Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Top Benefits of Creativity

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For this week’s blog post, I’m revisiting an important topic that we’ve discussed on the blog before—why creativity is important. So often in today’s education, emphasis is put on science and math skills for children to work on and improve, pushing things like writing, art, and music to the side because they are thought to be less important. But did you know that working the right “creative” brain has crazy benefits too?

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Best Apps to Get Your Kids Reading!

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These days, there’s an app for everything—and for people of any age. From finding places to eat, helping you to set and keep daily goals, to keeping you up-to-date on news relevant to you, it seems there’s nothing these smartphones can’t do for us. But did you know how many great and educational apps there are out there for kids?

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite ones to help on the mission to get kids reading. And while I’m usually a fan of encouraging them to pick up a book instead of their tablet, sometimes combining the two is most effective!

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How to Choose a Book to Gift Your Kids This Holiday Season

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 We are just days away from December 1st, and you know what that means…it’s time to start your holiday shopping! While you know your children’s letters to Santa probably include the latest toys, games, and technology, another great thing to put under the tree or use as a stocking stuffer are books. But how do you pick a book your child will love? Read on for my book-giving tips!

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Reading Tips for Children on the Autism Spectrum

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A recent statistic came out saying one in every 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder—which is no small number. For that reason, as a librarian, special needs teacher, or parent, it is helpful to know the ways in which reading can help these kids. Here are five ways in which to effectively use books to help autistic children not only learn to love reading, but also use it to effectively help them cope with their disorder. (more…)

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How to Boost Your Child’s Love for Reading During Back-to-School Season

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Getting your child interested in reading during the summer seems almost too logical—they have months of free time, there are tons of “summer light” stories for them to get easily invested in, and they can take a book anywhere from the beach to the pool for an afternoon of relaxation. But when back-to-school season hits, their enjoyment of reading can often get pushed aside in the chaos of new classes, homework, and extra-curricular activities. How do you help them to still maintain a healthy love for books, even when their schedules fill?

Help them choose books they will love for silent reading hours. Most schools require students to log a number of silent reading hours per week, but if your kids don’t enjoy the books they choose, this can feel a lot more like homework than fun. Make sure to help them choose books that they have an interest in, so even if it’s slightly more challenging to read than their summer fun novels, they’ll get excited for their silent reading hours!

Limit their TV time. With all of the things kids are required to do these days—hours in sports practices, music lessons, doing homework until they fall asleep—it’s no wonder that during their down time they want to park it in front of the TV with their favorite shows. And while I don’t think TV hours need to be banned, limiting them to watching one or two programs per night will make them find other ways to relax…like sitting down to read their favorite book!

Set the example. If you want your children to make time for reading, that means they need to see you making time for it as well. That means you need to follow the above tip as well—take a break from the TV and pick up a book in your free hours!

Make it a game. Pick a family-friendly read that all of you can enjoy, and then challenge your kids to reading a certain amount per week. Whoever gets through their section the fastest gets a reward, whether that’s being able to choose what to eat for dinner on Friday, gaining control of the TV remote for an evening, or getting to go out for ice cream!

How do you keep your love of reading when times get busy? Do you have any tips to add to the above? Let me know in the comments!

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10 Creative Writing Prompts—For Kids!

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I am an advocate for children using and expanding their imaginations, not only through reading, but through writing! Whether your child struggles with Language Arts or is reading four levels above his or her grade level, providing kids with a creative outlet such as writing has the opportunity to enrich their lives and their classroom performance. But how do you get them started? One good idea is using this Scholastic website, which provides silly and fun writing prompts in a game-like form (when I put in my preferred genre and name, the wheel told me to write about a fuzzy green elf who must return to the sea—yes, please.) But if you’re looking for a straightforward list to return to, here are 10 fun, whacky writing prompts they can try!

