Hurricane Harvey Help: Long-Term Disaster Requires Long-Term Giving

Hurricane Harvey Help: Long-Term Disaster Requires Long-Term Giving

alluvioni-texas Hurricane Harvey has crippled America’s fourth-largest city. This storm brought in heavy rainfall to Houston, Texas  six trillion gallons of water, or 24 inches, in the past 48 hours, as reported by some media outlets Monday. Many residents have been displaced and some even lost their lives due to the devastating storm, with several reports stating that roughly 30,000 residents will be needing shelter and the rain has not stopped while the water continues to rise. If you would like to help those affected by the storm, here’s what you should keep in mind. You can help right now The Red Cross said they depend on financial donations to help provide immediate relief. They have already set up a way to donate to victims with a simple text. Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also visit or call 1- 800-RED CROSS. Americares The United Way has also announced a way to text a donation: Text UWFLOOD to 41444 to donate to the United Way Flood Relief Fund Donations to support The Salvation Army‘s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts can be made at or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Give cash, not supplies Most charities prefer monetary donations. These are more flexible and cause less of a strain on the charity, allowing them to help more, USAID explained. “Unlike material donations, cash involves no transportation costs, shipping delays, or customs fees. It also enables relief organizations to spend more time providing aid by spending less time managing goods,” the organization explained on its website. Volunteer at shelters The American Red Cross in Texas has asked people to volunteer. The office announced on Friday that it would be training volunteers at their shelters through a “fast=track” course. The Salvation Army also announced it would be accepting volunteers to hand out supplies and food at shelters. Check for a local group in your area that is sending volunteers. Volunteer Houston has launched a VIRTUAL Volunteer Reception Center to aid non-profits and agencies in finding and deploying people to hard-site areas. Go local Grocery chain H-E-B plans to donate $100,000 toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. On Monday, all H-E-B, Central Market and Joe V’s Smart Shop stores across Texas launched a statewide tear pad campaign, giving customers an opportunity to support victims through donations of $1, $3, or $5, which can be added to their total grocery bill. The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, and administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are asking for donations. Carter BloodCare covers hospitals in north, central and east Texas. To donate, call 877-571-1000or text DONATE4LIFE to 444-999. To help animals suffering from the disaster, visit the Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society. The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for diapers and wipes, which can be dropped off in person or mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Tex., 78238. Check the charity Before you donate to a charity, make sure you know where your aid is going. The Center for International Disaster Information recommends checking with a charity monitoring organization like GiveWellCharity NavigatorCharity Watch, or the Better Business Bureau before donating. Make sure your donation is secure by going through an organization’s official website or sending a check in the mail. Charity Navigator says you should never donate over the phone, email or unknown social media pages, as these are easier for scammers to target. Donate Blood AABB, which coordinates a task force to manage blood collection efforts during disasters, put out a call on Sunday for blood donations in the aftermath of Harvey. Those interested in donating blood may contact the following organizations: AABB: 301-907-6977 America’s Blood Centers American Red Cross: 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) Armed Services Blood Program: 703-681-5979 Online-Only Organizations GoFundMe has created a page with all of its Harvey-related campaigns. Airbnb is waiving service fees for those affected by the disaster and checking in between Aug. 23 and Sept. 1, and can guide users in creating a listing where their home is offered to victims free. YouCaring has a fund-raising page set up by J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans with a goal of $1 million. GlobalGiving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund supports local organizations by helping with “immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products and shelter.” houstonflood-82717 (1)
Don’t stop Reading books to your Children.

Don’t stop Reading books to your Children.

One of the biggest milestones kids experience during the school-age years is learning how to read. Once they unlock those magical words on the page, the whole wide world opens up for them. Whether it’s a lovely story for beginning readers like Frog and Toad or a can’t-put-it-down chapter book series like Harry Potter, both younger and older school-age children have plenty of options when choosing a great children’s book.

But while it’s important for kids to learn to read on their own and to continue to read books by themselves to strengthen their reading skills, it’s also a good idea for parents to keep reading with them, even when kids become strong readers. Here are some reasons why parents and kids should keep reading together:

