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On poetry for children

I just found out, in looking for poetry books online, that one author that we love–Mary Ann Hoberman–was the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. i didn’t even know there was a children’s poet laureate!

Now I do. (I love learning something new everyday!)

They select one every two years.

I’m so glad.

Poetry is important.

Children need good poetry.

Maybe someday I can write a poem for children.

Tee hee. I’ll give it a try.

But not today.

Today I want to recommend Mary Ann Hoberman’s book Seven Silly Eaters again simply because it is so fun, and because I was thinking of what great children’ poetry book I could recommend.

Last night I recommended Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne, which is from my childhood and so well-loved that the binding is falling apart.

There are so many delightful poems for children! And that’s for another day.

Ciao, bella!


Give them wings to fly

Yesterday I was in Costco in the cheese section, snatching up a sample of hummus and naan, when I overhead a young father singing to his baby in the car seat. I couldn’t resist: I had to compliment him on helping his child develop preemergent literacy skills!

What are preemergent literacy skills? They are the skills a child develops before they learn to read or write. And a parent is the best person to help a child develop those critical abilities.

You might be wondering what the blue morpho butterfly has to do with preemergent literacy skills or Christmas gift suggestions, which is where I’m going with this post.

It has everything to do with it!

Morpho butterflies have the most scintillating blue wings, which you would never know when their wings are closed. From the outside, they are brown. It’s like a child: you don’t know what their mission on earth is from the start. You can’t see it from the outside. You just have to nourish them in faith, knowing that they have incredible potential–something that will eventually manifest itself and that is even more beautiful to accomplish in their life that the irridescent blue of a morpho butterfly’s wings.

Last month I wrote a post summarizing some of the points I was going to share in my presentation on preemergent literacy skill development. (See “The Rewards of Literacy Span Generations”). In my presentation, I showed a blue morpho butterfly to my listeners. I pointed out that butterflies develop all that they need to fly while in their chrysalis. We have children in our homes for roughly 18 years, and during that time, we have enormous influence in shaping their brains–particularly in the first 3-5 years of their lives, and then the remaining years as we provide ongoing nourishment for those developing brains.

What kind of wings?

What we feed their brains and bodies and spirits makes ALL the difference in the world! Consider the kinds of “wings” you are helping to build in your child: how will they be able to “fly” based on the knowledge you are feeding them?

Of course we want to feed our children’s brains, bodies, and spirits the best we can possible feed them. In Out of the Best Books, S. Michael Wilcox “recall[s] sitting in an English class at BYU with Dr. Arthur Henry King, one of the finest educators [Wilcox] studied under. He taught that if we teach a child to read and do not teach them also what is worth reading, we only arm the enemy. We want to arm the children!” King was of course referring to the daily battle between good and evil, the emancipation of the human mind and spirit from the fetters of ignorance and crippling spiritual degradation.

Walther Firle, “The Fairy Tale”

How do we teach our children what is worth reading? We find the best books ourselves and then share them with them, whether that means giving them as gifts, taking them to the library and checking them out, building an audio listening library (by purchasing books or paying for a subscription to an online service such as Audible.com OR listening to books for free on Librivox or through your local library), or reading them online together. (You can read books online for free at read.gov, Libraries of Hope, and The Gutenberg Project.) As a grandmother, you might consider starting a family book club and sharing “books of the month” with each of your families.

I loved having a butterfly land on my finger at the Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah.

It’s like seeing a butterfly and inviting your child to come see it with you!

So onto Christmas, because it’s that time of year!

Christmas gift book recommendations

Here are just a handful of books I recommend from my reading this year and some classics that our family has loved over the years:

Wings for infants and toddlers:

I love Lois Ehlert books! They are bright, simple, well-written, and help children connect with nature in happy ways. Connecting with nature is important to help children learn fundamental truths from their earliest days upward.
Be sure to check out how I read this book from my Instagram post on it. (Be sure to scroll through the pictures until you get to the video. Random note: I was wearing my running vest, having made that video just after a run, lol.) And get the BOARD BOOK edition for those little hands to hold it while they are having fun learning the alphabet.
I Love You As Much by Laura Melmed teaches children that their mother loves them just like mother animals love their babies. Such gentle illustrations. One of my favorites!
Planting a Rainbow teaches color, variety, and beauty all in the comfort of Mom’s lap! I love how you can read the names of the flowers printed in small print next to the bold illustrations of them. You might just be inspired to get some seeds and plant a flower together in the spring!
I give this to every new mother, because we used the scripture stories to teach our children to read and to help them feel the Spirit from their earlier days.

Wings for pre-K through 8 years:

This slightly larger board book, produced by the BYU Museum of Art, is a beautiful introduction to sacred art with prose that is at once accessible and inspiring to the youngest reader: “He gives you the gift of sight so that you can see the yellow flecks on a caterpillar, the crinkle of Grandpa’s smiling eyes, or someone who is sitting alone or simply needs a hug. What gift can you give the Savior in return?
My Father’s Dragon was hands down the father read aloud of our young family. It was one of the first books our children wanted to read on their own. There is a TRILOGY as well, so if you’re looking for more than one book, look for the trilogy!
Do you have a young musician in your home? I love the spirit of this book about how a little girl wants to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and make music on her violin, despite the discouragement from her mocking brothers. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Cheiri Uegaki and Qin Leng.
The Land of the Blue Flower is hard to find in print! I listened to it on Audible and loved it! You know Frances Hodgson Burnett as the author of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, two other books that I highly recommend if your child hasn’t read them (ages 8-12), but you can be younger and love this story as well! Someone needs to illustrate this book and reprint it.
How DOES a child get her parents to EVER go to bed? This clever story about bedtime routines will put a smile on both parent AND child’s faces! Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. (Daddy is also included in this story!)
Every child is their OWN person, and this book reminds us of that in hilarious rhyme! Another favorite from our children’s younger years. Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman.

