Monday, November 30, 2009

Fun Family Holiday Activities

(StatePoint) It's too easy to get caught in the commercial hustle and bustle of the holidays. The season shouldn't just be about gifts, food and pageantry. It's a time for families to enjoy each other's company and draw closer together.

There are many fun holiday activities parents and children can enjoy together that can strengthen family bonds -- that won't cost you a dime and will help you remember what the holidays should be all about.

"The days leading up to the holiday are an exciting time, particularly for kids. Take advantage of this time to share in such fun and educational activities as reading holiday stories, creating your own holiday cards and even baking or cooking together," says Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

Here are some great holiday ideas from the NCFL to bring the family closer:

* Read Holiday Stories: In the weeks before the holiday, gather your family's favorite holiday books and read one story or chapter together nightly. Have children participate in following along, turning pages and by asking them questions about the story. Reading the characters in funny voices and acting out the stories can help even the biggest Grinch warm to reading.

* Sing Out Loud: Holiday songs are great for young kids, as they're filled with fun rhymes and repetition. This helps kids learn new words and familiarize themselves with language. Consider making up your own words to such holiday favorites as "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Be sure to stick to the traditional lyrics when caroling in public!

* Make Your Own Cards: Have kids help make a list of recipients. Then help them write holiday messages and decorate holiday cards before mailing them. If kids are too little to write the message, have them help you create one and then sign their names or add drawings. Grandparents will appreciate these more than store-bought cards.

* Cook Up Some Fun: Have kids assist in the kitchen with holiday cooking or baking. This draws everyone to the same room and will help complete all those side dishes or holiday cookies. Have kids read recipes, measure ingredient and keep things organized. This helps them develop reading, counting and organizational skills while enjoying the tasty fruits of their labors.

* Hold Holiday Movie Nights: Have kids, grandparents and parents pick out favorite seasonal films. After watching each movie, get kids thinking by having them invent their own sequels. Simply ask them what they think happens next in the story. They even can write their own stories the family can read together.

* Make Holiday Lists: Have every family member make his or her holiday list. Don't list presents you want. Instead, list things that make you happy or about which you are thankful. Then, have kids decorate the lists with fun borders and hang them on the refrigerator until New Year's Day. Every time someone goes for a snack they will brighten the day.

For more fun family activities that help kids build reading, writing and math skills, visit www.famlit.org.


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Monday, November 16, 2009

How To Foster Your Child's Talent

(StatePoint) Childhood is a time of dreams and possibilities, so it's important parents encourage their children's innate talents to help them develop and build self esteem, say experts.

Whatever your child is good at -- music, art, writing, sports, science -- fostering that talent can make a big difference. And who knows, you may have the next Mozart, Shakespeare or Picasso on your hands!

"I truly believe everyone has an incredible story to tell," says Taylor Joseph, the 16-year-old author of the new teen mystery, "Allison Investigates," which is her second published novel. "I was eight when I first began writing. When I was 13, my dad encouraged me to pursue an idea I had for a book. I spent the next year researching and writing, and then he helped me send it to an editor and get it published."

Taylor's debut novel last year at age 15, "The Crossing," tackled illegal immigration. Her new novel, "Allison Investigates," is about how four friends, each 15, seek to use their sleuthing skills to investigate a rash of auto thefts that involves the unique skateboarding subculture. The teens learn about teamwork, courage, and pursuing their passion.

Now, thanks to her father's help, Taylor's two novels are available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, she has her own blog at www.taylorsjoseph.com, and has promoted her books with a 15-state tour, doing book signings, speaking at schools, holding library readings and presenting at fairs.

Fostering a child's talent, as did Taylor's father, is about providing the tools to succeed, along with an upbeat, nurturing environment:

* Locate Strengths: Observe your child to locate talent. Being interested in something is not necessarily enough. Let kids sample everything, but it can be cruel to encourage a child to pursue dreams in which only failure lies ahead. Gently persuade your child to build on best abilities.

* Provide The Tools: Make sure your child has what it takes, such as art supplies, an instrument, a computer with proper software, or science or sporting equipment.

* Teach But Back Off: Formal instruction can be great, such as piano or art lessons. But creativity needs space, so know when to back off to let them explore. Don't overdo it on rules. Have enough to be safe and to develop, but not so many the activity no longer is fun.

