Learning letters necessary?  Yes…. boring…NO!  These 26 symbols of our English language, when put together in the right order, are pretty powerful players.   Put together in the wrong order or leaving one behind and something that is very pretty can become petty.  A tart can become gassy and your dog may end up as a place for lots of dead plant material.

For toddlers and preschoolers who are beyond the stage of experiencing the world with their mouth, magnetic letters are a great tool for learning.   They can be front and center on your frig or used in a child’s lap with a cookie sheet, or on a desk with a small magnetic easel.


When you introduce your child to a new learning tool, such as magnetic letters, let them experience them in their own way for a period of time. You will learn valuable information about what they already know as you watch how they interact with the materials.   Children are very curious by nature and giving them time to explore on their own will make them more agreeable when you direct the play.

Magnetic letters provide opportunity for much more than just learning letter name/sounds.  They are great for visual, auditory and tactile skills.     Help your child with visual discrimination by having them find letters that look the same.   As your child manipulates the letters, they are working on fine motor and tactile skills and as they hear the letter names and sound the letter makes, they are working on auditory skills. Math skills can also come into play as your child sorts letters according to color, shape and size and counts them.

Don’t forget to follow your child’s lead.  Learning letters should be fun for little ones and is a process that involves exposure in many different ways in many different settings.

All this ABC talk reminds me of a funny story.  At the beginning of the school year, we screen children to see how many letters/sounds they know (first grade).  One year I was working with a wonderfully peppy outgoing little girl, and as I pointed to the letter “L” she replied “lemino”.   L,M,N,and O all blended into one beautiful letter in her world of ABC.   Aren’t kids great?  Enjoy!

Helping Grow A Reader


One of my greatest joys in teaching first grade was teaching children how to read. There are many things you can do to help your child become a great reader before they begin a formal reading program.

  1.  Tell your child they are a “reader”, even if they aren’t able to read words yet.  Seeing themselves as a “reader” will help them have confidence and patience as they are on their journey to becoming an independent reader.
  2. They are a “reader” because they can “read” the pictures to tell the story.   Reading the pictures is an early reading skill.  It will help your child notice details on the page, and strengthen vocabulary and comprehension skills . So look for books with great pictures that tell the story!
  3. As you read a story, have your child predict what will happen next.  This is an important skill in developing good comprehension.  They are using prior knowledge and critical thinking skills as they predict.
  4. Help your child to make connections between what they are reading and their own world.  This skill also strengthens comprehension and makes reading personal and relevant.

As always, have fun when reading with your child.

Next:  FUN with ABC



OK – so let’s be real….sometimes your child’s teacher does something that really makes your blood boil.  For example, one day I came home from a long day at school to find my third grader locked in the bathroom.  She couldn’t talk to me as she was sobbing so hard that it was hard to catch her breath.

“She did really bad on a math test and she’s afraid you’ll be mad,”  her older sis said as she was casually watching tv.

My heart broke a little bit as I didn’t think I was that kind of parent.  I took a very soft supportive tone as I asked her to come out to talk.

She opened the bathroom door and  handed me a math test and all I noticed was a GIANT

F ‘

I assured her that she wasn’t in trouble but asked her if her teacher had given her feedback so she could correct her errors and learn from her mistake.

“No.  She just gave me my test back,” she sobbed.

That was it.  I saw RED and guess what???  We lived across the street from the school and it was still early enough that her teacher might be there…so I hopped on my broomstick and off I went…..test in hand.  

You might say that what I had to say to her teacher was not very calm….but done with great respect mind you – after all I was a fellow teacher.  BUT as a fellow teacher my question for her was:  “How could you simply hand her a test with a big fat with no concern at all to find out what her thought process was as she completed these problems – and no help to teach her the correct way so she would understand this process??? NO feedback??? NO remediation??? Just a big fat F???”  She understood my point and so did her two colleagues whose classrooms were connected by a few floating walls.

Should I have waited to speak to her until I had calmed myself?   Yes I think so.  Should I have brought this up to her at all?  Absolutely.  

