Thursday, June 11, 2015

5 Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read with Hooked on Phonics Apps

Helping your child learn to read is one of the most exciting parts of being a parent. It can also be one of the most stressful. Reading is a skill that opens the doors of opportunity for our kids. But how can we make sure our kids are on the right track if we're not teachers ourselves? 
If your child already knows the ABCs and what sounds the letters make, the Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read app for kindergarten is a great place to start. 
If your child is in preschool, PreK, or needs help learning the alphabet,The Big Reading Show is the right app for you. 
These simple tips will help your child get the most out of the Learn to Read app. 
  1. Begin at the beginning. Start your child on Step 1 of the app. That’s the only way to be sure your child knows all of the sounds (phonemes) and words he will need to know in order to read. Plus, it gives him a boost of self-confidence by starting on a level that may be a little bit easy for him.
  2. Practice makes perfect! Hooked on Phonics is a comprehensive learn-to-read program. It was designed to make kids WANT to play the games, listen to (and sing!) the songs, and read the eBooks multiple times. The more they play it, the more they will learn.
  3. Make it work for you. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’re always on the go. We sometimes get caught up in thinking that if we can’t do something important (like doing a reading app with our children) every day, we shouldn’t do it at all. But Hooked on Phonics was designed with busy families in mind. You’ll be amazed what as little as 15 minutes twice a week can do! Stealing a line from a well-known hair color commercial from the 80s, “And [my child’s] . . .  worth it!”
  4. Celebrate success! Your child thrives on praise from you. Encourage your child to read the eBooks aloud to parents, grandparents, friends, family members . . . even your dog! Learning to read is a huge accomplishment. The more your child practices reading aloud, the more fluent he will become. Showing interest in your child’s achievements tells him that reading is important to you and you are proud of her accomplishments.
  5. Encourage creativity. The Trophy Room and White Board activities in the Learn to Read app were designed as places for kids to let their creative juices flow! In the Trophy Room, kids customize their own reward. The White Board encourages budding writers to practice spelling words and even writing their own sentences and stories.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

3 Great Books to Read to Your Kids This Summer

School's Out. Summer's here. Your child worked so hard during the school year, you want to give them a well-needed break, but you don't want them to suffer from the "Summer Slide" in reading skills. Here's the good news: From ages 3-13 these books are sure to keep kids interested and talking about book all summer long.

1) Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss - (ages 3 - 13) This is the last book that was published by Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) during his lifetime, and it is arguably one of his best. The book is often given as graduation gifts, it's also the perfect book to help kids transition from one phase of life to another--such as starting kindergarten.

2) The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - (ages 6 - 11) The classic tale that was immortalized by Judy Garland in the 1939 film adaptation of the book. The original title has makes a great story to read aloud--a chapter at a time--to kids of all ages who love to imagine and wonder what lies over the rainbow.

3) Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - (ages 6-11) All seven books in the Harry Potter series are absolutely delightful to read aloud to children--particularly if you can fake a Scottish brogue while attempting to read the dialog for Hagrid. This first book in the beloved series is one the best suited for younger audiences. 


Friday, January 23, 2015

6 Reasons Why National Reading Day Deserves to Be a BOGO Holiday!

Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read BOGO event helps parents raise readers.
You probably didn't realize it, but  today, January 23rd is National Reading Day. Unless you're a total  "Book Geek" like me, it's probably not high on your Most-Popular-Holiday-Hit List.

If you, dear Reader, would be so kind as to allow me stand on my proverbial soapbox for just a moment, I'd like to present my Top  Reasons Why National Reading Day Deserves to Be a BOGO Holiday: (A word of caution: This list is a total "Debbie Downer" in the beginning, but, please, stay with me--the news gets better.)
  1. Reading aloud is the single most important thing parents can do to help their children with School Readiness, yet more than half of the children in this country will not hear a bedtime story tonight.
  2. Almost two-thirds of low-income Kindergarteners don't even own a single book.
  3. More than three-quarters of low-income students are behind in reading by the end of third grade.
  4. Children who are behind in reading in third grade are 400% more likely to drop out of high school.
  5. High school drop outs are considered unqualified to do 90% of jobs.
  6. They cost the US economy over one million dollars in lost tax revenue each year.
WAIT . . .  Did I lose you? . . . HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS! You and I can help change this bleak picture and fight illiteracy by doing a few simple acts:

