If they build it….they will play!

One of the new year’s promises I made to myself and my family this year was that there would be less iPad time and I mean to keep it! Yes, they still get to play every now and again, but I have noticed that this month it’s something they ask for less than ever before. How are we doing it? With help from some awesome toys that are educational, engaging and challenging!

Our friends at The Learning Journey International sent us some toys to play with, and I was fascinated by what happened! My girls were immediately drawn to Zany Trax (a STEM interactive construction set), but they rolled their eyes at the other 2 games which, at first glance, seem to be for younger kids. They got to work right away building the Zany Trax and found it to be quite challenging. The box says it’s for ages 6+ but my 7 & 9 year old needed Daddy to step in with the assist because the instructions have to be followed quite precisely to ensure that everything works correctly!

There is something magical about giving kids the opportunity to BUILD something on their own. The process of building brought my girls together and once they had the final product completed they just kept on playing with it! If they build it, they will play! Meanwhile, I’m one happy Mommy to have kids so enthralled by one activity!

It’s always a great time to read aloud!

Thank you to everyone for tuning in and reading along with me on World Read Aloud Day 2020! It was my first time broadcasting a Story Time With Michele episode LIVE. Naturally, there were a few technical hiccups at first, but once I finally got going it was so much fun! It was really heartwarming to see so many people from all over the world log in and join me!

If you missed the LIVE broadcast, have no fear the video is right here! (Keep in mind, that first minute or so I’m trying to make sure that I’m actually broadcasting live – I’m a novice – what can I say?!)

There were people tuning in from San Francisco CA, New York NY, Edmond OK, Pensacola FL, San Antonio TX, Shaumburg IL, even Doha Quatar and Perth Australia!!! This is what World Read Aloud Day is all about: people all around the globe celebrating the joy of reading aloud and, by doing so, we are all amplifying the message that access to literacy is a fundamental human right. Thank you LitWorld.org for all of the work that you do to organize this event, share this message, and reach thousands of children around the world. It really is a very impressive organization!

I just love that they have identified “7 Strengths” which guide all of their work and children’s programs. LitWorld’s 7 Strengths are Belonging, Kindness, Curiosity, Friendship, Confidence, Courage, and Hope.

Belonging: I am a valuable and important member of my family, community, and world.
Curiosity: I show a willingness to explore new territory and test new theories.
Friendship: I value close, trusting relationships with people I can count on.
Kindness: I think about the needs of others and always lend a hand to help.
Confidence: I can think for myself and feel comfortable expressing my ideas.
Courage: I am strong enough to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
Hope: I am optimistic that what I do today will result in a better tomorrow.

I hope that we all can take these 7 strengths and incorporate them into our lives and our children’s lives!

World Read Aloud Day 2020

https://www.litworld.org/worldreadaloudday

If you have followed me for some time now then you know I am passionate about reading aloud to children. The benefits are numerous, not just for the child but also for the reader (you and me!). So, you can imagine how excited I am that Feb. 5, 2020 is a day when readers all around the world will celebrate the act of reading aloud by making an extra special effort to read to someone, anyone, out loud!

I am so thrilled, in fact, that I am going to do something I have never done before! I am going to read a book LIVE on Facebook so that we may all enjoy the story together, at the same time! (Of course, it will be archived for those of you who can’t make it.) If you aren’t following me on FaceBook yet, or haven’t joined my FB Group (Story Time With Michele Book Club), what are you waiting for?! Just click the link and you’ll be all set up to tune in on Wed. Feb. 5, 2020 at 7p.m. EST. Check out the LitWorld website; it’s where I got my idea and inspiration!!

If you haven’t yet seen my Youtube channel yet, Story Time With Michele, then you don’t know that I have spent about a year and a half filming myself reading children’s books aloud. I read them for my children and for yours and even for adults who enjoy listening to a good story. Here’s an example of a recent fun addition to the channel:

My goal is to excite young readers so that they too may fall in love with reading books. There are over 25 million children in the US that aren’t able to read proficiently. We all can appreciate just how important it is to address this so that every child may reach their full potential! Reading aloud is one way that I know I can help in a small way, and that’s why I created Story Time With Michele.