Wings for 8-12 years:

Punctuation errors pop up all over the place! This is such a fun book–you wouldn’t expect that from a book on punctation–to prove the point of the importance of the placement of commas! This book is needed more than ever!
Have a child who is ambitious but maybe struggling with health issues? Read this true story to them to inspire them to not let obstacles hold them back! To Dare Mighty Things by Doreen Rappaport.
I love the rich, colorful illustrations that illuminate the lives of women who have impacted the world through the centuries. Acquaint your children with these noble women in McArthur Krishna and Bethany Spalding’s Girls Who Choose God.
Have a child who loves writing code? Or a daughter who loves math? Here’s the cool story of a woman who helped develop computer programming in our country during her entire lifetime! I especially love the part in this book that a moth caught in the computer is why we call computer “glitches” “bugs.”
Here’s another great story chronicaling the life of a quirky yet loveable and impactful mathematician named Paul Edrös. I like this story for how it explains that he had his weaknesses but his love for others helped people accept him, despite his personal quirks.
What child hasn’t ever thought of running away from home, even just for the day? AND TO A MUSEUM TO BOOT? This was one of my favorite books as a child! I loved reading it again with my children and listening to it on Audible. Such a classic!
This historical fiction is based on a true story about a 10-year old boy who helped save his family and friends during a malarial epidemic, and can inspire your child to be brave in the face of great challenges! The Boy Who Saved Cleveland by James Cross Giblin.
The illustrations (by N.C. Wyeth) in this version of Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson) certainly capture the spirit of this classic pirate adventure! Highly recommend this as a read-aloud!
Pearl Buck wrote this timeless story that many of you will recognize from a little video made years ago called “The Gift.” Reading this book made me cry. Another story to inspire your child to give, serve, and make sacrifices for those they love.

A littel girl whose Ukranian grandparents live with her help her learn how to serve and care for neighbors who are sick over Christmas with scarlet fever. Timeless lessons of religious tolerance, service, love, and friendship. The audio version The Trees of the Dancing Goats is also wonderful because it is read by the author, Patricia Polacco, and just gives you the feel of her grandmother (it is a true, autobiographical story!)
Sometimes parents can be on their cell phones or computers a little too long. This adorable and hilarious story reminds parents as well as children the value of hanging up! 😉 One of my favorites!
I can’t even remember how many times we read this version of The Swiss Family Robinson over and over and over! The Great Illustrated Classics version makes this adventure super accesible to young readers, who will want to read the unabridged version when they are ready! All the Great Illustrated Classics were terrific “bridge books” for early readers who needed more good books to read but for whom the original stories may be just a little too advanced lexically speaking.
The Famous Five is a long series of adventures by British author Enid Blyton featuring four cousins and their dog, Timmy. Like the Chronicles of Narnia (and so many other children’s stories), these adventures take place without parental involvement: the children must solve the mysteries or find the treasure on their own!
Like Old Yeller or Big Red, this is a dog book that will get your heart. If your child hasn’t read this (or one of those others named)–or you haven’t read this aloud to your children–jump right in! It is such a beautiful story of love, dedication, sorrow, friendship, and how much a boy can love a dog!

Wings for 12 years and up:

Speaking of butterflies, this story is AMAZING! It tells the true story of how a 13-year old girl, through her gifts and determination, defied the norms of her day and changed the world’s understanding of insects forever.
We listened to this wonderful story (based on a part of history that I didn’t know) on fall break. I love the way Jennifer Nielsen captures the fire that this young woman discovers in her soul as she faces daily perils when trying to save her national language, heritage, and family. Even though the protagonist of this story is a girl, it is not just a “girl” book! The young man who assists her is also a hero! (P.S. We REALLY have enjoyed this author!)

My sister gave me this book after our father died. It was absolutely wonderful. I laughed, and at the end, I cried. Kind of like Pippi Longstocking, but for me, even more fun. Like authors Kate DiCamillo and Deborah Wiles, Maria Parr knows how to play your heart strings in a way that is healing and comforting. Enjoy Astrid the Unstoppable‘s unmatchable personality and love!
Boys in the Boat (Young Adult Edition) is the true story of one young man whose tragic life turns victorious as he discovers the will to win and an unmatchable team unity on the 1936 USA Olympic rowing team. I was literally cheering outloud as I listened to this story! This is a GREAT book for the WHOLE family!
The movie is coming out this Christmas, and my girls and I can’t wait! But as with any classic, the book is ALWAYS better than the movie (although the 1985 Anne of Green Gables movie series really did a phenomenal close second!) So if you or your daughter hasn’t read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott yet, you have to give her the opportunity! It is such a phenomenal work. “Jo had learned that hearts, like flowers, cannot be rudely handled, but must open naturally.”