* Set Realistic Goals: Most kids aren't going to churn out the great American novel on the first try. Set goals they can reach and that keep them advancing.

* Criticize Constructively: Praise them for the things they do well and don't be overly critical. Consult their teachers and coaches on how to offer constructive criticism and in which areas they need improvement.

* Don't Live Vicariously: Know the difference between your dream and that of your child's. Make sure you aren't pushing your own desires.

* Make Sure They Socialize: Don't let kids become social hermits, engrossed only in their burgeoning talent and not in their social scene with friends.

For her part, teen author Taylor believes it's important for young people to follow their dreams and assert themselves early-on. By pursuing her passion, she hopes to promote literacy among her peers and interest a new generation in reading.

"My daughter may have published novels, but we work to ensure she's just a regular kid and doesn't spend all her time writing. She enjoys martial arts, soccer, basketball and time with friends and family," stresses Larry Joseph, proud father of Taylor.


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Friday, November 13, 2009

Making Parent-Teacher Conferences Work: Tips For Success

(NAPSI)-For many busy moms and dads, parent-teacher conferences may be the only chance to meet with their children's teachers.

"Just as parents encourage their children to prepare for a test, the same principle applies to parent-teacher conferences," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA). "To maximize the benefits of parent-teacher conferences, parents need to do their homework before meeting with teacher."

NEA offers these tips to parents:

Prepare yourself by asking key questions. Write down the answers to the following:

• What concerns do you have about your child's academic progress or behavior?

• What questions do you have about the school, its curriculum, programs and procedures?

• Does your child have any health problems that might affect his or her behavior and/or academic progress?

Prepare questions for the teacher. Don't be afraid to engage in a frank conversation with your child's teacher. Good questions to ask the teacher include:

• How is my child doing in your class?

• Is my child working up to his or her ability? Where could my child use improvement?

• What resources are available if my child needs extra help?

• What can we do at home to support what you are doing in the classroom?

Know expectations. Having clear guidelines of parent, teacher and student responsibilities will help set the stage for academic success. Ask which kinds of evaluation methods and tests will be used to determine your child's aptitude and progress.

Plot a timeline. Ask about important assignments and upcoming big projects. Confirm corresponding due dates so nothing takes you by surprise.

Keep in touch. Exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Find out if the teacher has a classroom Web site or other means of communication to obtain important announcements, homework assignments and deadlines.

"When parents go into the meeting prepared, it can make all the difference for a winning conference between parent and teacher," said Van Roekel.

For more information or to obtain a copy of "A Parent's Guide," NEA's 10-part brochure series, go to www.nea.org or call (800) 717-9790.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teach your kids to express healthy emotions this holiday season

(ARA) – The holidays are a busy time for everyone, adults and kids alike. Between the hectic schedule, the excitement and days off from school and work, emotions both good and bad can run high.

Because of this, the holidays are a great time to help teach your children to manage both positive and negative moods in an emotionally intelligent manner. Here are some ideas for ways to get your kids to express what they are feeling in a healthy way this holiday season:

1. Talk it out
The holidays can stress children out much more than many parents realize. The first thing that every parent should try is talking to their children about what they are feeling, especially when they are dealing with negative feelings. Try to figure out the origin of the emotion. It helps to encourage them to use the word "I" when they explain their feelings. For example, "I feel sad when" or "I feel excited because."

2. Utilize visuals
If verbalizing emotions isn't an easy thing for your child to do, start by sitting down and coloring pictures together. Some children will open up instantly when they have a creative outlet for expression. Ask your child to explain their drawing. Don't let them do all the work, parents should draw and explain the feelings involved in their picture as well. This exercise just might be the perfect ice-breaker.

3. Put emotionally intelligent toys under the tree
With a little research, parents can find toys for their kids that help them learn and express their emotions. One great example is the Super Special Friend Kai-lan doll. Based on the character Kai-lan from Nickelodeon’s hit animated preschool series, Ni Hao, Kai-lan, this interactive doll invites the child to hold Kai-lan’s hand as her heart will light up in one of six different colors, each corresponding to a different emotion. The doll also moves her head, eyes and arms in response to how she’s feeling, and asks girls and boys to interact with her. When she’s sad, she asks for a hug; when she’s happy she sings the “Friends Make Me Super Happy” song from the show; and when she’s feeling giggly, she makes a silly face. This toy is an easy way to help your child learn about their emotions and how to express them.