  1. It encourages a love of books. When reading is a regular part of your family routine, it becomes a normal thing like eating dinner together or bath time. And the more your child reads with you and sees you reading your own books, the more he’s likely to love diving into a good story, too. When you cultivate a love of books with young children by reading with them, you’re instilling a great habit that’ll last your child a lifetime.
  2. More book time means less time on screens. When you make reading a built-in part of your schedule, it’ll naturally translate into reducing your child’s screen time. You can also make sure that the time your child does spend using tech devices includes educational content like online math games, which means she’ll have to figure out how to manage her time on a screen (a very useful skill that’ll come in handy as she grows older and has to spend more time on tech devices for academic and social reasons) while reading every day.
  3. It’s a great opportunity for parents and kids to spend time together and strengthen their relationship. One of the best ways to connect with your child is by opening up a good story. Not only will it be a wonderful way to spend time together and strengthen your bond with your child, but it will also give you a chance to share your reactions and thoughts and opinions about whatever story you’re reading. It will encourage your child to think and to form his own opinions and communicate them. Doing things together with your child is a great way to stay connected, and just as doing active things like bike riding or going for hikes will help him stay physically fit, reading together will help your child become intellectually strong.
    1. It helps kids practice reading out loud, which is an important skill. As your child’s reading skills grow, you can take turns reading passages from the book out loud. Doing this will boost your child’s self-confidence and help them becomes used to reading to others, which will be a useful skill in school. Reading aloud also helps kids improve pronunciation, increase their vocabulary, and help them really access and understand the deeper meanings of a story.
    2. It’s fun. Just because you’re a grownup, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a great kids’ book like the Harry Potter series or The Mysterious Benedict Society series. One of the biggest perqs of reading great kids’ books with your child is that it’s fun. And having fun with your child has benefits that extend beyond bringing you and your child closer together in the present: Research has shown that parents playing and having fun with kids is one of the best ways to increase a child’s chances of being happy and healthy later in life.

    Whether your child is a beginning reader or a confident fifth grader who’s mastered chapter books, reading together offers many benefits for both kids and parent

Celebrate International Literacy Day!

Celebrate International Literacy Day!

The Power of People: Start a Literacy Movement

International Literacy Day (ILD) shines a spotlight on global literacy needs, which goes hand in hand with ILA’s mission: literacy for everyone, everywhere. See how the Philippines transformed their literacy rate and improved the lives of Filipinos of all ages.

International Literacy Day is celebrated annually by the International Literacy Association (ILA) and is designed to focus attention on literacy issues. ILA estimates that 780 million adults, nearly two-thirds of whom are women, do not know how to read and write. They also estimate that 94—115 million children worldwide do not have access to education. International Literacy Day is just one way the Association strives to increase literacy around the world.

This year, ILA is focusing on the Phillipines to promote the theme “The Power of People: Start a Literacy Movement,” which honors the countries triumph in promoting literacy to its citizens. Visit the ILD website to download the activity kit and instructions on building your own Little Free Library® to promote reading in your own community. We’re building one, too!

Join the global celebration, and be sure to let the International Literacy Association know how you celebrate. Share pictures and videos to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (using the official hashtag #ILD15), or send them to [email protected].

Beat the Summer Slide by reading

Beat the Summer Slide by reading

Make sure kids have something to read during the summer — put books into children’s hands. Register with First Book and gain access to award-winning new books for free and to deeply discounted new books and educational materials or find other national and local programs and organizations that can help.

Get your local public library to sign kids up for summer reading before school is out.Invite or ask your school librarian to coordinate a visit from the children’s librarian at the public library near the end of the school year. Ask them to talk about summer activities, educational videos, and audio books at the library and to distribute summer reading program materials.

Get to know your community public library better. Find out if your public library is part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a grassroots effort to provide high-quality summer reading programs for kids. The theme for 2015 is Every Hero Has a Story. Colorín Colorado has tips for parents in English and in Spanish about visiting the local library. Or check out our top 9 reasons to rediscover your public library.

Let parents and kids know about the free summer reading incentive programs. Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! program has a Wimpy Kid summer reading challenge that kicks off on June 22nd. Jet Blue and Magic Tree House launch Soar with Reading on June 23. The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge encourages kids to log the minutes they spend reading and map their accomplishments. Kids can participate in weekly challenges, earn digital rewards, and enter to win prizes. With the Barnes & Noble Imagination’s Destination challenge, your child can earn a free book after reading eight books (and parents receive a summer reading kit full of activities). With the TD Bank Summer Reading Program, kids read and keep track of 10 books and can get $10 added to their Young Saver account.

Help kids build math and science skills over the summer. Share our Literacy in the Sciences series with families. Each one-page tip sheet (in English and Spanish) suggests easy hands-on activities as well as fiction and nonfiction books to extend the learning. In this section you’ll also find links to great science websites for kids, blogs about children’s science books, and links to PBS KIDS science programs and activities.

Encourage parents to start a neighborhood book club with other families this summer. It’s a great way to keep the summer learning social and low-key. Warmer weather can inspire some not-so-run-of-the-mill meeting places, too: a tent or picnic blanket in the backyard. If the book club catches on, it’s something to continue throughout the school year. PBS Parents has a wonderful collection of tips on how to start a club and encourage great discussions. Our special education blogger, June Behrmann, shares ideas (and title selections) for starting your own mother-daughter “accessible ” book club using print alternatives.

Suggest to parents that they set up a summer listening program which encourages their children to listen to written language. Research shows that some children with learning disabilities profit from reading the text and listening to it at the same time.