We love to listen to Jennifer Nielsen books on fall break each year. This was our first introduction to her, and we loved it! We couldn’t wait for the sequel to come out! This is quite a romp of an adventure with lots of fun twists and turns and a character who, although slippery at times, really demonstrates compassion and integrity. And it’s the first in a delightful trilogy!
Has your child read The Hobbit yet? Such a classic adventure! (This particular hardback edition is a good price on amazon–much less than I paid for it in a bookstore recently!) Join Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, Gandalf, the infamous wizard, dwarves and others as they seek to recapture treasure kept by Smaug, a terrible dragon!
Gary Schmidt kept us all laughing reading The Wednesday Wars. Set in the late 1960’s, Holling Hoodhood is a junior high student who has to hang out after school on Wednesdays with his English teacher, who makes him read Shakespeare. This book will keep you laughing as you remember just how it feels to be a teenager all over again–until the end, when you will wish the book could just keep going!

Wings for adults:

Definitely the most inspiring and motivating book I read in 2019. HIGHLY recommend this book! Such an incredible man! It is a great read aloud for the whole family, easily read or shared in snippets at the dinner table.
In The Spark, I felt validated in reading about how one mother listened to her “gut” and did what she and her husband felt would best help their child with special needs. SUCH an inspiring story. A definite gift to inspire a young or older mother alike!

You can read A Christmas Carol on line for free. Here is one website where it is available: read.gov. You can also listen to a dramatized version of it here. (It’s less than 25 minutes long–short enough for a family night or dinner listening!). I love this printed version (shown above) with pictures illustrated by P.J. Lynch.

Need a shot of positivity? This might just do it for you! Shawn Achor enlarges our vision of how we can accomplish better goals TOGETHER.
The original version of this book and the young adult version were life-changing for me. This book is a real-life To Kill a Mockingbird. I was astonished to learn that these problems were happening in OUR era, in the United States of America! Highly recommend!
The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain: I haven’t yet finished this book, but it is so inspiring! It isn’t a book you read in an hour (at least not for me), but one that is read in a quiet space and savored. Joan of Arc is truly inspiriing, and this is a Mark Twain that I haven’t read before but sense a reverence in while I read.
I read some of the poems in this book recently, on the topics of teens and motherhood and temple service. They inspired me and made me laugh–a welcome reprieve from my day.

For more recommendations of books we’ve loved, go here.

If you are looking for a specific recommendation for a child’s particular interest or age, message me on Instagram (@RACFLP or @raisingamazingchildren), Facebook, or comment below. I’d love to try to help you find a book that your child might enjoy!

Want to donate to the Orem City/United Way of Utah County/Just Serve’s Book Drive? All money collected will be used to purchase books for children in Orem who are in need. (Please type “2019 Christmas Book Drive” in the “Comments” section. Thanks!)

You are the parent: choose well

I think the most important thing to remember when choosing books for your child is that God chose YOU to be the parent. He is giving you a chance to nurture your child, and He wants you to be wise, careful and loving about what you feed that child, giving them the best nourishment you can so they can flourish mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Choose well! Listen to your heart. I believe in you.

Mary Cassatt is one of my favorite impressionist artists. “Nurse Reading to a Little Girl” (1895)

I do.

The message of this song is powerful: I care if you are hurting and want to take your own life. That is how I feel. I care. Do you need help? Tell someone close to you who can help you! If you don’t know anyone, call one of these free helplines:

Know someone who is hurting but don’t know how to help? Go here.


I Will Shine

I love this.

I will shine like a candle in the dark. All it takes to make a difference is a spark.

Way to go, Shawna!

You can listen to this and other original songs she has written or download sheet music here.


The grand breakfast experiment.

I had an idea today. 💡 It’s not a new idea, but I’m hoping it’s an answer to prayer.

I want my teenagers to not only eat breakfast but to eat a healthy breakfast.

We don’t have a lot of time in the morning.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time making breakfast everyday. (Cooking is not my favorite way to spend time.)

I don’t want our family eating store-bought cereal because most prepared cereals are high in sugar and low in nutritional value and do not have much staying power.

Beginning today

My idea was to make healthy breakfast choices today and put them in the fridge and freezer. Then we can choose from the choices available and eat healthily, even in a hurry.

So I made pancakes for them to eat today and froze the leftovers. I had leftover breakfast cookies, so I put them in the freezer.

I cooked wheat berries (kernels) and Irish oats (not together!) and put them in the fridge.

I had already boiled eggs yesterday, because I try to keep boiled eggs on hand. And I already have frozen greens and fruit in the bottom of the freezer for green smoothies.

(Click here to download a PDF of this sign.)

I made a list of breakfast options and stuck it on the fridge.

I will tell them about it today. When the cold cereal is gone (not a super healthy choice), I won’t buy more, unless we are on vacation or someone wants it for their birthday. Although this last weekend, I said no more sugar cereal on vacation. We just need to eat better!

