What is the Key to Your Child’s Success?

It may seem like an obvious answer but a love of reading and literacy is linked to long-term success in multiple, seemingly unrelated areas of life. This is news to most parents. The trick is not what but how. How do we help develop this in our children without losing our mind?

The answer is not making us and our kids crazy and frustrated by standing over them and forcing them to read and read until they get it right. The answer isn’t phonics or sight words exclusively either. In fact, the answer isn’t about the mechanics of teaching them HOW to read. So, what is the answer?

Exposing your kids to quality books is essential. The goal is not to make them read. You want them to love reading and learning. So, what makes a great book? Well, that depends on their age.


Babies and Toddlers

For babies and toddlers (yes, you should read to babies and toddlers!), you want illustrations with high contrast and text that is repetitive and rhymes. Also, go ahead and get those board books that will stand up to little hands and mouths. Let them have free access to them.

When you read with them, let them wiggle and be active. Let reading be fun for them. Engage them with interactive questions about the illustrations like “Can you find the bird?” or “Where is the red balloon?” and all those little extra questions. Don’t worry about skipping pages or not reading all of the words. It is more important that reading is fun for them at this point than anything else.


Books that encourage acting out the text or give directions are great at this age. These books not only encourage pre-literacy skills but get your kids moving and active. Give kids at this age a chance to “read” with you and build their confidence. A great way to make this happens is with repetitive text. Let them say the repeated phrase for you while you are reading to them. Another great activity is to let them finish the last word in a rhyme. This helps them develop an understanding that the printed words are connected to the language they speak every day.

A fun way to “read” with your preschooler is to get a wordless book and make up stories together to go with the illustrations. Kids love to be the storyteller and will enjoy being able to take the lead even though they cannot read yet.

Independent Readers

Once a child starts to read independently, many parents stop reading out loud to them, assuming they no longer need or want it. Not only do they still enjoy the special time with their parents, but they also benefit from being exposed to vocabulary that is above their reading level. By reading to them, you can help them learn and enjoy things that they are not able to read to themselves yet.

Also, at this stage, relationships and the interactions between characters in stories open up great conversations with your child about things like empathy, integrity, and other lessons in character.

While learning the skills needed to learn how to read, don’t forget to expose your children to other important literacy skills such as cultural literacy and emotional literacy. Expose your children to various cultures and types of people throughout their books and also include stories that address how to express and handle emotions healthily and handle relationships with other people.

I believe so strongly that the quality of the books you have in your home matters that I am sharing a one-time special discount to all of my readers at Barefoot Books. Just enter the code FALL2015 to get 20% off your entire order before October 31, 2015.

(Disclaimer: I am an Independent Ambassador for Barefoot Books and do earn commissions from sales. However, a portion of my profit goes to various non-profits working to encourage literacy and help at-risk families with various problems such as domestic violence and poverty.)


5 Ways Buffy the Vampire Slayer Warned Me about Motherhood

During high school, I lived for each new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wanted to be Buffy. I even got my hair cut like Sarah Michelle Geller’s at one point. Who didn’t want to have Angel moon over you? Let’s just pretend the last 3 seasons didn’t happen (because really, the earlier the better when it comes to Buffy). I never realized watching my favorite show would teach me how to survive the early years of motherhood.

 A monster doesn’t always look like a monster.

The opening scene of the first episode shows a sweet, fresh faced girl sneaking into the high school with a boy.  She is all school girl innocence until she morphs into a monster and kills the boy.  We all think our children are the cutest and most adorable babies ever.  We also know that given an exact combination of conditions, our sweet little angels can become monsters (pun fully intended).

The morph into evil can happen with zero warning.

We all remember what happens if Angel gets truly happy.  One moment, he is all love and sentiment; the next minute, he is trying to kill you and everyone you love and their pet fish.  One moment my boys are all coos and giggles.  Suddenly, they lose their minds.  This will always happen in an embarrassingly public way.  Can you say checkout line at Target?

Silence is terrifying.

Oh crap on a cracker! Hush was the most terrifying and creeping hour of television I ever watched. I still have nightmares about the Gentlemen 15 years later. Of course, in a house with toddlers, I know that silence is a sign of destruction somewhere. The last time I realized the house was silent, I found a very happy little guy playing in the snow he made by dumping a container of creamer everywhere.

There is such a thing as too much love.

