Books That Celebrate LGBTQIA Pride​

It's Pride month and one way I'm celebrating is to share these lists of books about the LGBTQIA community or featuring LGBTQIA characters. First, let me personally recommend three titles. The first is Luna by Julie Anne Peters. It is a moving, poignant narrative about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity. It is best suited for young adult readers and I highly recommend it. The second is Drama, a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. A middle schooler in her school's drama production crew has a crush. And her crush has a crush. It is light and fun and lovers of graphic novels will enjoy it. The third is the comic book series Lumberjanes. You've heard me mention this before. It is goofy yet smart, empowering, and it features a diverse cast of characters. This list from Huffpost centers mainly on picture books and includes titles related to gender non-conforming kids, queer families, and icons in the gay community. This list of YA titles includes titles from authors like John Green, David Levithan, and Jacqueline Woodson.​

Educational Activities for Summer​

Summer can be a busy time with camps, vacations, family reunions, and nature outings. Even so, there is often a lot of downtime in the midst of all that activity, and that down time creates the perfect opportunity to help students maintain the learning they gained last school year.  Here are some ideas for how to help kids occupy their time in educational ways. 1. Read. It's an obvious one, and often one required of students by their school. The options are numerous. Choose from graphic novels, comic books, audiobooks, ebooks, books on the Epic app, or good old-fashioned print books. Don't feel compelled to stick to fiction; there are many excellent non-fiction and poetry options out there. If a student is reading an audiobook, it's very helpful for them to have a print version to read along with, especially if they have dyslexia or other reading issues. Make regular trips to the library so there are always choices. 2. Write. If your child is particularly inventive, ask them to write a Choose Your Own Adventure story or create a pop-up book. They could also keep a travel journal or a nature-observation journal. Entries could be short, but meaningful: what was the most interesting landmark they saw? What kinds of birds or plants did they see outside the hotel or by the lake? What impression do they have of the place they've visited? If they are at a sleep-away camp, ask them to write postcards or letters. I'd be happy to receive some! Another option here is a dream journal. Have them record their dreams or even just impressions or feelings they had upon waking and discuss them over breakfast. Watch a documentary together and ask them to write a summary after. Or, create a blog for them where they can share their thoughts (and photographs and art) with your family and their friends.  3. Listen. Schedule time during the day to listen to podcasts. This could also be a family activity, and could be combined with chores, cooking, or art-making. Some of my favorites are This American Life, On Being, Invisibilia, The Moth, StoryCorps and Radiolab. Check content first as not everything is appropriate for younger listeners. NPR has a list of podcasts for kids as does Fatherly.  4. Play. Educational games might make kids groan at first, but I find many will ask for them over and over once they've played them. There's a long list here too. Some I enjoy are Bananagrams, Scrabble, Spellaminoes and Boggle. Brain Freeze, Rory's Story Cubes, Sequence, Head Full of Numbers, and Rush Hour are great as well. ​

Excellent Dyslexia Resource​

As part of my practicum in the Orton-Gillingham approach, I have spent time exploring the International Dyslexia Association web site, and it is a treasure-trove of information. If you have a child with dyslexia, or if you suspect your child might have dyslexia, it is a fantastic resource. Its page of fact sheets is one I have bookmarked, because it provides an incredible amount of information. You can find everything from introductory information about dyslexia to how to help dyslexic students receive accommodations on college entrance exams. There you can also learn about the ADHD-dyslexia connection, how dyslexia shows up for gifted students, and how stress and anxiety often occur with dyslexia.  If you are curious about dyslexia is assessed and diagnosed, you can visit this page. The IDA also provides a helpful guide to help you determine if a particular professional would be helpful for your child.  It also has a section dedicated to families, with information about upcoming conferences and workshops, a list of schools that specialize in helping students with learning differences, scholarships and grants, and a youth art gallery. One of the most helpful part of the web site is their downloadable Dyslexia Handbook. It is well worth the read.  There is a lot of information, so plan to make several trips to click around and discover everything that is there.  ​

The Great American Read​

The new PBS show The Great American Read premieres on Tuesday and I can't wait to watch! The goal of the show is to spark renewed interest in reading and talking about books, and as part of the preparation for the show's launch, the show's producers polled Americans about their favorite novels. The result is a fascinating list of 100 titles including everything from Moby Dick to the Twilight series. There's even an interactive tool to find out how many of the books you've read. The culmination of the eight-part show will be a vote on America's favorite novel. The winner will be announced in October. I could imagine this being an excellent summer and fall activity: watching the show as a family and then choosing a book or two from the list to read and discuss.  To help you choose, check out the list the folks at Brightly pulled together for tweens and teens. It includes many familiar titles. Ones I personally recommend include The Giver, Where the Red Fern Grows, the Hunger Games series, and, of course, the Harry Potter series. Happy reading!  ​

When Stress Becomes Overwhelming​

It's almost the end of school and many of my students are showing signs of increased stress because standardized tests, cumulative exams, or final projects are looming.  I came across this wonderful exercise from Mindful Schools (where I received my training in mindfulness instruction) and wanted to share it with you. It's called 4,3,2,1. It is perfect for those moments when an emotion is overwhelming and it feels like a challenge to slow down, think, and become calm. This exercise helps students come back into their bodies and reorient their attention to the present moment. Here's how it works (I've adapted it slightly): Four: Ask your child to find four blue or green items in their immediate surroundings. When they find each item, they take a couple of deep breaths and then search for the next item. These colors are said to be soothing. Three: Now they will notice three sounds. A clock ticking, birds singing, cars honking. Take a couple more deep breaths. Two: Notice two sensations. Maybe their hands feel cold or the seat under them is soft. They can feel their clothing or the floor or ground beneath them. One: Ask them to put one hand on either their chest or belly to sense their breathing. Do they feel their breath coming out of their nose or mouth? Is their chest or belly moving? Once they have gone through all the steps, ask them to notice what's happening in their body. Is their heart beating slow or fast? Are they sweaty? Is their breath rapid or slow? If they are still dealing with the emotion, they can go through the steps again until they feel calmer.  ​

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