I’m remembering from Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (by Ellyn Satter) that when it comes to food, a mother’s job is WHAT and WHEN and a child’s job is HOW MUCH and WHETHER. (I think that is what she said. It’s been a long time since I read it, and I can’t find the book in my library right now….). So I’ve decided what is healthy and what are the choices, and they can choose from those choices whatever they want on days when I’m not preparing it for them.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m sure it won’t solve all our breakfast problems, but I’m hoping it improves things.

I’ll let you know.

Image from https://runfasteatslow.com.

P.S. The recipes I’m currently using for breakfast cookies and “Superhero muffins” come from the cookbook Run Fast. Eat Slow. Nourishing recipes for Athletes by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky.

AND I heard this great quote today from Gordon B. Hinckley to know if our good ideas are promptings or not:

“How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Gordon B. Hinckley read Moroni 7:13, 16–17 and then said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. …

“If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.

“You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 260–61).

(Click here to go to the source of this quote online.)


Pool reflections

I was swimming laps yesterday (after doing a little ballet with Anna, which was so fun to have her lead me in a little warm-up-to-the-day exercise), thinking again how I wish I had learned to swim laps as a child.

Today, in the pool again, I decided to work on learning a flip turn. Somehow when I was young, I got afraid of doing things like cartwheels and somersaults and flips. It may have had something to do with a bad experience trying to do a back dive off the side of a pool once when I hit my head on the wall coming back in from my dive: I had forgotten to push away. It hurt so much that I didn’t go back to trying to do it again. Maybe it was just my personality of being afraid of getting hurt!

As an adult, doing a flip turn is something I want to learn to do and conquer. So today Lane patiently helped me figure out how to do the somersault in the water. After maybe 20 tries, I said a prayer for help. After the prayer I was able to do it, slowly, 10 times correctly. Then I was tired: a run and a hike and lots of water somersaults was enough for one day! I’ll have to work on the turn part of that another day.

I feel like I have such a desire to learn new things as an adult that I didn’t have the chance to learn as a child. And it makes me want to help children learn to overcome fears and have fun learning things like swimming and flip turns and somersaults and splits and whatever fun physical activities when they are young so that as they grow they have the courage and self-confidence to know that they can do hard things!

I just love this photo of our daughters and nieces when they were little. Their personalities just shine through their darling faces!

It makes me think: if I were to design elementary age curriculum, I would include much more physical education than I ever had. I would have each grade learn to walk and then run distances. Kindergarten: a half mile. First grade: 1 mile, and up on through the grades until the sixth graders, who can run a 10K when they finish!

And wouldn’t it be great to have a few minutes of yoga/stretching every day in kindergarten? And dance twice a week? And basic gymnastics once a week? And teaching children anatomy and physiology and physics and geometry and culture and geography as you move, right from the start?

Wouldn’t it be so amazing to just plant these seeds of knowledge in such natural ways–to talk about gravity when you fall or try to reach–that the children grow and acquire so much more each year, building on their knowledge?

And music fits so naturally with movement, as does second language learning. There are just so many ways that multiple subjects can be combined to make learning so much more effective and fun!

Well, there’s nothing like a little quiet lap swim or morning run or a hike with my husband to get me brainstorming about things like educational reform!


Dear Daisy,

I was making dinner and watching (and then eating alone as my family all had to scatter hither and yon to their various commitments) “Don’t Miss This”–I can do that kind of thing since I no longer have children holding onto my legs or standing on food storage buckets to help me cook 😉&😓–when Emily Belle Freeman mentioned a song she loves that I hadn’t heard of: “Let It Be Jesus” by Christy Nockels. And so, as I sometimes do, I looked up the song and listened. I was really touched by Christy’s message and also by the worshipping spirit of those who were at her concert. I love thinking about Christians and other wonderful people of other faiths around the globe celebrating The Good and goodness wherever they find it!

And, as I sometimes do, I saw a link to a song by Ben Platt, a voice that one of my daughters in particular has loved listening to, and it caught my attention. I listened, and loved it. The lyrics reminded me of this week. I mean, it’s only Tuesday, but the weekend was really hard, and Monday was the hardest of all.

If I were to guess, I would say it was my total change of routine from exercise, post-marathon recovery. Because Saturday I went to Pilates, which felt so good, but wasn’t enough of a workout to make up for all the rest days of last week. Then Monday it took everything to get out and run two miles and then run/walk the last almost-mile. But a nap and better night’s sleep and then after swimming laps this morning I seriously felt like almost back to myself again.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that this weekend I was so cranky and out of sorts, and Monday morning I just felt so contrary and sorry for Lane having to put up with the challenge of my emotional rollercoaster. I thanked him for his patience after our morning prayer, because I could see that he had been so patient and kind all weekend, even when I hadn’t been. I was truly feeling gratitude for him. I guess after you have a parent who left your other parent, you never take for granted love and fidelity. You know they are what God expects, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy.

And so that’s why I wanted to share this song. Because I think that is what marriage is all about: we grow together. I know the song is about a break-up, but I think it can be for sticking together when times gets tough! Lane has been around the block with me enough to know that I don’t want to struggle with sleep (and end up sleep-deprived), and that I want to exercise and never have to deal with hormonal changes and that I want to never have an off day! He knows all too well. But that’s just what I’ve been dealt. It’s my package deal. And he knows I work hard at it, to try to improve how I deal with my challenges and work to make the ups and downs less frequent. But we all have ups and downs! I’m so grateful that Lane believes in growing as we go, and that we both know that Christ will help us pull through the rough spots.

