Avoid This Summer Slide…

pexels-photo-261348Have you heard of the dreaded ‘Summer Slide’ before? I’m NOT talking about the slide  your kids want to play on this summer! Many children, especially early and/or struggling readers, lose a lot of progress they may have made during the school year if they don’t read over the summer break.  They may ‘slide’ out of practice and find it even more challenging to get back to where they were during the previous school year.  Pretty much every expert recommends that parents prioritize reading as a summertime activity. So let’s do it together!

I found this very informative article from Scholastic with 3 tips to prevent the summer slide:

  1. Reading just 6 books over the summer could help a young reader from losing any reading progress!
  2. Parents need to read something every day! Doing this models great behavior for your kids to mimic. If they see you reading books, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, anything and everything, they will too!
  3. Keep reading aloud to them! This benefits children of all ages – yes, it does! Reading books out loud, which are at or above their current reading ability, will build their comprehension skills, listening skills, sharpen their focus, increase vocabulary, among many more wonderful benefits.

So here’s where my Soar Into Summer book club comes into play! In collaboration with RIF, I am featuring the 12 books they have selected for their summer reading program and, I will be reading them aloud on my YouTube channel. It’s a chance for you and your kids to read along with me. If you can’t find the selected book on your bookshelf, at your library, or at your local book shop, don’t worry as I will clearly feature all of the words on screen so that we truly can read along together. Be sure to encourage your little ones to read out loud too!

After reading along with me, visit the Story Time With Michele Book Club group on FaceBook and we can discuss the story. I’ll link to games, activities, and craft ideas related to each book as well. The goal is to stay engaged and excited about each and every book!

Here’s the full reading list for the summer. Stay connected with me via my Facebook page and YouTube channel, and let’s have fun reading all summer long!

Soar into summer full reading list v2

Story Time Book Club!

Book Club imageHello everyone! Looking to motivate your kids to keep reading through the summer? I am too, so I’ve decided to launch a kids book club on Facebook (Story Time With Michele – Book Club) and, in collaboration with Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), I’ll have a suggested summer reading list for all of your PreK – Grade 3 readers. Beginning June 4, week by week I’ll post a video of each book read aloud. If you can’t find the book at your library or book shop, no need to worry as I will also include subtitles on the videos so that your child can read along with me!  Continue reading →

Happy Mother’s Day – Feliz día de las Madres

It’s Mother’s Day and I want to send some special love to all the mamas out there working hard for their families and raising healthy, bright children! Just wanted to say that I think you’re doing a great job 🙂

I’d like to share a special little tribute to my mom, too. She has battled breast cancer twice and is very lucky to now celebrate 5 years cancer-free.

One of my clients, AutoNation, invited her to participate in their breast cancer awareness campaign with me and this is one of the commercials we’ve made. It’s in Spanish so I’ll have to look into putting up a translation! I think there will be more to come as Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches later in the year. Through their #DrivePink initiative they have raised millions to help fund research. I’m so grateful to all of the people and corporations who are determined to donate resources and time and energy towards this cause, as I know I am one of the lucky ones to still have my mom here.

If you’re interested in donating you can visit DrivePink.com or any other cancer research organization you prefer.

Have a wonderful day, you deserve it!

Let’s Party (Moana style)!

photo-4917949921099776As a mom of 2 girls whose birthdays are within 5 days of each other I am fully committed to throwing only 1 birthday party for the both of them. We’ll see how long they let me get away with that! Last birthday theme was unanimous: Moana! Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to locate and create ‘luau’ styled decorations so it was really up to me how far I was willing to take it…which was pretty far! I don’t know who gets more excited about putting together a party, them or me!

I ended up watching countless hours of YouTube videos on building your own balloon towers and decorating cakes with fondant, and I’m pretty proud of the final results! I was able to keep costs down by using our condo’s party room, buying balloons online in bulk, shopping at the dollar store, baking my own cake and by making almost everything myself. I’m pretty proud of how everything turned out! That cake was quite a feat and if I hadn’t had the assistance of a dear friend who actually used to train pastry chefs I’m not sure how it would have turned out. (Thanks Christina for the fondant expertise!)

