfect vehicle for us, I finally jumped into the Ford Flex, and here is Flex Luthor -- his name just fits him (his bald head, and our wonky family!). And, each kid has enough outlets and ports to run his or her own DS, ipad or ipod....ahh....peace at least!


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