I remember two weeks ago–already!!–when I was visiting with my friend at the church as we cleaned windows together and found out that the marathon course had rollers and hills! I had heard that it was “all downhill.” I was SO thankful to Jenn for telling me that it wasn’t all downhill. Then I knew what to expect.

Life is ups and downs–for our course to include rollers. Life is not just all downhill. It’s part of our covenant to hold fast to Christ as we run uphill and down, and sometimes to have sore knees and hamstrings and calves because of it. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Mentally.

Thank goodness we get to grow together as we go. I love my covenant marriage–because my husband works hard to keep his covenants. I love the Maker of our covenant.

Love, Liz

P.S. I found one more video I had to share: Piano Guys (always fabulous) and Charity and Andres. It said it is a farewell dance because Andres is leaving to serve his mission for 2 years.


The Rewards of Literacy Span Generations

This was a quilt that we made as a stake Relief Society for our new library in Riverton, Utah, about 20 years ago. In the bottom left-hand corner, my mom is reading to Sarah and Nathan.

Literacy is the ability to read and write.

Those who care for newborns through children age three have an enormous, long-lasting impact on that child’s brain development. Love, bonding, and healthy physical food aren’t the only important aspects of parenting: “language nutrition”–or feeding the child’s brain adequately–is critical to that child’s future success.

Literacy matters. A lot.

I like the way one literacy program website put it: “Reading matters. It’s an early gateway skill that paves the pathway for future success. Without it, kids are simply less likely to graduate high school, find employment, or successfully avoid other hardships like poverty, homelessness, hunger, and injustice” (https://smartreading.org/what-we-do/).

Yummy words

“Language nutrition” means the way you talk to, sing to, and read to your child–anything you do that is person-to-person verbal interaction with your child.

In a review of 103 studies on children’s language outcomes, the researchers determined that what you say, how you say it, and how often you say it makes a big difference! (http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Making-Sure-Children-Get-Their-Daily-Dose-of-Langu.aspx).

“Infants are born learning.” (Dr. Patricia Kuhl)

Here are some good, proven ideas for what will help you feed your baby linguistically:

Talk to your baby. Use your best language. Using a “babytalk” voice with babies is great (it’s helps them to pick out words from sentences and is called “parentese”–see the link in the paragraph below), but don’t use “baby talk” with your child: you want to help your child’s vocabulary grow! Children whose parents use better grammatical structures and richer vocabulary…you guessed it…also tend to use better grammar and vocabulary. (http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Making-Sure-Children-Get-Their-Daily-Dose-of-Langu.aspx. See also https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885200616300151#!).

Hey you!

Make conversation instead of giving commands. For example, it’s better for your child’s brain for you to say, “Guess what we are having for dinner? Here are some clues: It’s red and white and warm and has tomatoes and mushrooms in it! And you really like it!” It uses more vocabulary, imagination, and keeps you on a friendlier plane than simply commanding, “Come to dinner now.”

Change it up. Commands aren’t quite as nice, right? Children don’t like being ordered around all the time; adults don’t like it, either. How many commands do you give in a day to your child? Could you change that up to invite conversation more than just giving orders? Kind works better from the get go. From birth through young adults, inviting conversation is a great relationship builder.

My husband is really good at this; I, on the other hand, could definitely improve!

Word count (as in 30 million)

Talk A LOT to your baby. The more you talk, the better. Let’s go for 30 million words! Your socioeconomic status does NOT have to determine how many words your child hears from you! You can learn to speak kindly, wisely, and well no matter how much you make.

The term 30 million word gap (often shortened to just the word gap) was originally coined by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley in their book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,[1] and subsequently reprinted in the article “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3”.[2] Hart and Risley physically recorded an hours worth of language in each home once a month over 2.5 years. Families were classified by socioeconomic status (SES) into “high” (professional), “middle” (working class), and “low” (welfare) SES. They found that the average child in a professional family hears 2,153 words per waking hour, the average child in a working-class family hears 1,251 words per hour, and an average child in a welfare family only 616 words per hour. Extrapolating, they stated that, “in four years, an average child in a professional family would accumulate experience with almost 45 million words, an average child in a working-class family 26 million words, and an average child in a welfare family 13 million words.[2]


I’d like to point something out

Use gestures. Babies use gestures a lot. Name what your baby is pointing to. what your When you use gestures as well, you help them pick up language. It helps the child to focus on what you want to show or tell them. ((http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Making-Sure-Children-Get-Their-Daily-Dose-of-Langu.aspx).

When your child reaches for something—like a ball—what happens? You probably say something about it, like, “Ball? You want the ball? Yes, that’s a blue ball. I can get you the blue ball. And look! This ball bounces! Look how high we can bounce the ball! Oh no, the blue ball just landed in the potty. Bye bye, blue ball!” So with one simple gesture toward an object, your child got you to talk (and talk and talk) to him about it. And hearing all those words was a boon to his language acquisition abilities.

Amber Ankowski, “Using Gestures to Boost Kids’ Language Skills,” 21 January 2016 (https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/using-gestures-to-boost-kids-language-skills)

Baby ASL

I loved “Signing Time” for our children when they were young! Rachel Coleman, a mother of a deaf daughter, created Signing Time to help hearing children communicate with others–even if no one around them is hard of hearing.

