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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

15 Minutes (Okay . . . Seconds) of Fame

I don’t usually like being in the spotlight. I’m a children’s book editor by trade. So I enjoy sitting under a tree (or behind a desk, if I must), polishing a manuscript until it becomes a shiny, new book. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a people person by nature—particularly little people. One of my favorite things in the world is reading with children and talking about what we’ve read. It’s amazing what 3- to 6-year-olds come up with.

I’m no stranger to TV, either. I used to work for the children’s television show, Sesame Street. But I worked behind the scenes in the research department—although I did get to peek inside Oscar’s trash can once during a tour of the set, hoping to see his pet elephant Fluffy. (Big disappointment!) As a researcher for the show, I got to spend my days in the New York Public Library (back in the days BEFORE the internet, when we used to go to work in a horse and buggy). Or, I’d get to travel to daycare centers and talk to preschoolers about what they’d learned from the shows we were about to air. Then I would give suggestions to the writers and producers about how to adjust the shows to teach what we were hoping it would.

But when it came time to shoot the Hooked on Phonics infomercial, I was not permitted to stay in my comfort zone—safely behind the camera. Since I’m the editorial director, they wanted me to try my hand at being onscreen. Plus, I had actually used the program with my 5-year-old son, so it made sense. What I didn’t count on was that my son was even more nervous about it than I was. He loves to read and has done amazingly well on the program: He actually went from not being able to sound out words in January to reading at kindergarten grade level by the end of the school year. His teacher was thrilled!

But when it came time to read for the camera, my own little “success story” wanted nothing to do with it. The only way we got Eli to cooperate was to have his big sister, who LOVES the limelight, sit next to him and bribe him with Legos®.

Later, as our production crew criss crossed the country talking to people, we found one amazing Hooked on Phonics (HOP) success story after another: There was Olga who struggled to get from Cuba to the US and used Hooked on Phonics with her daughter, Michelle, 20 years ago. Michelle had such great success with the program that Olga ended up using HOP over the years with other neighborhood kids who were struggling with reading. And now Olga is in the process of getting certified as a reading instructor herself. There was Wannika who used HOP as a child, who is now a teacher and uses the new version of the program with her son and with her students as the school’s phonics curriculum. There was Jennifer and Randy who used the same HOP program with three of their children—each for a different reason: to help their struggling reader catch up, for their typical child who was on track, and for a third child to give her a head start.

Eventually, there were so many incredible HOP stories that Eli’s story ended up on the cutting-room floor. I can’t say that I'm not relieved that my face isn’t on national television. But I’m mostly happy to have been able to personally meet these people first-hand and see the difference that Hooked on Phonics has made in their lives. The whole experience made me both proud and humbled at being able to say that I’m associated with the product.

If you’d like to take a look at Eli’s story that didn’t make it in the infomercial, it lives on in YouTube. Here’s a link:

Do you have a Hooked on Phonics success story? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Share it with us here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

President of the Children's Reading Foundation speaks about Hooked on Phonics

Watch what Nancy Kerr, president of the Children's Reading Foundation, has to say about Hooked on Phonics. For more information, please visit us at

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brooke's Hooked on Phonics Story

Watch how Brooke used Hooked on Phonics over 20 years ago and how it has changed her life. For more information, please visit us at

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wannika's Hooked on Phonics Story

Watch how Wannika used Hooked on Phonics with her students and the results they saw. For more information, visit us at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kendra's Experience Using Hooked on Phonics

Watch to see how Kendra used Hooked on Phonics with her family and the results they saw. Visit us at for more information.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Hooked on Phonics Infomercial

We're very excited to announce that we just launched our newest Hooked on Phonics infomercial this past weekend. Here is a clip from the infomercial that we hope you'll enjoy. Please visit us at for more information.