Remember when Xander decides he needs to cast a love spell on Cordelia and instead has the entire female population (and then some) of Sunnydale chasing him? They were ready to tear him apart in their need for him. Yeah, my boys love me a lot. Sometimes, they love me too much. I spend many days wondering if I will ever get 5 minutes without someone wanting to touch me again. Ain’t love grand?

You will not survive without your Scooby Gang.

We all need our friends and we need different friends. You need the older, wiser Giles to see you through and the goofy Xander to keep you from taking yourself too seriously. Your Willow will know just where to find the answer to your question, and Cordelia will point out that you at least aren’t as big a failure as someone else.

Some days feel like the end of the world (again!) when you are stuck in the monotony of diapers, drop-offs, and homework help. The good news is YOU are the slayer and you will figure it out just in time. Now, put the kids to bed, grab some snacks, and binge watch some Buffy. You’ll be five by five in no time.

When Motherhood Isn’t a Blessing

Do I look terrified in that picture? I don’t remember now if I was terrified or not, the medications given post c-section (and during) are no joke.  I remember thinking the food in the hospital was the most delicious food I had ever eaten.  I ate the same food a few weeks later.  Apparently, pain meds give me the munchies.

I knew I was overwhelmed and a little scared. I assumed the only sane response to being responsible for two newborns was terror.  What if I did this wrong? What if I damaged them forever? What if they grew up to be Dallas Cowboys fans? The struggle is real, folks.

Looking back, I should have known something wasn’t right when a couple of days post-delivery, I yelled at a nurse, flipped out on three family members and had a panic attack that was only solved by my doctor sitting on the floor in my room and holding my hand and my dad taking me for a walk to get coffee. I assumed it was hormones and I would be fine.  I was so very wrong.

I was worried I would be depressed. I knew the signs for that. I knew what to do if I got sad. I was not even aware that it would be anxiety that hijacked any joy I had in being a mother.

Many things were glaring signs in hindsight, but at the time, I just kept doing what I had to do to survive the day.  I scrubbed 20 bottles every day by hand and had to have them assembled and lined up just right or something would go horribly wrong. I would get worried we would run out of formula if there were less than 3 GIANT tubs unopened in the cabinet. One tub would last about 4 days. I am not sure what kind of crisis would have kept us from being able to get more food within 12 days but the fear was real.

When I left the boys in the truck with Randal to make a quick run into the store for formula one day, I came out and could not see the truck immediately. Within seconds, I was having a full blown panic attack with tears streaming down my face that something had happened or that Randal had run off with the boys and left me there. In reality, he had just pulled over to the side of the store to wait.

I would not leave the house to go to Target without 10 diapers and 4 bottles. That was enough for at least 8 hours. I have no idea what I thought would happen to keep us at Target for that long, but I believed something would if I didn’t take them.

As the boys grew, the anxiety changed. I stopped being terrified of them starving only to be terrified that they were behind developmentally and were going to be hindered by my sub par parenting. They weren’t talking or walking when we went for a well check at 15 months. That couldn’t be right. Sure enough, they were behind. They were behind enough to qualify for our state early intervention program.

I had failed as a mom.

I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I felt like an imposter. No one could be this horrible of a parent. I am a smart girl and had no idea what to do with my own kids.

The boys were two-years-old before I finally admitted that reality and my perception just were not lining up. I wasted two years being immobilized by fear and overwhelmed by any change in routine or new stage.

If this sounds familiar, do not wait two years. Do not be afraid to admit something is wrong. You have not failed. You are not a bad mom. Body chemistry is weird. You can get help. You are not alone. In fact, studies are finding that postpartum anxiety is much more prevalent than the much wider understood postpartum depression.

You are not alone.

I have received some amazing help and have come so far in just a few months. The first step of admitting I needed my doctor’s help was the hardest. Guess what? He did not think I was crazy or a bad mom. He did not think I was lazy or weird. He understood. He walked me through my options for treatment and offered his help.

You can get through this. A trip to the mall does not have to take 7 hours of planning and three bags. A cough does not mean your child will die. A bump on the head is really not likely to be fatal.

My boys are thriving. They are funny and curious and smart. I’m still worried they’ll be Dallas fans. I can’t control everything, but I am okay with that.

Want more information or need support? You can start at Postpartum Progress and then talk to a doctor.