Signing Time is just one resource for helping children learn ASL. I loved being able to communicate with my children using signs during church or other quiet venues when I didn’t want them to speak out loud! Baby Signing TIme is free on YouTube. When you watch it together, then you can practice together and acquire the skills together! Learning is the really fun parts of motherhood!

“A, You’re Adorable, B, You’re so beautiful” ♫

Sing to your baby. “C, You’re a cutie full of charm.” Singing is such a fun way to verbally interact with your child! Our oldest daughter’s spoke her FIRST word one night when I was rocking her in the rocking chair and singing to her as I always did, night after night. I sang at least 2 songs to her every night: “I Am a Child of God” and “Families Can Be Together Forever.” One night I started singing “I am a child of…” and she said, “God” before I did!

I was astonished!

Twenty-five years later, we still sing together. And when something funny happens that reminds us of a line from a song, we often quote that, too. Or a childhood book that we read over and over.

There are so many songs that have beautiful, varied vocabulary. Be sure to sing the BEST songs you can find that are appropriate for your young child.

I had a great time reading The Bad Seed aloud on my birthday to my family.
Reading aloud can be SO fun!

What shall we read today?

A landmark study about parents reading to children discovered that “children of mothers who read to them frequently have larger vocabularies than kids who aren’t read to” (https://www.aecf.org/resources/the-30-million-word-gap/). That might sound really obvious, but the difference it makes to that child later in life is really big!

If you are reading to your child, you will both grow your vocabulary–if you select books that are interesting, varied, well-written, and non-fiction as well as fiction. (Check out @RACFLP on Instagram for ideas of books that I recommend!) You will both be better educated and have more fun. You will grow closer together. And you will help lay the foundation for success in your child’s life.

“Turn off the TV and open a good book.”

The video above from the University of Washington describes why TV is not an effective substitute for face-to-face interaction by a loving caregiver. In this video , early childhood language development expert Dr. Patricia Kuhl explains that infants who were exposed to very clear, recorded audio and video of the same live language sessions that other infants received, learned essentially the same amount as the control group (nothing). (The study linked above on hanen.org notes the same results in the review of 103 studies–that babies do not learn from TV and audio in the same way that they learn from live caregivers.)

If you want your baby’s brain to develop well, talk to her. Read to him. Sing to them! Teach them nursery rhymes and fingerplays and patty cake clapping games.

One wise leader (a very well-spoken and highly educated man), Gordon B. Hinckley, said,

“If we could follow a slogan that says, ‘Turn off the TV and open a good book,’ we would do something of substance in strengthening another generation. Do not misunderstand: There are so very many things of value that come over television, but we must be selective and not be as dumb, driven slaves to the trash of many writers and producers.…

“These are vital issues concerning parents and children. Let us teach and learn goodness together, work together, read good books together, pray together. These things can be done notwithstanding the frenetic pressures of our lives. They can be done with children and particularly when children are small. Sometimes it may seem too late when they are in their teens. Yet, remember my thornless locust tree. Surgery and suffering brought about something beautiful, whose later life has provided welcome shade from the heat of the day.” (“Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations,” September 1996 Ensign; adapted from a 5 March 1994 address given to the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Brigham Young University Management Society, emphasis added.)

That phrase, “Turn off the TV and open a good book,” shaped my motherhood. It is, in part, why my children are the way they are.

One of my favorite photos of Lane reading to Rebecca, Julia, Peter, and Eliza.

Will you read to me, Mom or Dad?

“The Reading Mother” by Strickland Gilliand used to be framed and perched on a shelf in our family library. We don’t have to be wealthy to give our children a rich vocabulary and enchanting linguistic experience. Fathers are fabulous readers, too, of course! My father left an indelible impression upon my heart when it came to making read aloud time fun. I like to think I have some of him in me when it comes to wanting to make reading aloud as fun as possible.

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

Source: “Too much time staring at our phones is hurting our kids’ feelings” https://www.canadianbusiness.com/innovation/parents-and-smartphones/

No phone zone

Cell phone usage by young mothers is also causing a decrease in brain development in children because they aren’t getting as much face-to-face interaction as they need. The neglect inadvertantly caused by parents using their cell phones is also causing problems in social emotional development. Several recent studies reviewed in Psychology Today explain the importance of putting down our phones to be present as parents. I know my teenagers like it when I give them my full attention instead of spending time with them on my phone. (And I appreciate the same courtesy!)

Best friends

Emilie Poulsson (1853-1939) wrote books for children and gave lectures on parenting–all while being blind. This verse she penned has even more meaning knowing that she used her fingers to read Braille:

Books are keys to wisdom’s treasure;
Books are gates to lands of pleasure;
Books are paths that upward lead;
Books are friends. Come, let us read.

Reading to our children doesn’t end when they are 3…or 5…or 8…or 12. We can read together as families at the dinner table, in family book clubs. We can read books together and then go see their movies.

The books picture above are the books one of my daughters took with her to college that she couldn’t leave behind: The Book Thief, Kisses for Katie, Little Women, The Hobbit, King Lear. (Her children’s books are packed up in a box for another time.) I think each of my daughters brought Little Women with her when they left home. It’s such a dear story! I bet they never cracked it open once while there, but “books are friends.” It’s comforting to have the ones you love not far from reach, right?