Doctors have an oath,  “first do no harm”  and I believe educators should follow this same oath.   A teacher’s job is to teach, evaluate progress, and remediate or reteach as needed while always keeping the child’s esteem intact.   I don’t feel there is EVER an instance where a child should get a paper with a BIG FAT “F”. EVER! Do children fail?? Well – not if we are teaching them well and teaching them at their zone of proximal development.   Are all children learning at the same level and rate?  No. This is a simple fact.  Each child has different strengths and weaknesses and should be taught accordingly.  School should never be a place where children feel like they fail.

So – when you start to see RED, take a deep breath, do some thoughtful reflection on what it is that is making you angry and take some time to figure out the best way to approach the situation.   But don’t ever be afraid to advocate on behalf of your child.  That is your job.  Just try to do it without flying in on your broomstick.   You’d think as a teacher I would have known better….but when it comes to our children….well….sometimes we don’t think straight.



Parent-teacher communication is important in helping your child throughout their education.  I loved getting to know my first grade students, and the more communication I had with their families/caregivers, the better equipped I was to support my young student.  Many times a note or email  sent to your child’s teacher will be sufficient to share or ask for information.  Sometimes, a note isn’t enough and a phone call is needed.  Here are some good reasons to call the teacher:

1.Your child has anxiety that interferes with their normal at home routines and doesn’t want to go to school.  Something that may seem trivial to you can be huge to a child – so always take their concerns seriously and if they don’t improve with your help, contact the teacher.

2. Homework is a constant battle and I helped many parents understand the expectations of homework and sometimes we worked as a team to make a child more accountable and make homework time more manageable and pleasant.

3. There is a major life change such as separation/divorce, a death in the family, a pending move,or a new baby.  Many caregivers are reluctant to share personal sensitive information, but it can help the teacher and school staff support your child as they are going through a difficult time or big changes at home.  Children’s learning is impacted by their personal lives.  If something is bothering them, some of the energy they use for learning/socializing is not available because they are  distracted. Most schools have a social worker who can help your child through a difficult time.  The school can be a great support to families in times of change or need.

4.  You have heard some gossip from your child or other person  about school or your child’s teacher, and it is really bothering you. Go straight to the source for accurate information and save yourself a lot of worry and frustration.

5.  You are worried your child is behind academically. This is a tricky one especially for young children.  It’s normal to want to talk to the teacher to know how your child is doing but  the first few weeks of school are all about settling into routines so don’t expect the teacher to have a lot to share right away.  Usually by the time the first conference rolls around the teacher  will have a wealth of information to share.  Consider that if your child’s teacher was concerned, they would have contacted you.  If the teacher has indicated your child is struggling, ask the teacher to communicate progress periodically so you are  all moving in the right direction working towards the same goals.

6.  Your child is being bullied.  Don’t wait on this and expect your child to handle it.  The teacher and administration always need to be aware of bullying behavior, whether it occurs on the bus, classroom, or playground.  Our kids need to feel safe at all times and need to know adults will intervene on their behalf when necessary.  Expect the school staff to investigate and remediate the situation.

Keep in mind that the teacher may not be able to speak with you when you call and will have to return your message after they are done working with their students or during a break in their day.  Be respectful of their time but know that they value your input. You are a critical partner in the education of your child!

Be respectful and positive and keep those lines of communication open.  Your child will thank you for it!






It’s the beginning of a new school year.  There are many things that you can do to make sure your child has a great year.

  1. Have time, space and materials set aside so your child can complete  school work each day.
  2. Have space for your child to unpack and put school items. Make this a daily routine and make it your child’s responsibility.   Check to see if there are forms, notes etc that need your attention.
  3. Keep homework time age appropriate.   (See Article re homework)
  4. CONSISTENT early bedtime routine. 
  5. Healthy breakfast – or take advantage of school breakfast program.
  6. Daily reading to/with your child.
  7. Be available to discuss any issues your child has with school.
  8. Listen and reassure your child regarding any fears/concerns.
  9. Set up your child for success by teaching them skills to be independent. Have age appropriate expectations such as packing their own backpack as soon as school work is complete. They will be expected to unpack and pack their backpack on their own in the classroom.
  10. Don’t be surprised if they don’t come home full of stories to share about their day.  Instead of asking them “how was your day?”  ask them specific questions.  This may stimulate some conversation.