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Check out my Pinterest board and see where I got my inspiration! Moana Pool Party

The “Kakamora Cake Pops” were quite a hit! I made the cake pops by using a box cake mix and coconut oil in place of veg oil.  Once the cake baked and was crumbled, I added shredded coconut to it with the frosting. This is the inside of the cake pop. For the chocolate coating I used Wilton candy melts, and added a little coconut oil to thin it out (I find the candy melts always need a little something to make it thin enough to coat the cake pop without making it too heavy). Then I stuck on some Kakamora faces with frosting. These were a special order from Etsy (from here)- edible ink printed on wafer-like sheets of frosting!

The girls had a lot of fun creating the Moana boats with me. We made a huge batch of blue Jello. While it set in the fridge, the girls made the sails by cutting out triangles and drawing on the spiral and lacing the paper onto toothpicks. We used chocolate wafer cookies for the boats.

That cake!!! I used this recipe for the cake and I’ll never use another recipe again for a cake like this. It was sturdy enough for the layering and fondant yet remained moist and delicious!  The grass skirt was green fondant and the top layer was covered in a cake-crumb coat which looked like sand (the cake crumbs I used were the browned outside bits of the cake which I had removed).

Another favorite creation was the use of pineapples as center pieces. After coring the fruit (which was used in the fruit platter) I simply put a small mason or jam jar inside filled with water. Just as the party began I placed a variety of colorful flowers in each. The fruit vases last several days and are lovely so let my friends take them home after the party wrapped! This is something I’m sure to do again and again as pineapples are quite easy and inexpensive here in Miami.

The character cut-outs are something I highly recommend everyone try doing – as they can be very expensive to buy. I downloaded images from the internet and sent them to print at my local Kinkos for about $1 each. I simply cut them out and glued them to foam core board which I picked up at the dollar store. Out of leftover pieces of foam core I built the support for the cutout to stand up and just hot-glued everything in place. I did these about a week before the party – super cheap and super easy!

The paper flowers are gorgeous hand-made creations a friend of mine had made for a baby shower. I was lucky enough that she let me borrow them for my party and they worked out great with the theme.

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Love to read!

channel-art-youtube-4.pngHi everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted but I’M BACK! And I’m super excited to share my latest project, Story Time With Michele! I’ve had so many fans reach out to me over the past year recounting special, touching family memories involving The Good Night Show. Thank you for continuing to share those stories with me. Sadly, I can’t bring the show back since it was never mine in the first place. I have, however, figured out a way to stay connected to children in a meaningful way.  The Story Time channel on Youtube is my first attempt at creating something, on my very own, for kids.

So, why am I reading books aloud? As a mom, reading is a priority for my family. I am very passionate about the importance of literacy. Did you know that 25 million children in the US cannot read proficiently? This is such a disappointing fact and thankfully there are non-profit organizations like Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) who are fighting everyday to help our kids!

For me, I have always loved reading books and I work hard to nurture that same love in my young children. By sharing stories aloud I hope your kids will be encouraged to read more books and become little bookworms as they grow up!

These stories are meant for anyone wanting a sweet, soothing story read to them – who doesn’t like that?! Beyond the enjoyment of having a story read to you, here are a few more reasons why I’ve launched Story Time With Michele:

  • Reading aloud is an ideal way to model how to read language, by demonstrating when to pause and react to punctuation, for example.
  • It promotes early literacy skills, engages young minds by encouraging curiosity, builds memory, and can even increase attention spans in our little ones.
  • Children are exposed to a richer vocabulary which will help stretch comprehension and language development.

There’s tons of research out there showing us that reading aloud to a child daily is one of the most important activities you can do to ensure future reading success. I hope my short videos are enjoyed by your family and, in conjunction with your time spent reading aloud, together we can spark a life-long love of books!

Please check out Story Time With Michele and subscribe to the channel while you’re there!

