Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Does Laughing Giraffe Books Include A Game and Prize With Every Collection?

Prize rewards. The food industry has long used this tactic- think Cracker Jacks or cereal boxes, collectible yogurt lids, or hidden numbers on soda bottles that may be redeemed for BMX bikes or additional cans of soda. Marketing experts know all too well that the promise of a prize can be very titillating for the consumer, and can help provide the encouragement for them to eat, drink, or use their way through a specific product.

In my experiences as a special education teacher and reading specialist (and even as a parent!), I learned that the power of external motivators is just as effective for getting a child excited about learning as it is for getting consumers to choose a specific product. This sentiment is clearly echoed throughout the field of education where children are often rewarded with gold stars, “way to go” stickers, and decorative pencils.

In creating Laughing Giraffe Books, I found a unique way to couple my experiences as an educator with insights gleaned from the consumer industry, and put them to use in my mission of developing a love of reading in children. Our exclusive game and prize component is the result, and is an essential part of the Laughing Giraffe Books reading experience. And, the best part is that you can benefit from it in your own home!

Laughing Giraffe Books starts by offering only the most carefully selected book choices, both modern favorites and classics, which are guaranteed to appeal to children of all ages. Then, we compile them into collections based around favorite age and gender specific themes. This allows our customers to easily choose the most compelling books for the special children in their lives, and makes it significantly more likely that the ensuing reading experience will be a pleasurable one.

Next, we include our exclusive search-and-find game in every Book Bundle and Book of the Month collection that we offer. This fun peel- and-stick game contains a single question for each of the books contained in the collection. The game, and promise of a later prize, provides a compelling reason for children to open the books. And, because our books are so carefully selected, we are confident that once begun, the books will be enjoyed to the end.

The games are designed to be completed by any age, and with any level of help. Games accompanying the collections for the first year feature fun activities to complete with baby. The games for toddlers focus on locating easy to find pieces of information, where as the books for slightly older children ask them to look a little deeper. The games are also easily adapted so that they can be done independently or with varying degrees of help from an adult. Finally, by requiring a signature on the completed game board, we are providing parents with an additional opportunity to discuss the books, questions and answers with their children. These are very important steps in the promotion of a lifelong love of reading.

Finally, the prize. The promise of a fun, theme-related toy or game, is an effective way to encourage children- especially reluctant or struggling readers- to begin to enjoy books. The perfectly themed collections help to hold their interest in the books. The game encourages them to finish the books leading to a sense of pride in completing both the books and game and, most importantly, an understanding that books can be enjoyable. And finally, the anticipation of the arrival of the prize coupled with the enjoyment of receiving (in the mail!) and opening of the hard earned prize seals the deal.

During this process, with the help of all of the game and prize, and with each positive reading experience, the shift is made from reading for a prize (external motivator) to reading because it is enjoyable (internal motivator) and the foundation is set for developing a lifelong love of reading!

That is why Laughing Giraffe Books includes a game and prize with every collection!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Strega Nona" In The Shower

A few months ago, a favorite book in our household was "Strega Nona" by Tomie dePaolo. This original tale features an Italian "grandma witch" who cures the simple ailments of the townspeople. She also happens to be in possession of a magic pasta pot.

The climax of the story occurs when Big Anthony, Strega Nona's helper,  "borrows" the pasta pot to impress the villagers. Having failed to pay attention previously, Anthony is unable to stop the pot from cooking, and the entire village is in danger of being swallowed up by the never ending pasta. Fortunately, Strega Nona returns from her visit at just the right time, the pasta pot ceases, the village is saved, and Anthony is forced to eat all of the pasta as punishment.

Although I love the story, I find that one of the best parts of reading it aloud is the fun of trying an Italian accent (albeit a terrible one), and letting the name Strega Nona roll off my tongue. My girls always enjoyed this part of the read aloud as well, laughing at my comical accent and trying versions of their own.

FLASH FORWARD. It is now a few months later, and my daughters have developed an extremely odd ritual. Every once in a while, when pressed for time and faced with grubby children, I will throw my children in the shower. After the water has stopped running, and prior to drying off, the chanting begins. At the top of their lungs, and in their very best Italian accents (which are as terrible as mine!), the girls begin a chorus of "Strega Nona...Strega Nona." Sometimes, they even crouch down, put their faces against the stone, and yell their refrain into the floor.

I can only imagine that this little ritual continues due to the fun of saying "Strega Nona," coupled with the fantastic acoustics the bathroom provides. What originally inspired the odd pairing of the shower and Strega Nona? To that I am clueless! Instead, I find myself rolling my eyes in befuddlement in those post-shower moments, looking on as my children try to outdo each other in a volley of terrible Italian accents. It is a sight (and sound) to behold!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Backseat Reading

While putting together my baby registry, and many times since then, my mother could be heard chorusing the refrain "its a miracle you all survived." From debates over whether to put bumpers in the crib, discussions considering the merits of swaddling blankets versus sleep sacks, or searching for bottles that are BPA free, it is clear that there are significantly more rules, regulations and guidelines governing child rearing today.