What is funny about this photo of my mom reading to Sarah and Nathan is that they are reading Mulan. We didn’t own any books based on animated stories, so I don’t even know where this one came from! LOL.

What we read to our children in childhood and what we provide for them to read as they grow into adults will stay with them forever. In turn, they will read to their children, who will read to their children. The reward of literacy will span generations to come, as long as the parents keep loving and talking to and reading to their children from the best books they can!

Long story short…

In summary, words matter. The way we speak to our children–from birth onward–matters. As the “30 Million Word Gap” report said,

“The ways in which parents and children interact at home shape early differences in literacy development. Parents can tailor their child’s vocabulary development and critical thinking skills to prepare them for school by engaging in frequent conversations in academic English. As children mature, parents may increasingly use complex sentences, narrative structures and diverse vocabulary (Huttenlocher, et. al. 1991, Hoff-Ginsberg 1991, Hart & Risley 1992, Haden 1997, Weizman & Snow 2001; Goldberg 1989; Azevedo, et. al. 2007). Children who experience this kind of instruction at home have larger vocabularies and greater syntactic and narrative skills than do children whose parents do not enact such instruction. Differences in children’s oral language skills emerge as crucial once children have mastered basic decoding and the focus shifts to reading comprehension around the 2nd and 3rd grades. (Raudenbush Proposal 2010).”

The Orem Public Library is a treasure trove of literary resources for the entire family!

Local Resources

The Orem Public Library has story time, music and movement time, baby time–how much time would you like to go and learn how you can have fun with you baby and young children? Check out their calendar to see what works for you! They also have many other wonderful resources, such as chess club, that we went to years ago.

The United Way of Utah County can help you learn more about how to care for your baby and help you improve your parenting. Stephanie Anderson is a specialist there who would love to help you find any resources that you might need!

Just Serve can help you find opportunities to tutor young readers or serve your community in lots of other ways. Or if you need some help, they might be able to connect you to someone who can help you!

@RACFLP on instagram is my account for sharing tips on teaching literacy and nurturing children, families and communities. I give away and share about my favorite books on this account. My goal is to build a person-to-person circulating library of some of the best books ever! Need a book recommendation for a specific age, topic, or circumstance? Feel free to message me on that account!

The Orem City, United Way, and Just Serve’s “Read Early Read Often” Book Drive will officially begin December 9, 2019. Links for more information or to donate money will soon be available on the United Way Utah County’s website.

Project Read

Other helpful resources

“12 Things Not to Say to Young Readers” by Brad Wilcox (BYU Magazine, 2003 Issue)

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt and The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease are both highly recommended booklists for parents, litearcy volunteers and teachers who want to read aloud in their homes and classrooms.

There are so many resources! What do you want to learn? Message me on my Instagram account (@RACFLP), and I’ll sdo my best to help you find the answer to your nurturing literacy questions.


Our first marathon run-down (pun intended)

