Steady Days giveaway winner!

I’m excited to tell you that the winner of the signed copy of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood by Jamie C. Martin is Betsy, who commented:

My favorite thing about being a mom? Hands down, hearing and watching the laughter of my three little girls.

Congrats to Betsy!

Again, I absolutely and highly recommend that you add Steady Days to your home library.  It is filled with so many real-life, practical tools to add to your parenting toolbox.  I know you will find it as encouraging and helpful as I have!

Don’t forget that you can keep up with the author on her blog Steady Mom.

Comments closed.  Enjoy your weekend!

Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers

Today’s focus on reading is a guest post from author Max Elliot Anderson who offers encouragement to parents of reluctant readers:

As a child, I never liked to read. When I mention this to someone today, I can anticipate the reaction.  Mouths drop open in disbelief, followed by a gasp. “You’re kidding!” often follows.  That’s probably because I’m also the author of a number of action-adventures and mysteries especially written for other boys who may be facing similar reading difficulties.  Even as an adult, reading for enjoyment continues to be a problem for me.  I do read in order to gather information, but not for pleasure.

My research into reading difficulties began about eight years ago.  I wanted to understand why it was that I grew up as a reluctant reader. Today, I’m sharing some of the conclusions I have reached.

To begin with, my work with reluctant readers often allows me to speak in schools. One of the first questions I like to ask is, “Is there anyone here who doesn’t like to read?” A few hands go up, and then others follow. There may be two or three girls who raise their hands, but predominately it’s the boys who respond.

Next I ask, “Why?”

“Books are boring,” one will say. Another suggests, “They’re too slow and nothing happens,” or, “I’d rather do other things.”

“Like what?” I’ll ask.

The answers always include watching television, playing video games, and spending time on the computer. Research by others often arrives at the same conclusions.

I found some interesting patterns in several of the books I selected for research.  In many cases, they defied a reluctant reader like me to get into them.  The style was boring, the dialog was sometimes sparse, or when it was used, it seemed too adult. As I looked around for books written especially for boys 8 – 13, I found only The Hardy Boys and a few others.  Finding stimulating reading material for boys is a challenge, indeed.

Based on my research, I have determined there are quite a few strategies parents and teachers can employ to support a struggling or reluctant reader:

  • Rule out visual or medical problems. These should be diagnosed by professionals, but here are some things to look for.  The transposing of letters or numbers may indicate a problem. You might notice that your child sees 14 when the actual number on the page is 41. The same can happen with small words. Does the child use a finger to keep his place on the page?  Does he have a short attention span, or hold the book too close to his eyes?  Does he have good posture while reading, or does he move his head from side to side during reading, rather than moving his eyes? This may indicate binocular trouble because both eyes aren’t working together.  I suffer from this. One of my eyes sees distant objects better, while the other sees closer items with more clarity. A child with this problem may slouch in the chair, or turn his head to one side in order to favor the eye that can see the book best.In addition to vision problems, a child may suffer from ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.

    Children with visual or medical issues may be reluctant readers because reading is just too much work.

  • Parents, teachers, and librarians are reporting that they’ve found success by starting with audio books. In some cases, this is used while also holding a copy of the same book. A child is able to both see and hear the words at the same time, and practice following along.
  • Don’t be afraid to select a book that is below grade level. You may also want to experiment with comic books, or graphic novels. The most important objective is to find something he’s interested in and wants to read about. This could include the sports page in your local newspaper, or magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, Highlights, and others.
  • Some have found success by using electronic readers like Kindle. Your child is already comfortable with a computer, or video games. The e-reader allows him to change the font, make it larger, change colors, and even look up words in some cases.
  • Consider how you can influence your child’s choices. If your child avoids reading in every way possible – choosing video games or the computer over reading – you might set those activities aside as rewards. You can say, “After you’ve read for thirty minutes then you may spend time on the computer.”
  • Read aloud with your child, and make sure he sees you model that reading is important in your life. This has added influence if the dad is involved.
  • Get rid of distractions. Again, in my case, I find it difficult to concentrate if there are other noises around. This is compounded if there are lyrics in a song on the radio, stereo, voices coming from the TV, or from nearby conversations. Set up a quiet, comfortable reading place. Above all, make the reading environment enjoyable.
  • Have your child try reading to a dog, a cat, a doll, or some other stuffed animal. In this way, children aren’t intimidated or judged by an adult. At the same time, you can monitor their progress.
  • Keep an eye out for books written in order to be more user-friendly for struggling readers. These include books with lots of humor, dialog, and heart-pounding action and adventure, plus chapters ending with a cliffhanger.  Also look for high interest, low vocabulary books called Hi-Lo books.