And, none are more apparent than those concerning automobile safety. Seat belts, monstrous car seats and boosters alone have made car pooling a logistical nightmare. A few short years ago (cough, cough) we would load our cars with whoever fit in, and then some. There were lap sitters, hump sitters, and sometimes double-decker lap sitters. My siblings and I would spend our frequent car trips stretched out in the "way back" of our family station wagon. Lying among the suitcases, I would pass the 2 hour car rides with a copy of "Archie" in one hand and a "Mad Magazine" in the other. Even my frequent bouts of violent car sickness didn't put a damper on these trips.

Today my daughters ride securely strapped into their car seats instead of sprawled comfortably. However, I still strive to take advantage of time spent in the car running errands, commuting, and visiting family to sneak in a little extra reading time. My 6 CD changer holds a variety of audio books and the pockets of the back seats are filled with worn copies of our favorite stories. Currently its "Clifford", "Crazy Hair Day" and  "Tikki Tikki Tembo." Maybe in a few years our collection will also include the latest "Archie" or "Mad Magazine."

Thank goodness my daughters don't seem to be prone to the same bouts of motion sickness their mother was!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grandparents: Reading MVPs

Whether you go by "Grandma," "Grammy," "Nana," "Nini," "Grandpa," "Papa,"or "Gramps," you are likely a very important person in the life of a special child (or children!). Grandchildren adore their grandparents, eagerly awaiting their visits, clinging to them when they are around, and shedding a tear at their departure. And, more often than not, they can easily be swayed towards doing something in a way only a grandparent can bring about. Why not harness the unique position of being a grandparent in an effort to encourage enjoyment in reading?
7 Ways Grandparents Can Help Build Lifelong Readers:

Share your favorite titles from when you were little, or from when your child (their parents) was younger. Do you have an old, much loved copy of a favorite story, or perhaps a classic title not easily found at the local bookstore? Share it with you grandchild in a special read aloud. They will delight in the connection to the past.

Armed with an inexpensive tape recorder you can make your own audio book recordings. Children will love hearing the stories narrated by loved ones as they run errands around town or enjoy quiet time in their rooms. You can even make a recording of the two of you reading the book together. After all, what child doesn't love to hear their own voice! Alternately, there are an increasing number of recordable books that allow you to record your voice directly onto the book itself. Hallmark has a number of great options worth checking out.

Read a book simultaneously with your grandchild. Did you love the "Secret Garden" growing up? Give your grandchild a copy and enjoy rereading it yourself. Remember to check in frequently with your thoughts, questions and insights. You may be surprised by what your grandchild has to say!

Take an interest in their reading in general. Ask what they are reading and what they are looking forward to reading. What is it about those books and characters that they like or dislike? Let them make recommendations for your reading list. Share your favorite children's titles, but also tell them about what you are reading on your own. Most importantly, let them see you reading and enjoying books.

If you are lucky enough to live near your grandchildren, plan regular trips to the library or book store. Take advantage of the lap sits, read alouds and other events offered, or go just to browse and enjoy the comforts of the air conditioning.

Give the gift of books. Literally! Books are perfect for gift giving. There is a story to compliment every age, reading level, interest or occasion; and they are easy to share, wrap and ship. Books are perfect for birthdays, holidays, special occasions (first day of school or arrival of a baby sibling), or just to say "we're thinking of you." A wrapped book received as a gift, either in the mail or in person, is a great way to build excitement with reading.

Include an inscription, in the form of a personalized note or bookplate, in the front of each book you gift. Every time your grandchildren reads that story they will be reminded of you and of your connection to the tale.

Take advantage of the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild, and help play a pivotal role in the raising of life long readers. It is a role unique to grandparents, that can be filled by no other. And, if all else fails, sweeten the deal with some of your famous fresh baked cookies!

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Reading In the Dark

    When our youngest turned 18 months, a time when most people are packing away their baby paraphernalia, my husband and I  purchased our first video monitor. We had managed to resist the temptation of until then, relying on a standard monitor with terrible reception at first, and soon after, on our children's lung power to alert us to any problems.

    At 18 months, however, our daughter began  experiencing febrile seizures - an unwelcome side effect of preschool, a developing immune system, and a tendency towards ear infections- and our nights of being blissfully unaware of what was going on behind closed doors were over.

    As I knew would be the case, my husband and I were immediately and completely addicted to the video monitor, checking it every few minutes, reacting to every sound, and reveling in how adorable our children are in sleep (even if they aren't always when awake!).The unexpected bonus of our new video monitor, however, was our new found ability to witness our 18 month old's nightly ritual.

    Bathed in a neon green light, our child places "Zebra" (her lovie) gently on the pillow beside her, and makes sure that her baby doll is resting comfortably nearby holding its own lovie. Next, she picks up her two blankets,  methodically tucking all three of them in. Finally, and most delightful of all, she picks up a books and performs a dramatic read aloud for her nighttime guests!

    For the next half-hour or so, our monitor broadcasts a constant stream of gibberish punctuated by clearly enunciated tidbits like "moon," "hush" and "mush." Our 18 month old flips the pages forwards and backwards, sometimes page by page and other time in large sections, as she angles the pictures towards her "babies" and points out important details in the accompanying pictures. Surprisingly, my child who can barely sit still for a pre-bed reading of her favorite book, reads herself to sleep.

    And all of a sudden, the ridiculously expensive and addictive video monitor is worth it!