Dr. Lillian Carson

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Reading Circle



"If you read to a child 20 minutes a day That child will learn 1 million additional words a year And will gain 1,000 additional vocabulary words a year."

-Delaine Easton, California State Superintendent of Schools

Reading aloud is a precious gift of time to your grandchildren that gives to you in return. The Essential GrandparentTM Reading Circle is a guide for giving; giving of yourself and giving to yourself. Research has shown that reading aloud to a child is the single most important factor in raising a child who loves to read. And reading is basic to learning.

By becoming a member of The Essential GrandparentTM Reading Circle you will join a community of readers. It is a community dedicated to inspiring children by reading to them. You will receive an informative newsletter and learn about the latest developments in the world of children's books. It is a wonderful way to connect to others who share a love of reading.

Success is learned...

If you have ever asked yourself "What can I do that really matters?" The Essential GrandparentTM Reading Circle provides an easy, doable answer. The new millennium beckons us to renew our commitment to our beliefs and values. We have an opportunity to shape the future by nurturing the younger generation. That includes all children, not only our own grandchildren. We are their role models and in them we find hope, the hope that provides the courage to live each day with energy and vigor.

We will share stories, new ideas and inspiration, have author interviews, update the research and find out what's new in books. Your participation will help to make this a real community. I look forward to welcoming you and receiving your suggestions.


If you have any book suggestions or stories about reading to children please send them toE-mail Dr. L. Carson

for Grandparents & Others

WELCOME TO THE READING CIRCLE where you will learn WHY, HOW and WHAT to read to children.

Do you remember the joy of being read to as a child? You can recapture those memories each time you read to a child. And, best of all, you can give the child a lasting memory. The Essential GrandparentTM Reading Circle will create a circle of readers around the country. By reading to your grandchildren and others children (no matter their age) you are giving a gift beyond measure to them and to yourself. Please share your ideas and experiences and recommendations by writing to The Essential Grandparent Reading Circle, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1-316, Montecito, CA 93108. Fax (805) 565-1049 or e-mail: E-mail Dr. L. Carson
website: www.essentialgrandparent.com


What's In The Brain?
Our children's brains have been discovered! Along with the increasing knowledge of how the brain develops and functions, has come a wide public awakening to not just how the mind begins to work from the earliest moments, but also to how emotions and psychological experience are, from the very beginning, interwoven with the child's ability to think clearly and to master complex tasks.

Dr. Harry Chugani of Wayne State University has developed the technology to watch regions of a baby's brain while they listen. Listening expands the brains capacity by stimulating new pathways.


Fact: As many as 8 million children between the ages of 4 and 13 are affected by reading problems.
Fact: 38% of 4th graders in a recent study could not read at basic level.
Fact: 26% of 8th graders in a recent study could not read at basic level.
Fact: 23% of 12th Graders in a recent study could not read at a basic level.

Myth: It's too late to help your kids read, spell and comprehend better.


Tips for Reading Aloud to Children

  • Read to children from birth Start an infant's library with basket of books as a shower or baby gift.
  • Remember, you don't have to read all of the words. Let the child's interest and attention guide you.
  • Take children to the library or store to choose a book. It's a memorable outing. Introduce the child to the librarian. Leave plenty of time to explore the books.
  • Read with plenty of expression (This is your chance to ham it up! You might surprise yourself)
  • Let a child interrupt the story to talk about something that is on her mind. Sometimes a story prompts observations or memories of personal experiences.
  • Use reading to stimulate imagination. While reading Christmas books to my grandson, Harland's pre-school class, a little fellow pointed out that there was snow in all of the stories and that we don't have snow here in Santa Barbara. I asked how many of the children had been to the snow. Then, asked if they could remember how cold they felt in the snow. We all imagined being in the cold snow adding some sound effects of shivering (burrrr.. ) while clutching ourselves as we pretended to be in the cold snow. It stimulated their sense memory.

Enjoy something made better by time...

Here's a Good Idea: The Neighborhood Reading Club

The Neighborhood Reading Group, established by two Glendale, California mothers and their children, is not affiliated with a particular library, nor is it a high-pressure program designed to catapult children to the head of the class.

"We're just a group of families trying to encourage our kids and praise them for reading," said Effie Block, one of the groups founding parents, speaking to The Los Angeles Times. "We're advocates of literacy and we enjoy reading. We know it opens up so much for them."

The Geneva Street Reading Club--named after the Glendale street on which several of the participants live--began four summers ago with the promise of a trophy to each of the founders six year olds if they read 100 picture books that summer. They easily reached their goal along with six or so other neighborhood kids who decided to give it a try.

The club requirements are simple: Pre-schoolers agree to have their parents read 100 stories to them over the three-month vacation; beginning readers, ages 5 to 7, agree to read 100 short picture books; and the older children agree to read 1,000 pages from novels, biographies or any other books of their choosing.

The primary value of children's reading clubs is that they lend an element of social interaction to what is normally a solitary experience. "For 9 to 12 year olds, when organized group activities become so important, if you don't get the social element into a club, with the rituals and rules, the kids usually drop out," reported Virginia Walter, an information studies professor and children's literature expert at UCLA.

Seventeen of the Geneva Street club members and their parents celebrated their summer reading achievements at a pool party where the participants received awards and shared their favorite book titles.

This idea could be used by grandparents in various ways.