  • Read every day with a child. Call it Snuggle Time, Lap Time, Cuddle Time, whatever. Reading aloud is one of the most satisfying ways we can bond with our children. I don't care if your children are in Middle School. Trust me. They may protest at first, but deep inside, your Seventh Grader will LOVE it!
  • Be a reader yourself. Monkey See. Monkey Do. If your child sees you enjoying reading, he is going to grow up thinking it's a fun activity to do. 
  • Have books and reading materials available everywhere! In your child's room, in the car, on a tablet or smartphone. Your child can't become a reader if she doesn't have anything good to read.
  • SPREAD THE WORD that Hooked on Phonics is going to help! After teaching more than 3 million kids learn how to read, we want to do more. We're calling it BOGO - Buy One - GIVE One. 

For each Learn to Read program sold, we are donating another complete Learn to Read program to a needy child or school of your child -- absolutely FREE, including shipping!

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of the BOGO President's Day shoe sale. (And, yes, I do call myself a "Shoe Lover.") 

If I had to say what will serve the greater good--given the list above--I would say taking advantage Hooked on Phonics' BOGO offer and getting a Learn to Read program for my child and GIVING a child or a school another FREE Learn to Read program will make me feel good about myself in a way that no other BOGO sale could come close.

Happy Reading!

--Julie Temple Stan

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

7 Skills That Make a Good Reader

If you want your child to get a head start in reading, here are the 7 skills all good readers need to have and how your child can develop them. 

    Mom Reading Aloud to Child
  1. Predicting—Ask your child, "What do you think will happen next?” before turning the page when reading together, It’s a great way to make sure she is following the story. It also helps build suspense and can make it more playful for the two of you. 

  2. Wondering—Good readers look for clues. While reading, encourage your child to stop and ask himself, “I wonder why the author did this or that.” Asking motivation questions will teach your child to always be on the lookout for hints that the author may be planting for the reader to find. 

  3. Picturing—Help your child use the words in the story to create a picture in his mind. Remember your 5 senses! If you were a character in the book, what would you see, hear, smell, touch and taste? Picturing will also help your child become a good writer as well as a good reader.

  4. Connecting—Help your child to connect personally to a story through conversations. Start by modeling it for your child: “This story reminds me of the time we went to the zoo. Do you remember that?” Try to get kids to relate to a character in a book. Encourage kids to find something in the story that reminds them of another story, or (better yet) of an event in the story reminds her of something in the world. Congratulations! That's a connection! Like most of us, in order to love reading, a child needs to not only read the words on a page, but she also needs to be able to relate to what she reads. That’s when the magic truly happens.

  5. Inferring—Inferring is being able to figure out the author’s meaning using the clues the author has left for you. It is the natural next step after Wondering. Model this skill for your child. Remind him of the hints he has found from the author. That will sometimes lead children to making an inference on their own.

  6. Monitoring Comprehension—As important as it is for children to be able to sound out words, it’s also critical for them to understand what they’re reading. Encourage your child to ask herself, from time to time, if what she is reading makes sense. This will help her learn the valuable skill of correcting mistakes on her own, rather than getting to the end of the book and saying, “What was that about?”

  7. Reflecting on Reading—Most children don’t realize that good readers have silent conversations with themselves about what they’re reading. We can help improve our children’s reading skills by modeling that behavior and simply starting conversations with their children as they read aloud together. Try asking:
    • Did I find answers to my questions?

    • What do I know now that I didn't know before?

    • What's the most interesting or funny thing I read?

    • Can I restate the main point in my own words?

    • Is there a lesson in the story?

    • How do I feel about what I read?
Whatever we do, reading aloud with our children is a good habit to keep long after our kids are reading on their own. There's something deeply comforting about sharing a good book with your child--it's like having a secret place that the two of you can visit together. When you need a break from reality, just pull up a spot on the couch and jump right in. Your special world will be always be there waiting for you.

Good luck and happy reading!