4. Lead by example
Your child is in constant observation of your behavior. So when you're feeling happy or sad, talk about it with your child. After a tough day at work, have a short conversation over dinner about how you are tired because work today was hard and how you hope tomorrow is better. If you're excited for an upcoming event, let your child know what you think about the event and why you are looking forward to it. Talking about life and demonstrating how to properly handle both positive and negative emotions are good ways to lead by example.

Try one or more of these ideas to help your child learn about emotions and feelings, especially during the busy holiday season. If one doesn't work, don't be afraid to try another one. With time and patience, every child can learn about feelings and how to properly manage their moods.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Teen Readers Cash In

NAPSI)-A teen's love of reading could pay off in more ways than you might expect.

A new sweepstakes lets young readers enter to win a $10,000 grand prize as well as daily giveaways inspired by some popular teen titles.

It marks the release of a new book, INTERTWINED, written specifically for young adults. Written by New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter, the supernatural thriller, published by Harlequin TEEN, a new fiction imprint, tells the story of a teenager who has four souls living inside him-each with a special power. When he moves to a new town and discovers vampires, zombies and werewolves-creatures he never dreamed existed-he's excited at first but soon realizes that his life and all his souls are in mortal danger.

Harlequin TEEN features teen protagonists exclusively, something the renowned romance publisher has not traditionally done. Up until now, young readers had to "read up" to the editorial. Now they will find themselves in their own element with themes that suit their personal interests such as the paranormal, fantasy and science fiction. The Web site, www.harlequinTEEN.com, offers excerpts from new titles as well as sections for posting reviews and watching book trailers.

Teens can register at www. intertwinedthebook.com in order to enter. The contest, which may be entered daily, concludes November 16, 2009. Daily instant prizes include copies of other titles as well as TEEN T-shirts.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Fun Family Holiday Activities

(StatePoint) It's too easy to get caught in the commercial hustle and bustle of the holidays. The season shouldn't just be about gifts, food and pageantry. It's a time for families to enjoy each other's company and draw closer together.

There are many fun holiday activities parents and children can enjoy together that can strengthen family bonds -- that won't cost you a dime and will help you remember what the holidays should be all about.

"The days leading up to the holiday are an exciting time, particularly for kids. Take advantage of this time to share in such fun and educational activities as reading holiday stories, creating your own holiday cards and even baking or cooking together," says Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

Here are some great holiday ideas from the NCFL to bring the family closer:

* Read Holiday Stories: In the weeks before the holiday, gather your family's favorite holiday books and read one story or chapter together nightly. Have children participate in following along, turning pages and by asking them questions about the story. Reading the characters in funny voices and acting out the stories can help even the biggest Grinch warm to reading.

* Sing Out Loud: Holiday songs are great for young kids, as they're filled with fun rhymes and repetition. This helps kids learn new words and familiarize themselves with language. Consider making up your own words to such holiday favorites as "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Be sure to stick to the traditional lyrics when caroling in public!

* Make Your Own Cards: Have kids help make a list of recipients. Then help them write holiday messages and decorate holiday cards before mailing them. If kids are too little to write the message, have them help you create one and then sign their names or add drawings. Grandparents will appreciate these more than store-bought cards.

* Cook Up Some Fun: Have kids assist in the kitchen with holiday cooking or baking. This draws everyone to the same room and will help complete all those side dishes or holiday cookies. Have kids read recipes, measure ingredient and keep things organized. This helps them develop reading, counting and organizational skills while enjoying the tasty fruits of their labors.

* Hold Holiday Movie Nights: Have kids, grandparents and parents pick out favorite seasonal films. After watching each movie, get kids thinking by having them invent their own sequels. Simply ask them what they think happens next in the story. They even can write their own stories the family can read together.

* Make Holiday Lists: Have every family member make his or her holiday list. Don't list presents you want. Instead, list things that make you happy or about which you are thankful. Then, have kids decorate the lists with fun borders and hang them on the refrigerator until New Year's Day. Every time someone goes for a snack they will brighten the day.

For more fun family activities that help kids build reading, writing and math skills, visit www.famlit.org.

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