  • A grandparent could assist the parents in forming such a club.
  • You could form such a club for grandchildren with other grandparents or at you church or synagogue.
  • You could form such a club by yourself for your grandchildren (long-distance included) and share the news about their progress and the books they choose.
  • You can participate by reading to them when you are able.

I was cleaning my bookshelves when I found a favorite book from when I was little. I asked my Dad to read it to me. It was so much fun when he did. It brought back memories and felt good to pretend to be little again.

-Caitie 11 years old

Attention Long Distance Grandparents Tape record yourself reading a favorite book to a grandchild. Personalize it with your own comments. Send it to your grandchild and include the book if your wish. You may You will transcend the miles.


It doesn't matter if a child doesn't understand the words or the story. Hearing your voice is stimulating and encourages verbalization and interaction. Don't worry about reading all the words. You can just show the pictures.

Board books are easiest for little hands and indestructible. Keep them within easy reach of your little one.

  • Good Night Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown, Harper-Collins
    This classic now comes in a board book. Children never tire of hearing this story and looking at the colorful illustrations.
    Buy Now!

  • Pat The Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, Western Publishing
    My personal favorite, probably because I remember reading it to my own babies.
    Buy Now!

  • How Are You Peeling? by Saxton Freyman and Joost Elffers (Scholastic, $15.95)
    Who knew fruits and vegetable could be so expressive? Oversized color photos of moody produce express the many emotions children feel-- anger, happiness, fear, loneliness, excitement -- sometimes within the same five minutes. Will entertain all ages.
    Buy Now!

  • I Love You, Blue Kangaroo by David Weisner (Clarion, $16, ages 3 - 7)
    A darling bedtime story, enhanced by big, vibrant watercolor illustration, about a young girls devotion to her first stuffed friend.

    Buy Now!


  • Knots On A Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, Illustrated by Ted Rand, Henry Holt & Co. 1987
    Story about a boy and his grandfather. This book was recommended by my grandson's second grade teacher.
    Buy Now!

  • Amos and Boris by William Steig Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999
    This story gives hero status to a little mouse who is able to return his friend the whales lifesaving favor. A sensitive story to empower small beings. The watercolor illustrations are lovely.
    Buy Now!

  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman G.P. Putnam Sons, 1994 $7.99
    Children delight in this story of a mischievous gorilla who frees the zoo animals. The humor in this story is not lost on children who want it read over and over. Warning! I have received reports that after reading this story parents discover their own keys are missing.
    Buy Now!

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin & 21 others by Beatrix Potter Frederic Warne/Penquin Group, 1903 - This edition with new reproductions of Beatrix Potter's book illustrations first published in 1903 by Frederic Warne. Complete set $35
    Introduce your grandchildren to these classics. Each character becomes a new playmate.
    Buy Now!


  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Scholastic, 1999 Paperback $5.99
    Buy Now!

  • Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Levine/Scholastic, 1999 $19.95
    Buy Now!

  • Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling Levine/Scholastic, 1999 $19.95
    Buy Now!

The craze for the Harry Potter books has turned many kids into readers and happily adults enjoy them too. So, reading them out loud is enjoyable for all. But what makes these books so popular?

I believe that child psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim provides an explanation in his book, "The Uses of Enchantment", written a quarter century ago. Bettleheim denigrated most children's books as mere entertainments, lacking in psychological meaning. The exception to this were fairy tales, for they held something close to magical power.

"More can be learned from fairy tales about the inner problems of human beings and of the right solutions to their predicaments than from any other type of story within a child's comprehension." Bettleheim's main idea was that children live with greater terrors than most adults can understand, and fairy tales give uncanny expression to that terror while showing a way to a better future. The Harry Potter books do just that which may explain why the three published so far occupy the first, second and third places on The New York Times hardcover fiction best-selling list. This is something no other author in living memory has achieved.

For some kids find the Harry Potter books a bit scary. Take a look at one before you decide to read to a child. But it may be worth a try. All three have remained on the New York Times best seller list as numbers one, two and three, a phenomenon. They seem to have the advantage of turning disinterested readers into enthusiastic ones.


  • The Century for Young People by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster (Doubleday, $29.95, ages 8 to 14)
    Adapted from the adult bestseller, this survey of the 20th Century history uses first had accounts of history-making events to highlight the people of the 1900s. Use this as a vehicle to tell your grandchildren about your life experiences.
    Buy Now!

  • Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley, photographs by Nic Bishop (Scholastic, $16.95, ages 3-7)
    The photographs in this amazing book almost startle as they depict the nighttime adventures of a frog whose red eyes and green skin seem to defy nature. Here's a preschool science lesson built into the superb art, and the test is written in a simple, straightforward style young children will understand.
    Buy Now!


  • Throwim Way Leg; On the Track of Unknown Mammals in Wildest New Guinea by Tim Flannery, Grove $14
    A celebrated Australian scientist recounts his many long research excursions into the wilds of New Guinea, harrowing journeys during which he encountered cannibals, ghastly diseases, a giant gold mine, shrieking frogs and a hungry 10- foot black python. He still managed to identify at least 17 new species of mammals. A real life adventure.
    Buy Now!

  • The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter Delacourte Press, 1986
    The Native American experience of the last century comes to life in this favorite story of a young boy raised by his grandparents. The reader will learn with Little Tree of his grandparents philosophy of life. i.e. take the weakest of the animals for your food so that the strong may survive and propgate. Warm, humorous, sad, it inspires the spirit.
    Buy Now!

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