Anytime I’m asked if reading is really all that important, I give several reasons why it is, and add that readers are the leaders others follow.

You can keep up with Max Anderson on his blog Books for Boys.  Keep an eye out for his newest release – Lost Island Smugglers – coming out in June!

Do you have experience with a struggling reader? What books or strategies proved to be most helpful for your reluctant reader?

Meet Jamie C. Martin and Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood

By now, many of you have heard the buzz surrounding the release of author Jamie C. Martin’s book Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.

Jamie provided me with a copy of this book to review and share with the Simple Kids audience, and I can tell you without hesitation that I highly recommend that you add Steady Days to your home library.

You probably already know Jamie from her blog Steady Mom.  If so, you’ll be familiar with the message she proclaims from the first pages of the book:

In any career, experience allows us to grow, improve, and learn.  But unlike other professions, many of us mothers have never had any training to prepare us for this new job filled with diapers, tantrums, and sleepless nights.  We need to equip ourselves with practical tools that allow us to give our personal best to our young children, helping us thrive in our strengths and overcome our weaknesses.  We aim for professionalism in every other area of our lives; why should our children get anything less?

It is with that thought in mind that Jamie lays the foundations for guiding mothers in reflecting on that which they desire to come to fruition in the way time is spent at home, and then outlines extremely accessible and practical steps to gently guide the reader in achieving that vision for home life.


As a mother whose family grew to include three children in less than three years, Jamie understands that mothers don’t have time to sit down and read enormous amounts of overwhelming information about how to run a home with intentional purpose.  With this in mind, she has broken the material in Steady Days down into forty short and manageable chapters.

The content of the book falls into four main categories – Getting Organized, Retaining Enthusiasm, Learning Together, and Making Memories. Each section provides the perfect blend of guiding philosophy and practical application.  At the end of each main section are some Questions and Answers wherein Jamie tackles some very real-life challenges that readers may encounter, such as

I  am divorced, working overtime, or in other difficult circumstances.  How can I possibly have enthusiasm?

What if I don’t enjoy reading with my children?

Life is very difficult right now in our family.  I find I’m apathetic toward remembering this time; I am just trying to survive it.

Jamie provides thoughtful direction for those with these concerns, understanding that we don’t get to parent in ideal circumstances all the time.


This book is packed with inspiring thoughts, visual examples, and loads of extra features. Based on the response to the articles at Simple Kids on daily routines and how to manage time at home, I know SK readers will appreciate the sample routines Jamie has suggested for a variety of life/family circumstances.

Again, I enthusiastically recommend Steady Days as an incredibly useful book for your home.

Jamie is providing a signed copy of Steady Days for one Simple Kids reader!  The giveaway will run from today  until the morning of Friday, January 29th when I will announce the winner.  To enter simply

1) leave a comment sharing one of your favorite aspects of being a mother/home manager/care provider.

2) You can gain an extra entry by mentioning this giveaway on Twitter.  A sample tweet might be

Enter to win a copy of Steady Days from @steadymom and @simplekids: http://bit.ly/4Om9jT

Make sure to leave a comment that you posted this on Twitter.

3) Post this review on your Facebook profile.  Make sure to leave a comment that you posted this on Facebook.

Simple Kids: Weekend Links

This has been a great week for discussion here at Simple Kids, and I am looking forward to getting involved in the conversation in the comments just as soon as I can!

I thought you might enjoy these for your weekend reading:

A free e-book called Smooth and Easy Days at Simply Charlotte Mason (link via Holy Experience)

Skip to My Lou is already rolling out some amazing Valentine’s Day crafts!  I love the re-purposing aspect of Hanging Glitter Hearts Made From Cereal Boxes.

I know you’ll enjoy these Adorable Alphabet Beanbags at Chicken Counting, and this tip is such a simple solution for messy projects of any kind – How to modify a full-size apron to fit your child at Problem Solvin’ Mom.

I think my children and my husband would rise up and called me blessed if I made these Whoopie Pies from maricucu (and I think I gained five pounds just reading the recipe!).

Great conversations abound – Moms, leisure time, and busy-ness at The Happiest Mom and Electronics and How Much I Hate Them at Clover Lane.

Finally, when all else fails, Cheap Entertainment at [dandee].

Can you believe January is nearly gone? Happy weekending!

How Do You Resist Consumerism?

