Tag Archives: Creativeness

The Reading Road

Last year, I started a game with my kids called the Book Can Contest. It was an incentive to read. They both love books, but our busy life and technology always seemed to get in the way of a good book.

I admit, that although I consider myself to be an avid reader, I wasn’t exactly setting the right example for my kids. We read bedtime stories every night and sometimes even sit down with a book mid-afternoon, but I wasn’t doing much reading of my own. My kids rarely, if ever, saw me reading my own books. (I tend to read in bed before going to sleep.)

In this age of technology, screens, too many toys, and way too much distraction, the way to raise a reader is to read to them, with them, and on your own in front of them.

It was probably a lot easier to establish a reading habit—and therefore a love of books—when I was a kid because my parents had less to contend with. There were fewer things competing for my attention.

This generation of kids needs a very clear example and lots of guidance to get them to the same state of book loving.

Enter the Book Can Contest.

When we did this last year, every time my kids read a book, they got to fill out a ballot to put in the Book Can—a can I decorated with pictures of books and sayings from our favourite books. I’m a book geek. What can I say?

On the ballot, they would record the name of the book, their name and the date they read the book. For Big Sister who is into reading novels, she would also record the chapter that she had read. (One full chapter qualified for a ballot. The objective was to get them to read of their own accord, so small successes were celebrated. We worked our way up from there.)

On Friday mornings, we would draw a ballot from the can and the winner would get a prize. The more you read, the more ballots you had in the can and the more chances you had at winning the prize. My husband and I got involved, too, which made the competition a little more interesting.

Prizes included a new book, 30 minutes with Mommy to do whatever the winner wanted, same deal with Daddy, winner’s choice for dinner, 30 minutes of TV during the week, a chocolate bar, free pass on a chore, a trip to the dollar store with $2 to spend, dessert during the week, staying up late one day on the weekend, a lollipop, among other things.

We tried to come up with prizes that didn’t add more “stuff” to our lives. Experiences, free passes on chores and screen time (my kids get very little to begin with), decisions they weren’t usually in charge of making; these were the things we wanted to encourage them with. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to these kinds of prizes and the possibilities are endless.

To make the prize fair, I also wrote all the prize options on ballots and put them in a separate bag. Whoever won the Book Can Contest that week would then get to draw the prize for next week’s contest. We posted all this on the wall above our kitchen table so that it was visible all the time (a great reminder).

We had fun reading and winning for about five months, but then contest fatigue set in and we missed the draw a couple of weeks in a row. Then summer came and life became less routine and more relaxed. And that was the end of the Book Can Contest.

I was sad to see it go, but sometimes we have to move onto the next best thing.

For a while, we didn’t have a reading incentive—and that’s not a bad thing. Both my kids love books. One’s a reader already and the other one is in the phase of grasping reading concepts like letter combinations and decoding and that words represent visuals and are used to tell a story. He’s doing really great at it. No sense rushing him through this phase.

It can be such a fun phase if you allow the time for it. He loves to tell me about the stories he has “read” and though he describes them mostly the same every time, his powers of observation are slightly more improved or different each day and sometimes the story he tells from the book he has “read” is more elaborate and detailed because he has noticed some new thing in its pages. But generally speaking, he’s telling the story that is actually depicted in the pages of his book. Actually reading the words will follow closely on the heals of this step. But I’ll miss this phase once he can read. We are having so much fun telling stories from the pictures!

With his new-found appreciation of books and stories, he recently suggested that we revive the Book Can Contest to track how much we were reading. I thought maybe we should try a new incentive game or chart. So, I came up with the Reading Road chart.

The Reading Road is a picture I drew (very crudely in Microsoft Paint) that looks like a road, and along the road there are lines on which to record the titles of the books one is reading. The reader starts at the beginning of the road and works his or her way to the end of the road. Once there, the reader is entitled to a prize set out at the beginning of the reading journey. Because my kids love books so much, they usually choose a new book as their prize.

It has really taken off. I also plan to use the Reading Road charts to encourage reading on specific topics. We’re big into our local library and visit a couple times a week at least. Often, a particular topic catches Big Sister or Little Brother’s interest and we’ll stock up on books that feed that interest.

What sometimes happens, though, is the books will come home and get put in our library pile and only a few will be read (the ones they like the most). Despite encouragement from me, the other books will languish in the pile until their return date. By using the Reading Road chart, there is an incentive to read all of the books they picked out on that particular topic at the library. I know it’s not a big deal if a book is borrowed from the library and not devoured voraciously, but to me it’s akin to buying food and letting it rot in the fridge. Why would you do that? My motto is: if you’re not going to use it, don’t take it.

So here’s what we use to track our reading (and practice our penmanship for those of us still in the early learning stages):

reading road chart

Here’s the PDF of the Reading Road Chart. Feel free to use it for your kids. If you do use it, let me know how it goes in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #LTOReadingRoad.

Happy reading!


Fall Creativity and Self-led Projects

Monday is knitting day at our house.