Julie Temple Stan

Friday, November 14, 2014

Educational Technology: Using the Power for Good

I sit across from my 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, patiently waiting for our dinner to be served at a well-known chain of family restaurants. My mom has joined us for a quick bite to eat, but the service is taking longer than expected. My stomach growls impatiently. Im surprised because my children seem unaffected by the delay. Usually by now one of them would be voicing a complaint by kicking the other under the table.

I follow my sons gaze to see the reason for his rapt attention. A TV. My daughter, not normally shy about expressing herself, also seems unphased by the delay. I think she is absorbed in the conversation at the table, but she, too, is enveloped by the allure of another wall-mounted, kid-anesthetizer. My mom and I look around the small dining room and count no fewer than seven TV screens in plain view. What could be so enticing? Golf. My kids have never shown any interest in the sport. Has that suddenly changed? No. Its simply the lure of a moving picture.

As a parent, I wonder:
*  What if the appeal of that digital screen could be used for good instead of, well, Angry Birds? 

     *  What if teachers and parents could harness that attention so that all children could learn to be strong, confident readers?

What plagues so many kids and adults is that reading is something we have to be taught. English is a very difficult code to decipher in part because, for every rule, theres an exception to that rule. In order to succeed in school and in life, every child must learn how to read.

As a former special educator and researcher for Sesame Street, I know the statistics about the impact of illiteracy on the nations children:


                          37% of children today are entering Kindergarten without the skills necessary to begin learning to read and write. 

                  How reading is a gateway skill to learning. The better a child can read, the better he can learn all other subjects.

Over the past several decades, as a nation, we have seen a decline in U.S. academic performance. Concern about how future generations will remain competitive with other countries has led the majority of states to adopt the new set of educational guidelines, the Common Core State Standards. A list of what children should know, grade by grade, from Kindergarten through 12th grade in math, English and literacy, the CCSS were intended to develop the critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills students will need to be successful in college or the workforce.

While CCSS is being rolled out in the majority of states, it is not without its challenges. It has proven to be a highly controversial issue and roll out is being threatened in several states. NY Times columnist Bill Keller wrote that,[Common Core] is an ambitious undertaking, and there is plenty of room for debate about precisely how these standards are translated into classrooms. In fact, a new survey of 20,000 teachers found that the majority are enthusiastic about implementing CCSS in their classrooms. However, more than three-quarters of the teachers reported that they need more time to find teaching materials and develop lesson plans that align with CCSS. In addition, many school districts across the country face budgetary shortfalls and larger class sizes, which means that providing an adequate number of computers in schools to administer the Common Core assessments is also challenging.

With all this in mind, I came across a study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. The study looked at screen time and childrens behavior. It found that kids ages 2-10 spend almost two hours a day on digital media. Then the study looked at how much of that time is well spent on educational media, as reported by parents. The researchers learned that 78% of the media consumed by 2-4 year-olds is educational. But the percentage of time spent on educational media goes down to 44% for 5- to 7-year-olds and a dismal 27% for 8- to -10 year-olds.

These numbers would be less concerning, in my opinion, if kidsoverall media consumption didnt rise precipitously as children get older. A different study from Common Sense Media focused on media consumption of children ages 0-8 and found that between 2011 and 2013, the amount of time children spent using mobile devices in a typical day tripled.

These two studies revealed a gaping hole to me that seemed like a huge opportunityand a huge responsibility.

 •      Could tried-and-true reading programs take proven methods of teaching kids to read and rethink them as digital apps that kids would actually want to do and still teach them to read?

*   •      Could these apps be aligned with CCSS and function as an effective teaching tool for educators, seeking lessons and materials that teach to these new standards?

With school budgets being slashed from coast to coast and average class sizes on the rise, classroom teachers need all of the support they can get. Could educational apps be a cost-effective means of supporting instruction in the classroom?

Teachers who use educational media and technology say that they do so for a multitude of reasons.

·         Students are highly motivated to use digital resources.
·         Electronic media can allow students to go at their own pace and choose their own level and settings.
·         Interactive media can maximize learning by providing immediate corrective feedback to students, not allowing them to progress until the answer is correct.
·         Digital resources can help maximize learning in small groups and allow teachers to provide targeted instruction.