Thank you for following and supporting me on this journey! I hope you will tune in on Wed. Feb. 5, 2020 at 7pm EST. I’ll be streaming a LIVE read aloud on my Facebook page and I hope you and your kids will read along with me!

Happy New Year!

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It’s been a while since I last posted, and with the beginning of a new year I always feel like taking some time to set personal goals. Notice how I said goals, not new year’s resolutions? Sometimes you gotta just put things out into the universe in order to manifest them into reality. Here goes!

I love my girls so much, and a major goal this year is to make a better effort at remaining ‘present’ when I am with them. I can’t freeze time and keep them 7 and 9 years old forever, so the next best thing is to shut off laptops and silence the phones when we are together. The more time they spend at school the more precious our time together is!

So, how will we do it? I’m excited that we are at a lovely age where we can play fun board games and do more complex arts & crafts projects (resulting in less screen time!). Thanks to a friend of mine, Homa Tavangar, I now have a very clever kit which has become an instant favorite with my girls.

 

This Global Kids kit is wonderful, we are fascinated by all of the cards! By the way, this is not a paid ad or sponsorship! I honestly love the kit and seeing my kids so engrossed in each activity is all the compensation I need. The box contains over 50 games, craft ideas, and recipes from around the world, each one engaging and interesting in different ways. Every card transports you to another part of the world and presents a wonderful opportunity to learn through play.

 

homemade passport

So far we have made our own homemade passports and learned about how and why some Argentinians celebrate Christmas with an outdoor picnic.

One of my favorite cards is from the “helping out” category and is called Attitude of Gratitude and explains different ways of using body language to express gratitude. It also teaches how to say thank you in different languages – it was so much fun for us to try and figure out the pronunciations together! Obrigado!

I am lucky enough to have met Homa when she worked with the Nina’s World team helping to ensure that our show remained faithful to the goal of highlighting diversity and inclusivity in every episode. Her books, including Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, cemented her position as an expert in preparing young people to be true world citizens who feel at home anywhere and everywhere.

As I continue to limit screen time for my kids I’ll be sure to keep the Global Kids box of cards within arms reach! Another kit that I have recently discovered is the Highlights Top Secret Adventures.

img_5575This one is a little pricey, as it entails a monthly subscription, but I love supporting Highlights Magazine (sending a subscription to someone makes a great birthday/holiday gift idea by the way) and my kids actually love solving the mystery every month! They enjoy searching for the clues (learning history and geography along the way) and collecting those key chains! The books are a fantastic addition to our bookshelves and I’m sure will come in handy for school work in the future.

Back to my 2020 goals: I’m going to put more time into this blog. I really love to share and connect with people and this is such a great way to explore new ideas. I’m going to continue to spread the message about the importance of literacy and fostering a love of reading in our children. Early last year I had an accident and created very few Story Time With Michele videos. That will change this year and I’m so excited to grow the YouTube channel!

For my family as a whole, I want to make sure we are eating as healthfully as we can. And, lastly, I want to cement our newly created tradition of family movie night. Snuggling up on the couch with the ones you love is the best feeling in the world and I want to carry that in my heart all year long!

Well, there it is! I’ve put out into the cyber-verse my 2020 goals! Have you set any goals for yourself? I’d love to hear back and connect with you. Let me know down in the comments section.

Sweet Summertime fun!

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I hope you’re all keeping up with your summer reads…it’s Week 4 of our Soar Into Summer Reading program! Have you read “Ice Cream Summer” by Peter Sis yet? Check to see if your library has a copy you can borrow or just read along with me in the video!

 

I hadn’t read this book before and I was pleased to have really enjoyed reading it with my girls. We loved pointing out all of the different sweet treats on each page and we did learn some ice creams facts, i.e. that it was invented over 3,000 years ago!

My #1 takeaway from this story is that it is written as a letter from a little boy to his grandfather and that got me thinking about encouraging my littles to write a letter to someone. My 1st grader learned letter writing in school so I have put them to task and each will write a letter to a friend this week. Try it with your kids – everyone loves getting a letter or card in the mail!
Check out these resources for letter-writing tips:

Continue reading →

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 →

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!