We got on the bus around 4:45 am. It was cold and dark. I had sleep about 3 hours plus some restless, wakeful sleeping full of nightmares about missing the bus. I didn’t feel like doing ANYTHING except going back to bed. I’m smiling here because I love being with Sarah, not because I feel like running!
It was cold outside as the bus drove up the race route. But it was a whole lot colder once we got off the bus! The wind was whipping, and we were shivering within seconds.
I asked a random runner if she could take our photo at the Start Line. I had no idea, that out of 7800 runners, this was Sarah’s friend from back home!
Brrr. It always helps to hold onto each other tightly in the cold!
We sat huddled on the ground until they lit the bonfires near us. Then we went in between several fires and were much warmer.
7:05 am. 15 minutes from our start. First blurry photo as I begin my run. Dawn was emerging. It was beautiful and quiet.
7:15 am. I love the sky changing. The route is nice downhill the first three miles. I tried to keep a slow pace. That was challenging!
7:31 am. Sarah is already feeling sick and needing to stop. She didn’t say anything about it and kept on running except for the stops. She is stoic.
7:46 am. Nearly an hour in, and we are on target for our goal pace. We wanted to finish under 5 hours.
7:50 am. One hour done, and I can see the first cinder cone. Pretty cool!
7:58 am. Sarah and I got to stop at these our entire race. LOL. I was feeling great! Sarah, not so much. But she didn’t tell me until about mile 8, as I recall.
8:27 am. Heading up the mile-long hill. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Tendermercies!
9:08 am. Flat is just fine! There are rollers and a couple of hills in this race that before the Monday before, I didn’t know about. I was so grateful to get to visit with my friend, Jenn, as we cleaned the church windows together. She gave me the complete rundown on the race route! That was so helpful to me. I also attended the “first timers” meeting at the expo the day before the race and learned more about the route. That helped me feel peaceful and ready.
9:49 am. I was totally inspired by the runners who pushed fellow race participants in wheelchairs for 26.2 miles! I loved what this man’s shirt said: “Hard ≠ Impossible.”
10:06 am. Two things I was excited about: Seeing the live brass band I was hearing, and seeing my family! I could hear them yelling for me as soon as they saw me. That sure made me feel happy!! I was already smiling as much as I could while I ran. Golden said it would make me run faster. Plus, I just like smiling. I mean, why not?
10:06 am. I sure love my family! They were the best cheerleaders ever! I also loved those who were all along the ENTIRE race route, cheering us on whether they knew us or not. Isn’t that fabulous? It sure makes a difference.
10:16 am. I took this picture to remember how deliberate I was about fueling every 30-40 minutes. I alternated these gels (which are plain) and my Honey Stinger gummies and Clif Blocks. I drank quick gulps of water and Gatorade at every aid station, as I had been advised to do. I didn’t carry water on me for this reason. I loved using up each gel because then I had less stuff crammed into my pockets! LOL.
10:23 am. I finally was able to figure out how to listen to general conference. I had not listened to music or audio books to this point because I wanted to be able to hear conference and didn’t know how my phone battery would perform live streaming for the last 2 hours of my race. It did just fine.
11;11 am. I had been running alone for the last maybe 9 miles? I was trying to get connected with Sarah so that we could run the rest of the race together. She had to make lots of stops, which slowed her pace down significantly. I was so grateful that she was still feeling well enough to run! I ran “slalom” downhill, but still my thighs were SO SORE the few days following the race!
11:53 am. We found each other around mile 18 (I think) and at this point were getting closer to town. Pretty exciting! We kept our pace slow and steady.
12:20 pm. Photo credit: Marathonfoto. I was apparently checking a text from family, I’m guessing. I loved getting encouraging texts from Lane.
12:17 pm. Mile 25! I wasn’t feeling so great. I ate some Otter Pop-type popsicles that they handed us at mile 23, and they made me feel sick to my stomach. Sarah, too. Oops! Lesson learned. I just have to say that the aid station volunteers in this race were some of the most amazing people EVER! Wow, they were so kind and helpful and hardworking at every single station! Thank you, thank you, all you volunteers!
12:19 pm. I thought this sign was pretty funny!
12:24 pm. The St. George Tabernacle. I so badly wanted to pick up my pace, but after the popsicles, I didn’t dare. I didn’t want to be sick at the finish line.
Photo by Marathonfoto. Not sure when. But so fun to have pics of us running together!
Marathonfoto. Getting to the very end!
Marathonfoto. We sprinted to the end the last maybe 100 yards? I wanted to do it sooner but felt too sick. Next time! (Will there be a next time? I haven’t decided yet.)
Coming into the finish! Lots longer than we planned, but we didn’t plan on Sarah being sick. She was an absolute champ! Not a single complaint. Just ran the whole marathon regardless.
Finished! At exactly the same time! That was my favorite part: finishing together. Sarah is the best racing companion. If any of our other children want to run a marathon together, I will hopefully be able to do that for them. That was the best part of this whole experience for me.
And this!
I was so touched that my children wanted to give me a hug even when I was all sweaty and stinky! That’s love in my book!
I could not have completed this goal without his marathon of loving support.
All the celebratory photos.
This pose was because I nearly toppled the number 6–it was made out of something like styrofoam, so when I went to catch my balance on it, it started to rock to the side! We got a good laugh, and I did the muscle pose pretending to be super strong….
Such a fun day! Such a supportive crew!
The medals are made from the sandstone that St. George is famous for. Some of my pioneer ancestors who helped build the St. George temple knew about sandstone, I’m guessing. They did much harder things than running marathons.
When I got back to our home, I checked it off my bucketlist.
What a dream come true!
This picture is representative of all the people who helped me accomplish my goal. Family, friends (this is a friend from our old ward, whose parents first really inspired me to run. This son, Golden, who grew up with some of our older children, is a phenomenal runner, and started his own shoe business–Altra), and even strangers that I met along the trail who are out with their children or who are senior citizens keeping up their health. You all inspire me. Thank you!

Nutrition colors and quiz

As a follow up to our Family Night on nutrition, the next Monday at dinner I shared why eating a variety of naturally colorful foods in important: it helps us get more of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to funtion well! I found a flyer online (click here for the source), printed it, and posted it next to my “Way to Eat” signs on the fridge.

These visuals have been good reminder to me of my goal to choose well what I put into my body and when I meal plan for my family.

I also wanted to remember the questions that our FHE guest asked us a few weeks ago in her little “nutrition quiz.” The purpose of the quiz was to help us individually evaluate where we were doing well and where we might want to improve.

She asked us 10 questions. She asked us to write down a number between 0-10 to answer the question. With percentage questions, 10=100%.

  1. What percent of what I eat has NO added sugar?
  2. How many servings of fresh fruits or vegetables do I eat per day? (1/2 cup=1 serving)
  3. What percent of the time do I eat whole grain?
  4. What percent of my fruits and vegetables are raw?
  5. What percent of the time do I eat healthy fats?
  6. What percent of the time do I eat organic* foods? (Foods that haven’t been treated with pesticides)
  7. How many cups of water do I drink per day?
  8. How many times during the week do I eat dessert?
  9. What percent of the meat that I eat is NOT processed*?
  10. What percent of the time do I NOT eat animal products*?

*Our teacher has strong feelings about organic, non-GMO, and animal-derived foods. That is why she included those questions. I found I do not share all of her concerns, but the test was still helpful to me!