 

(sources: http://www.readaloud.org/why.html, http://www.reachoutandread.org/our-story/importance-of-reading-aloud/, https://edsource.org/2015/study-says-reading-aloud-to-children-more-than-talking-builds-literacy/82045, http://www.rorri.org/importance-of-reading-aloud/)

Back-to-school jitters

imageAre you preparing for the first day of school this week or next? Both of my girls are truly excited to get back to school, see their friends, and dive into new adventures. But, it wasn’t always this easy, I do remember that very first day of preschool. There was a bit of anxiety and insecurity mixed with a twinge of fear of the unknown that kept my littlest one glued to my hip on those first days. If you can relate to this experience then I would love to recommend a book to you.  Bonus: it’s bilingual!

imageLion Heart Goes to School / Corazón de león va a la escuela is a lovely children’s book by Caro Mejía. I heard about the book through a friend of mine and instantly fell in love with the concept. I brought it home to read with my girls, and from the moment we opened the book we could see how unique it really is. For starters, its interactive and customizable. You take photos of yourself and your child making different facial expressions and then glue them where indicated on each page. The story is about a child going to school for the first time.  It walks us through her morning routine and, just before leaving for school, the caregiver reminds her that she has a brave heart and gives her a small wooden-shaped heart to keep in her pocket. This token comes in handy later on at school when she’s feeling lonely, sad or nervous and needs to feel brave again. My favorite part is that a wooden heart comes with the book so your child not only gets to star in the story, but gets her own heart as well!

Lucky for me, my friend was able to introduce me to the author. It turns out we have quite a few things in common! She is from Mexico City (like my husband), has 2 young children (like me) and is raising them to be bicultural and bilingual (like me). I was not surprised to learn that this project was, and continues to be, a labor of love for Caro. She came up with the idea when her first son was nervous about his first day of school. She found a small stone heart in a drawer and gave it to him to keep in his pocket. She told him it was infused with bravery and any time he needed a reinforcement of courage he could hold on to it. When he later recounted how great his day at school had been, thanks to his heart token, she knew she was onto something.  Caro said she thinks it’s very important for children to see themselves reflected in the narrative of the story. And, what better way to accomplish this than to create a book where your child’s face is actually on each page? Throughout the story there are blank spaces for you to fill in your child’s name as well (although I do wish the spaces were truly blank to make it easier to fill in).  Her hope is that each family will take the the time to customize the book together and also infuse their own family values into the wooden heart whether it be with bravery, compassion, empathy, or courage, for example.  At it’s core, this book is about helping families navigate the transition to daycare or school so that the result is a positive experience.

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Bianca thoughtfully decorating her heart!

Personally, I have a traumatic memory of getting dropped off for my first day at a new school, in a new country, and feeling horrified! 30 years later and I can remember that day vividly. I would never wish my kids to have a similar experience, and that’s why I think this book is such a wonderful tool! And, if you have a tough time finding kids books in Spanish like I do, then you will love that this one was actually written in Spanish first. If you do pick up a copy of the book I thought you would like to know that Caro plans to donate 50% of all the profits to help children in need. (Also, I am in no way affiliated with sales of the book!)

Good luck with your back-to-school transition! Please let me know in the comments how it goes!

Good Night Show Update!

First off, THANK YOU to all the loyal Good Night Show fans whose love for the show has led you to follow and support me!

I couldn’t be more proud of those 10 years I got to bring Nina to life, and am honored to have been invited into your homes night after night! It is truly a privilege. Being a mom of 2 littles, I know how special and intimate that nighttime snuggle is. The fact that millions of you included Star and Me (and our pals Hush and Lucy!) into that safe space is more than I could have ever hoped for.

Some of you have children who no longer watch, but many have had new babies along the way and still tune in. You have noticed that the show is no longer airing on TV in its traditional format, because, as with everything (including our children!), the network is growing and evolving. Fortunately, this is NOT a good-bye!

Sprout is in the process of moving full Good Night Show episodes to their On Demand menu. This is seriously a dream come true for me, and hopefully for you as well! Now you can determine when exactly you want to snuggle up on the couch and watch your favorite segments of GNS before it’s time to wrap up your bedtime routine.

Keep in mind that Nina’s World will remain right where it’s at – and, in case you hadn’t heard, we have been green-lit for a second season and are working hard on bringing new episodes to life!

I remain humbled by your love and support!

xo

Michele