1. Your favorite animal just stood up and started talking to you—what conversation do the two of you have?

2. You get cast in a super hero movie…do you play the hero or the villain? Why?

3. Your dad just built a time travel machine! Will you go back in time, or forward? To what year, and why?

4. Write a list of 20 of your favorite things!

5. If you were invisible, what would be the first thing you do?

6. What is the best memory you have with your family? Write a story about it.

7. Invent a new food—describe in detail what it looks like, what it’s called, how it smells, and how it tastes.

8. Describe a time when you were really afraid.

9. Your favorite fictional character has come to life. Who is it, and what do the two of you do together?

10. Write a list of 5 things you love about your best friend. Then, use those things to write them a letter!

Do you, or your children, like to use writing prompts? Let me know what your favorites are in the comments!

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Keeping Aesop’s Fables Alive in Children’s Literature

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You might know me as the author of the children’s book series, Night Buddies, but did you know that I am also a huge history fanatic? I got my B.A. in ancient history from UNC Chapel Hill, and have made it one of my hobbies ever since.

Being a lifelong learner of ancient history means that I’ve been able to read some of the greatest classics our world still reveres today. For instance, everybody knows what the Fables are like, right? Very short little tales with explicit morals and talking animals. You know the one about the tortoise and the hare, surely? About slow and steady beats fast and flighty? How about the country mouse and the city mouse? Where the country mouse discovers grand living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Okay, maybe I’ll show you one you don’t know. It’ll only take a minute—

The Dog and the Sheep

A Dog sued a Sheep for a debt he claimed the Sheep owed him, and he called on a Kite and a Wolf to be the judges.

Without asking any questions, they both decided right away that the Sheep was wrong and the Dog was right. Then the three of them tore the Sheep apart and ate him before he had been given a chance to say a word.

The Point: It’s sad, but it’s true, that honesty and right sometimes haven’t a chance against cruel force.

See how short? But it does the job, right? Did you know there are 101 of these things? At least in my translation, and there may have been even more 2,500 years ago.

It turns out, Aesop may even be a Fable himself!

That’s because he may or may not have existed. One story has him an Ethiopian slave they called “the Ethiop,” or Aesop. Plutarch says he was an advisor to King Croesus of Lydia (d. 546 BC). And Herodotus (a famous Greek historian) has him a slave of Iadmon, a 6th century Samian. But scholars tend to think Aesop was no more than a name used to tie together all the animal tales floating around at the time.

What really blows me away about the Fables is the truly advanced state of 6th century Greek literature and science. With the mighty exceptions of Homer and Archilochus (ca. 680-645 BC), the Greeks were just getting started. Their temples were still made of wood, and their male statues were those stiff kouroi that all looked alike. The “Golden Age” with Sophocles and Euripides and Plato and Phidias wasn’t for more than 100 years. But despite this, the stories written during this time period resonated with people so deeply that we still know them by heart to this day.

Whether you’re trying to teach your children patience, kindness, fairness, or any number of things, there is a Fable to be told, and there are sometimes even children’s editions of compilations of the Fables if you want to get your kids to read the ancient stories themselves!

Do you have a favorite Fable? Let me know in the comments below!

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Fathers, You Don’t Play a Role in Your Child’s Life: You Play Many

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For much of our history, the roles of a father and mother were clearly defined. The father earns income, provides stability, is the protector of the home and people in it. The mother is the caretaker, the loving parent with a home to run. But those roles have been changing for quite a few years now, and we are now at a pivotal point where both fathers and mothers can choose the kind of roles they feel best suits them as parents, and fathers can be much more involved in the raising of their children than they were expected to be in years passed.

In fact, studies have revealed they should be much more involved with their children. A review of multiple studies found that kids who grew up spending time with their fathers were less likely to have behavioral and psychological problems. They were also more likely to be independent, intelligent and have improved social awareness.

So fathers, being in your child’s life as more than a provider and protector, but also as a loving parent can actually improve their life all around! An LA Times article also concluded that “researchers found that the chances of teen pregnancy and other early sexual experiences were lower for daughters who spent more quality time with their dads.” Dads, I think we can all agree that is good news.

This is all good news, actually, considering the fact that more than 200,000 homes in the US have stay-at-home dads, and there are 1.9 million single fathers in the country. Often, it is a concern that a father won’t be able to fulfill a mother’s role, but these studies show that there really is no such thing as a “role” that either parent plays, and children will benefit from having the role filled, regardless of whether a mother or father is filling it.