A positive attitude on your part regarding your child’s school  will go a long way in how they feel about school.  Happy learning!


Next:  HELP!  When to call your child’s teacher



TALK to your baby often.   As  you converse, your child is learning valuable language skills.  Get eye level and engage.  Even very young babies respond to a soothing voice.  As your baby gets older and begins to babble and coo, they will be delighted if you join in and mimic their sounds.   Now you’re talking!

 Hours of conversation with your baby will pay big rewards as you watch them go from babbling, to one word, to putting a few words together, to speaking in sentences and then WHOLE paragraphs!  Some days, when most of the conversation on their end begins and ends with “NO”….you may be sorry that they  learned to speak.  However, it won’t always be “NO” –  they will say the greatest things if you just pay attention and  give them time and space to formulate all the amazing ideas that are going on in their developing brains.   Conversation – a wonderful way to bond and let your child know how important they are.

I was getting coffee at my usual spot  the other morning  when I spied a woman with a young girl who appeared to be about ten. What a nice idea, I thought.  A day off from school – a chance for adult and child to spend time at the donut shop together.  In reality the adult was looking at her cell phone and the young girl was quietly eating her donut.  Both sat in silence – not looking at one another – I felt sad for  them.  What a missed opportunity for some quality time.  SO put down your cell phones, turn off your computers and TV and engage in some old-fashioned face to face conversation.  Your child is never to young or old to benefit!



One of the fondest memories I have from when my children were little is snuggling with them as we read books together.  AND one of the best ways you can help your child learn is by reading to them.

Let’s look at some of the magic that happens when you read to a baby:


Hold them close and feel the connection. Help them associate reading with a loving experience.

AS you read, your baby is  hearing how words are pronounced (articulation) and beginning to associate words with meaning.  You are helping to build your child’s vocabulary – a crucial skill for learning to read.


Soft books and board books are wonderful for babies.  They can touch  and interact with them on their own.   These will get messy as babies learn through touch and putting things into their mouths – so make sure they are baby friendly!

Begin building a library that is out of reach until your child is older and knows how to handle books with care.   Look for books with large print – few words and great colorful pictures.  Books that label pictures are great for associating words with objects and rhyming books are great fun for rhythm of language.  Rhyming is an essential skill when learning to read.  Nursery rhymes, poetry and children’s classics are great ideas to build your child’s library.  BUT don’t wait to read these until they are older… long as your child shows an interest – engage them with these books as well.

Don’t forget your local library.  They have wonderful story time programs beginning at an early age.  AND of course what better for your home library than rotating books from your local  library on a regular basis.  Best of all…..IT’S FREE!!

READING time with babies will be short and sweet – but do it often and do it with love.  By engaging in this simple loving activity you are forging a path to helping your child be a great reader and a lifelong learner.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Have fun with your child!  Reading is the magic that opens up the world to them.


Next post:  Let’s Talk!


parent.reading2When I was teaching first grade, one of the most important question parents asked me was how they could help their child succeed as a learner.  My answer was often met with silence and a request for more…..but I held fast to my response.  Simple, direct, and to the point.

Read to them every day.

Too simple? Not really.  Here is what happens when you read to your child:

  1.  They are learning language
  2. They are learning how books work – left to right, top to bottom, front to back
  3. They are learning concepts in science, math, social studies
  4. They are learning that reading can open up new worlds
  5. They are learning that you VALUE reading
  6. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL:  They are learning that you value time spent with them

By reading to your child from a very young age – you are setting the stage for a lifelong love of reading – and learning.

And there are many other complex things that are taking place as you read to your child – depending on their age which I will touch on in later postings.  But for now – let’s just simply say that reading to your child every day (from when they are in the womb) is an easy, cheap, lovely way to spend some time with your little one as you enrich and nurture their love of reading.  So grab a good book, put your feet up, pull a little one or not so little one (reading together should be a long term activity…not just until your child enters school)  into your lap….and have fun!

Next post: Books and your baby