Even the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and theFred Rogers Center recently teamed up to publish a joint position on the use of technology and interactive media for young children (ages 0-8). It states, When used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development.  Their position is that effective uses of technology and interactive media need to:

·         Be active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering
·         Give the child control

·         Provide adaptive scaffolds to help children progress in skills development at their individual rates. . . .

·         Be used as one of many options to support childrens learning. . . .

·         Expand childrens access to new content and new skills.

·         Become routine and transparent . . . [so that] the child or the educator is focused on the activity or exploration itself and not on the technology.

In the future, I hope to see more standards-based, effective and fun educational apps developed for school and home use. Educators can seek out guidelines (like those offered by the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center) for evaluating cost-effective interactive media for young children that is also Common Core aligned. All of this, of course, is in an effort to ensure that no child gets left behind.

Unfortunately, its not hard to see that as long as there are places that we as a society have to wait (restaurants, gas pumps, the DMV), electronic media will be there, ready and willing to sedate our childrens brains with the likes of least-common-denominator programming or Candy Crush. In the meantime, I vow to fight the good fight and provide children with media options that will help them become readers, thinkers and problem solversbefore society introduces them to the newest wave of reality television shows.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Report Card Season: Confessions of a Social Butterfly

It’s that time of year again: the long-awaited, and often dreaded...Report Card Season! As a child, I remember leading my parents (usually my mom) through the familiar halls of my school, introducing them to my teachers, waiting for the inevitable “Julie’s doing well in school, but she’d do so much better if she didn’t talk so much in class.” I was always puzzled. Wasn’t that what school was for? To share your feelings on the latest episode of the Brady Bunch and play Cat’s Cradle under your desk with your best friend while stuffing wads of Bubble Yum in your mouth?

Unlike parents nowadays, my parents didn’t have an email relationship with my teachers. Back in the Stone Age, parents relied on phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and hand-written notes pinned to our coats with straight pins (of all things!), which inevitably stabbed you in the cheek by the time the note reached its intended recipient.

Now, as a parent of two elementary-age children, parent-teacher conferences take on a whole new meaning for me. In some respects, I feel like my kids’ grades are a reflection on me and my husband (although he would probably disagree with that statement) and how well we’re doing as parents. I know that’s ridiculous, because children are their own people and it’s just my mommy guilt (okay, with a touch of narcissism) coming through. I do believe my job as a parent is to help my children learn to be responsible for themselves and take pride in doing a good job for its own sake, rather than to make someone else happy. But that’s often easier said than done, especially when your kids are little. And, of course, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances preventing your child from learning effectively.

Fortunately, our daughter has taken to reading like a fish to water. However, as much as I love her 3rd grade teacher, I think we all made a mistake. At the beginning of the year, she told Katie that she was the best reader in the class. While that made us proud, it also seemed to give Katie permission to take it easy and coast a bit. As a result, at Katie’s recent conference, her teacher told us that Katie is losing ground compared to her classmates and her grades went down. She’s also spending too much time “chit-chatting with her friends during class.” Hmmm...I wonder where she gets that?

Recently, I read about a study that showed that children who were praised for “working hard” did better in school than those who were praised for being “smart.” Researchers found that praising a child’s behavior (studying, thinking, discussing, etc.) positively affects school outcomes more than telling children that they’re intelligent, which is considered a fixed characteristic and doesn’t encourage them to work for good grades. Here’s a link to an extract of the research:

After reading this research, and seeing it first hand with our daughter, my husband and I decided to start Katie on the next Hooked on Phonics reading program, Master Reader. We’re hoping that the interactive computer-based games will make it more fun for her to work on improving her fluency, comprehension, and flow. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to get my daughter’s friends to come over and chit-chat about reading (instead of Pokemon) at the same time then I’ll have the perfect solution. I’ve got it: a kids’ book club! As long as food and friends are part of the equation, it’s sure to work for me—I mean!—her.

How did your child do on his last report card? What feelings did it bring up for you as a parent?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Turtle Rock's Hooked On Phonics Experience

Watch the experience of the children at Turtle Rock center using the Hooked on Phonics program. For more information, please visit us at