So what can we do as parents? We can figure out our strengths. We can spend time playing and loving our children as they grow up. We can fill every role there is, and we can fill them whether or not our partner already is filling them. Both partners can be providers. Both can be caretakers.

Be open-minded toward your approach to parenting, and your child will reap the benefits.

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Parenting 101: Ground Rules

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I’m not someone who has been much of a believer in “ground rules” for parenting, or one right and one wrong way to raise a child. Every family is different, has different beliefs as to how their kids should be brought up, and determines what kind of values should be instilled in them. However, after this past week where one child was left in the woods in Japan as punishment, while another somehow was able to get into a gorilla’s exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo, people are starting to question if maybe there are some “taken for granted” parenting rules worth spelling out.

For one, keeping an eye on your kids in a public place. When you lose track of a young kid, they could end up anywhere—kidnapped, lost, or, you got it, in a gorilla’s exhibit. People have raised the question of keeping all toddlers on leashes or in strollers, while others think that may be heading into “extreme” territory.

I think it might just be worth mentioning that you should keep an eye on all of your kids every couple of minutes—even when another one is needing your attention. Yes, parents aren’t super humans with eyes in the back of their heads. No, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of keeping tabs on their kids, making sure they stay in one spot while your attention is needed elsewhere.

And if you see someone else’s kid getting into trouble they shouldn’t be in, let’s collectively parent that kid and say, “Stay away from there kid!”

As for the parents in Japan, all I can say is, every parent has been in a car with a kid driving them nuts. But one too many, “Are we there yet?”’s rarely has them pulling to the side of the road and dumping them out—especially not for more than a minute, and then driving away without them.

My solution? I can’t say I know what needs to be done about child protection laws, or criminalizing parents for their lack of good judgment.

But I do know that these bizarre parenting stories are great inspiration for children’s authors everywhere! (“That Time My Parents Left Me in the Woods”…anyone else see the bestseller potential?)

What are your thoughts on this week’s bizarre news stories? Let me know in the comments!

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4 Ways to Give Your Kids the Best Summer Break!

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It’s finally here! After we’ve all come back from our Memorial Day weekends, the reality of summer break has finally hit. But as exciting as the prospect of two summer months to fill with fun and relaxation can be for kids, it can be difficult on parents to strike the balance of giving your kids an amazing summer break, while still needing to take care of your other responsibilities. Luckily, there’s a way to do both. Here are some tips on how to do so!

Look into summer camps. When you can’t afford to take a vacation yourself, it can be best to let your kid have a fun getaway on their own with a reputable summer camp! You can choose one according to location, interest (dance camps, band camps, Christian camps, etc.), or based on which camp their friends are attending. This will allow your kids to learn independence being away from their parents, give them a fun vacation in a new area they’ve never explored, and allow them to make new friends! And it also gives you a week or two (however long the camp goes on for) to have a kids-free staycation of your own.

Look into day camps. If it isn’t financially feasible for you to send your kids to overnight camps, day camp is a great option! A lot of times local churches, YMCAs, or other community organizations will host day camps throughout the summer where kids can stay entertained and make new friends while you have to spend a day working, or running errands. Save them some boredom, and you some time!

Plan local day trips on weekends. And let your kids help choose the location! Maybe you go to a local park for a picnic and games, or to the next town over for your favorite lunch spot. If you live by water parks or the beach, pick a day to take a trip over there. Whatever you decide to do, it will give your kids something to look forward to during the slower weeks at home when you have responsibilities to take care of.

Make sure they spend some time OFF of their screens! It’s so easy to let your kids plop down in front of the television or their video games when you need them to be entertained, but those memories aren’t going to last all their lives. Try to get them to spend an hour outside in the sun, whether they walk the dog around your neighborhood or play in the sprinklers in your yard. And make sure to remind them that reading is always a great way to stay entertained when they complain about being bored!

What are some of the things you remember doing during your summer breaks as a kid? Let me know in the comments!

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Children's Museum of Alamance County
217 South Main Street
Graham, NC 27253
Phone: 336-228-7997
Reading begins at 3 pm


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