Monday, May 24, 2010

Did You Catch the HOP Shout Out on "Lost"?

If you're like me -- a fan of both Hooked on Phonics and "Lost" -- you might have caught a brief homage to HOP on the pre-finale retrospective last night.

Did you hear it? Let's see how many of you were paying attention...

I'm curious to see how many of you heard the Hooked on Phonics reference. Who was in the scene? What were they doing? First one with the right answer just might get a great prize.

And if you can fully explain the show to me, you deserve another prize too!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cake Wrecks Says it All

My friend Adina recently sent me this link to one of her favorite blogs called "Cake Wrecks." It's an old post from May 31, 2009 with some amazing cakes inspired by favorite children's books. These are some our favorites, too, so I wanted to pass it along.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Watch out world, we're back!

Hooked on Phonics is getting back to its roots. We’ve been around for 20+ years, and we made a big splash back in the day with our famous catch phrase, “It worked for me!” Starting today, we’re back on the air with a new infomercial airing all across the country. With 20 years under our belt, kids who used Hooked on Phonics way back then are now all grown up, and some of them are even raising kids of their own! We tracked down some people who had used Hooked on Phonics when they learned to read, to hear what they are doing now and how Hooked on Phonics worked for them.

Our new infomercial features a young lady who learned to read at school with Hooked on Phonics 10 years ago. Her name is Shavonda Gates. You can hear her inspiring story by watching for our show on TLC and Hallmark Channel, to name a few.

Here is another story from Nicole Callan.

“As children, my brother and I were excited to learn long before we went to school, and my parents were always looking for ways to encourage us. Whether we were racing down the sidewalk or practicing for Little League, we were always competing, and learning to read was no exception. As the older sibling, my brother went to preschool first. My parents knew that I desperately wanted to go with him, but it would be another year before I would be old enough. Instead, my parents bought me Hooked on Phonics, and I made it past a first-grade reading level before he did! Hooked on Phonics fostered my excitement for learning at a young age, and I still remember the confidence I felt when it was finally my turn to get on the school bus.
Over a decade later, I graduated from high school in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and moved to New York to study political economy at New York University. I finished college in three and a half years and moved to Washington, DC, after graduation. Currently, I work in the United States Senate, and my bookshelf continues to grow!

“When I hear about Hooked on Phonics, it still puts a smile on my face. If you have a child who wants to learn, Hooked on Phonics will work for her!”

Did you or someone you know learn to read through Hooked on Phonics? Let us know! We’d love to share your story.

*Results not typical.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Children's Book Week!

Did you know it is Children’s Book Week? At Hooked on Phonics, we feel like every week is Children’s Book Week, but I thought it was worth highlighting.

I was thinking about the children in my life and their favorite books. My niece Lila, who will be five in July, loves the book The Berenstain Bears’ Big Bear, Small Bear by Stan and Jan Berenstain. This is a Step into Reading book series.

Lila loves this book because she likes to “read” it to her parents. She has heard the story enough times to know most of the words, and she uses pictures to help her when she can’t remember. For example, she refers to the big bowl as a big cup and she loves getting to say the words, “Just right! Just right!” She isn’t reading in the technical sense, but she’s definitely on her way!

For children, “reading” the story to their parents is a big deal! And it’s an exciting part of the process in the development of a new reader. It doesn’t matter to Lila that she can’t actually read the words, just yet. It’s empowering for her that she understands enough of the process to turn the pages and tell a story and understand that there are actually words on a page that convey a message. This is all part of print awareness—an important element to reading readiness.

At Hooked on Phonics we encourage parents to read with their children—even just 20 minutes a day. Those 20 minutes are critical to setting up a lifetime of good habits. If you haven’t already been doing this, take this week to instill a new ritual in your home. Let your child “read” to you!

What books will you read for Children’s Book Week?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Remembering Stella, and the Books That Got Us Through

The most troubling thing was how quiet the house had become.

With two kids, six and nine, our home is rarely silent. That was especially true with Stella in the mix, our Shepherd/who-knows-what pound puppy mutt ambling through the house. Stella was always there to stand guard over late night fridge raids and early morning walks, and everything in between.