Since I’ve been off my feet, I’ve taken up knitting and crocheting again. I started out my recovery time thinking I would do a lot of reading, something I hadn’t had much time for in recent years. But it turns out, I can’t read for eight hours a day. Especially at the beginning of my recovery, I found it made me sleepy. What I needed was something that kept my hands busy—and cooking was out of the question because of mobility issues. (It’s hard to move liquids from table to counter when you’re hopping on one foot…trust me.)

I used to crochet, and from time to time in recent years I’ve worked on the odd little project. But while I was still mobile, and on one of our frequent library trips, I saw a posting for a knitting club that would be meeting at the library Monday afternoons. “Great!” I thought. All I have to do is figure out how to get us to the library and we can learn to knit and crochet together! So we signed up.

And after lunch each Monday, we get a ride to the library, spend an hour in the company of some really great women and we knit and crochet together. I have knit and crocheted slippers, hats, blankets and sleeping bags for dolls. Big Sister has crocheted a sleeping bag for her little doll and Little Brother has discovered the fun of spool knitting (he loves to see the “snake” coming out the bottom of the spool).

Once we get home from the library, it’s homework and reading time (because, of course, the kids have picked out a dozen new books at the library).

This past Monday, Little Brother picked some leaves on the way home (while waiting at the bus stop). Because I’m on crutches, I try to discourage my kids from carrying too much (I need them to keep their hands free to help me since my hands are helping me walk right now). Generally, I would encourage the collection of many bits of nature to bring home and discuss or create with. But things are a bit different right now. Anyway, Little Brother claimed that his handful of leaves would not prevent him from helping me get on and off the bus and into the house, so I let it go. (And he was right. He was his usual, very helpful self.)

Turns out, it was a good thing that I let him bring those leaves home, because he had a project planned in his mind that occupied the rest of his afternoon. And all the struggle that I may face to get them to and from the library each Monday was worth his dedication to his afternoon project.

And isn’t that we want for our children?

We want them to be passionate about something.

We want them to want to do something so badly that they figure out how to do it themselves.

We want them to enjoy their learning and to really be engaged with it.

We want them to grow up and mature and grasp initiative and self-led learning so that it doesn’t have to be forced on them and they don’t have to feel like learning is painful and without pleasure.

If we engage them and guide them to follow their passions and allow them space to create and discover, they will learn everything they need to know.

Little Brother brought those leaves home, got out his paint set and brush, found some colourful paper and set himself up at the dining room table to work on his project. While he worked, he told me about different types of trees and leaves and how you could tell the difference between them. He talked about colours in the Fall and the greens from the summer. He explained to me how to mix colours to make new colours and did a few experiments on the paper towel he was using to dab the water off his brush. All of this without a prompt from me.

After over an hour of creating and designing, he quietly cleaned up his paint, washed out his brush and laid out his creations to dry.

Leaf painting

Normally, I would supervise Little Brother’s painting project in an effort to avoid a painting disaster. Because of my current mobility issues, I’m generally more tired by the end of our knitting club days. However, all went well without one bit of overseeing on my part. He was inspired by nature, planned his project, collected what he needed, completed the work and cleaned up after himself…and though he didn’t say anything, I could tell he was quite proud of his accomplishments.

And for the rest of the evening, we were privileged to experience the effects of his self-led learning and the confidence it gave him. Where we would sometimes see an upset little boy because he was not allowed to take his own path, we saw a well-behaved five-year-old settle a small dispute with his sister. Being allowed to plan, develop and execute a project of his own choosing filled him with accomplishment.

A young boy painting

He was confident in his abilities and it overflowed into everything else he touched that night.

Fun Food Friday – delayed

Wow, setting a weekly goal for myself has proven harder than I thought.

I’m a week behind getting this post up…and it’ll probably be more than that by the time I actually make the post live on the blog, which is why I’m including this week’s Fun Food Friday as well.

Anyway, last week’s Fun Food Friday consisted of a very healthy, fun-looking snack and an incredibly unhealthy but totally kid-approved dinner (note: the kids were also the ones who came up with the dinner idea. I would never actually feed this to my kids as part of a balanced diet, but I was so tired I caved they liked their idea so much, and who am I to squash their creativity?)

So here it is:

Fruity palm trees


Chocolate Stuffed Raspberries


Island Fun


Santa Hats  (Yes, they are designed from french fries, ketchup and mini marshmallows. And probably only a kid would eat them.)



And this week’s Fun Food Friday is pizza at a bowling alley!

(OK, it’s not exactly creative fun food, but it is food, and it is pizza [which is totally fun] and we did eat it while we were bowling [which is also totally fun], so it counts.)

It was the end-of-year Messy Church and Junior Youth Group party, so we did a family bowling night. It was a blast. We prayed and played and ate pizza and generally had a fantastic time!


Music is my life

Well, not exactly. I like music. I can sort of jingle out a tune on the piano and I played clarinet in the school band. I also started learning guitar when I first met the man who would become my husband (admittedly, it was mostly to impress him because he played guitar and he had a thing for chicks who played guitar).

But I digress. (Don’t I always?) Continue reading