Photo by psyberartist

“Our primary identity has become that of being consumers – not mothers, teachers, or farmers, but of consumers!  We shop and shop and shop  . . .” – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Resist Consumerism

Throughout the month of January, Mandi of Organizing Your Way has been running a series called 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010Today, she is sharing her thoughts on how to resist consumerism, and she has invited me to write about what that looks like in my family as well.

Before we can know how to resist consumerism (or even if we want to resist consumerism), we need to identify what the philosophy of consumerism entails.  For those working within the discipline of economics, the term consumerism deals with a movement that seeks to protect buyers (think CPSIA). 

For our purposes, however, when we talk about consumerism, we are referring to “attachment to materialistic values or possessions,” and the belief that when we buy and spend and consume more and more and more, we can find fulfillment.

In early 2008, I watched The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard, and I am not exaggerating when I say it had a profound and life-changing impact on my life.  If you have not already seen it, I highly encourage investing twenty minutes into viewing it.  The chapter on consumption motivated me to make significant changes in how much I allow the very prevalent emphasis on consuming in our culture to impact my family.

As a former football coach’s wife, I often see things in terms of defense and offense.  To take a stand against consumerism, I knew I would have to both defend myself and my family from a culture of consumption while at the same time be very proactive in embracing a lifestyle that celebrates freedom from all of that stuff.

On the defense:

1) Guard your input: It is amazing how quickly I can become convinced I need something when a new Anthropologie  catalog shows up in the mail.  What is even more alarming is the intensity my preschooler feels when she sees a commercial for Pillow Pets – she has to have one!  There is no shortage of stimulus inviting us to buy this now!

Consider carefully what you allow to come into your home, your viewing time, your listening time, and your thought patterns.  Toss catalogs in the recycling bin, choose DVDs over commercial TV, don’t renew subscriptions to magazines that incite a desire to buy things you do not need.

2) Know your triggers: I find it hard to keep consumerism in check at Target.  I love that store, and I always walk out of there with far more stuff than I intended to buy.  I have to limit my trips there to the very, very rare occasion.  Perhaps for you it is window shopping at the mall or surfing for good deals on eBay which entices you to spend money.

Do a little self-assessment to determine where, when, and how often you find yourself falling into the consumerism trap.  Once you know your triggers, set yourself up for success in avoiding them.

3) Challenge yourself: Rachel of Small Notebook creates a No Spend Month for her family every summer.  In purchasing only what is absolutely necessary, she is reminded of how often they choose want over need.

Could you challenge yourself in a similar way?  Take things slow in the beginning.  For example, for my daughter’s birthday at the end of this month, I’m challenging myself to see how little we can spend on the birthday party while still creating a fun and memorable celebration.

On the offense:

1) Shop differently: Seek out gently-used over brand new.  Choose clutter-free over clutter-full.  Prioritize experience over excess.

2) Think differently: Keep notes of affirmation handy to remind yourself of the purpose of the path you are choosing.  I am personally so motivated and inspired by asking, “what is essential?” Intentionally asking myself that question keeps my want vs. need ratio in check.

As you consider bringing something new into your home, make it pass the William Morris test:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

In lieu of reading material that seeks to convince you to go out and spend money, fill your reading and viewing time with that which reminds you to treasure and care for that which you already possess.

3) Live differently: I will be very honest with you.  In some ways, choosing to resist consumerism is quite easy for me in this season of life.  We live in a small rural town on the southern plains.  Our little community is filled with families that are working hard just to stay above the poverty level.  I drive a Toyota with over 125,000 miles on it, and no one in our friend group gives that a second thought.  We are renting a house that is over seventy years old, and one of the many charming character quirks is its saggy foundation.  Our neighbors across the street often park cars in their yard.  (I warned you I was going to be honest!)

It’s not really all that difficult for me to take these steps to resist the shiny new stuff of the consumerism/consumption cycle because of the culture and community in which I reside.  But I know for some of you, it is a much more daring way to live life.  Some of you move in friend circles which place a pointed emphasis on new and shiny – new homes, new cars, new clothes, new gadgets, new toys.

Choosing to live differently will disturb the universe in which you travel just a little bit. Be prepared to meet resistance.  Find strength in reminding yourself that in the very, very short time you are given on this planet, you are investing not in things that get broken or outgrown, tossed in landfills, and forgotten in short measure, but rather you are investing in the intangible – a peace and contentedness that fills your life when you are able to walk joyfully in your freedom from stuff.

Where are you in your relationship with consumerism? On the defense? On the offense? What do find provides the most motivation to buy less and enjoy more?