And now she was gone.

Succumbing to a host of illnesses and general old age, Stella made it to 11 years and then suddenly, she passed away. My wife Kelly and I were hardly prepared. I was certainly in denial as Stella began to slow down, to struggle through her days.

My kids seemed not to notice at all. Now we had left the house that morning with Stella, and we were coming home without her.

Not knowing what to do, or how to break the news, Kelly suggested we find a book or two that might help our children understand what had happened, and give us a way to ease into a conversation none of us wanted to have.

We settled on Saying Goodbye to Lulu, by Corinne Demas, and Remembering Ruby, by Melisa Wells. Both felt age-appropriate for our two avid readers. They've been devouring books since they first learned to read, and our hope was the right ones would help them find comfort and understanding at their own pace.

Most important, these books gave us a way to break through the shock and despair, to show the kids that they certainly were not alone.

It worked. Both books are beautifully written and illustrated, perfect for the kids but in hindsight, perhaps too emotional for me. The thought of coming home from work to find my wife and daughter reading Saying Goodbye to Lulu still shakes me a little. I tried to keep it together, but ultimately had to leave the room so my muffled tears wouldn't interfere.

Kids are strong, surprisingly so. They've come to terms with their loss, though we speak of Stella often and our fridge has become a bit of a shrine of photos and sketches.

Books aren't just a way for your children to leap ahead in school, they're a pathway towards understanding the world around them. When you teach a child to read, it's an incredible gift. Treasure it.

Hopefully the next book we choose will be about the excitement of a new puppy. We can't ever really replace Stella, but we can't stand the quiet either. Suggestions are welcome!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Every Mom is a Superwoman

Mother’s Day is on Sunday and as a tribute to my own mother I’m reposting a blog that generated lots of comments the first time around.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do you remember when you learned to read?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as we approach this Mother’s Day. I was with family recently, and we were all talking about what, if any, memories we each had of our first days of reading. Few of us had any memory of the actual learning process. My brother-in-law remembered a day when the teacher announced, “Today we’re going to learn to read.” He was thrilled! He thought for sure there was a magic solution—a secret he was finally worthy of learning, and that by the end of the day, he, too, would be a reader! But alas, it was a process; there was no quick answer. My sister could remember “playing school” with our older sisters and learning to read. Everyone seemed to have a memory of that first big chapter book, or the book that really opened up their eyes to the power of reading. It was clear from our discussion that, in our family, reading was very important.

The longer we discussed our memories of learning to read, the more I realized I look back on those years and see my mother as a sort of Superwoman.

I’m the youngest of nine children, and needless to say, my mother was busy. Not only did she run the household and prepare every single meal from scratch, every single night for 11 people (even baking her own bread and sewing half our wardrobes), but there was also track practice, 4-H club, piano lessons, talent shows, and who knows what else. In addition to raising our family, she also had a full-time job, earned her master’s in math education, learned to fly a plane, ran a nonprofit organization, all while raising her nine kids. But at the time, she was just my mother, and my mother was busy.

I vividly remember one day, I was sitting on the floor in our living room playing with my toys—probably the spring before I started kindergarten—when my mother walked into the room and asked me to sit with her on the couch. She was holding what I deemed a worn-out and ancient-looking yellow and green book called Dick and Jane. She told me it was the book she had used to learn to read when she was a little girl, and I remember her saying, “I think you’re ready to read now, too.” I knew, even at the time, that this was an important moment. For my mother to stop everything she was doing to sit on the couch with me and teach me to read was a big deal—and it stuck. Reading is, and always has been, an incredibly important part of my life.

So as we approach this Mother’s Day, think about the time you spend with your child and the memories you’re creating for her. We’re all so busy—and every moment of the day is probably already scheduled and planned weeks in advance. But if you can take 15 minutes a day, even just a few times a week, to spend with your child and show her that you value and recognize the importance of reading, you’ll be providing her with a gift that lasts a lifetime.

And who knows, she may even look back one day and call you Superwoman.

Happy Mother’s Day to every Superwoman out there!