You can also find great activities at Reading Works.

Offer recommendations for active learning experiences. Check with your local department of parks and recreation about camps and other activities. Find out what exhibits, events, or concerts are happening in your town over the summer. Create a directory or calendar of local summer learning fun to share with your students and their families. (Be sure to note any costs involved.)

Let’s get our children reading and learning.

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES Partner Sign-Up

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES Partner Sign-Up


Read Aloud 15 MINUTES Partner Sign-Up
Join over 2,000 partners across all 50 states who are committed to working with parents and caregivers to help their children achieve lifelong learning success.
We want individuals who work with organizations that reach parents with children from birth to age 8 to become Read Aloud 15 MINUTES Campaign Partners.

It’s free! Upon signing up, you gain access to all of the fun visual content, in English and Spanish, that the Read Aloud Campaign creates to help remind parents of the importance of daily reading aloud starting at birth. The Read Aloud Partner Toolkit archives all past campaign materials and is updated with new materials before our March, Summer and October campaign pulses. Four to six weeks prior to each campaign period, our new campaign materials will be made available exclusively to Read Aloud Campaign Partners.

Sign UP Today    i know how to read

Nepal needs our help…

Nepal needs our help…

The damage is still being assessed after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, and death tolls continue to rise. This region is in desperate need of help right. Relief workers are facing challenges with knowing where to go: Most roads and buildings don’t exist on a map. But that’s a situation that’s changing, hour by hour, as thousands of volunteers around the world build a detailed digital atlas of the earthquake zone. Volunteers use aerial images from satellites to mark open spaces where helicopters or planes might land with supplies, highlight streets between towns and villages, and outline buildings that aid groups can use to guess where victims might be. Using OpenStreetMap technology—known as the “Wikipedia of maps”—they build continuously updated maps that can be used online or downloaded into navigation devices. Any mapping that people can contribute helps. If you need to know how to do it go here. Start mapping.

Nepal will need continued help in the weeks and months to come. In times of disaster, we often see the best of humanity as the entire world comes together to offer aid. Unfortunately, we can also see the worst as opportunists seize on the good nature of others to scam money. Her is a list of reputable organizations and people that you can support to help Nepal.



From the time the earthquake hit till the time Jay Poudyal started this campaign,  He has visited several affected areas in and around Kathmandu.  He has also collected stories which he has be sharing here. “The most need I see are for the aftermath of this earthquake which is  rebuilding and helping people recover from loss of property and loved ones. The fund collected will be used to distribute supplies to the people who are directly affected over a period of time. These will range from water, food, medicines, blankets.” Help Nepal

AJWS Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund will ensure that thousands of people affected by this earthquake receive the support they desperately need. AJWS has been involved in disaster response in the developing world for many years. An emergency response team from the AmeriCares India office in Mumbai is headed to the impact zone and relief workers are preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for survivors. You can support their efforts in Nepal. In Nepal, nearly 1 million children require humanitarian assistance, and UNICEF is on the ground working to provide critical aid to children and families. You can make a donation towards Nepal earthquake relief.

Make every day Earth Day!

Make every day Earth Day!

Today April 22, 2015 is Earth Day! Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has been a great reminder to celebrate the Earth, nature, and more natural living, however you don’t have to wait for Earth Day to start. Make a plan daily to do something to celebrate the Earth’s biodiversity and help towards protecting our amazing planet!

As parents we can set an example for our children. Children learn about strong character when parents and other adults in their daily lives set a good example through their own behavior and actions. Going Green and giving back to the environment starts at home.

If you are looking for ways to go Green today and everyday here are a list of ideas:


When you don’t recycle, it goes into the trash, and get buried. It stays there forever, basically.

Recycling and Reusing More Plastics:
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces approximately 1,600 pounds of trash per year. Too much trash going into landfills contains recyclable products that should be going into the recycle bin! Earth Day provides the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the following simple steps for reusing and recycling plastics, helping to conserve resources and protect the environment for future generations.

Find out which plastics are accepted for recycling in your area and where they can be taken. Though recycling varies throughout the country, most community programs collect plastic bottles, and many grocery and retail chains offer bins for recycling used plastic bags.

Bottles: Today, more than 80 percent of U.S. households have access to a recycling program, and the vast majority of them collect plastic bottles. For recycling purposes, a bottle is any container with a neck or an opening that’s smaller than its base. Include the following wherever plastic bottles are recycled:

Milk jugs
Beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice and beer)
Bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other household cleaners
Salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles
Food jars, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise

Bags: Many grocery and retail stores now offer plastic bag drop-off programs that allow consumers to return their used bags and product wraps to be recycled at collection areas located at the front entrance or near the store checkout. All clean bags labeled #2 (HDPE) or #4 (LLDPE) are recyclable, including:

Grocery bags
Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
Plastic newspaper bags
Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
You can also include plastic wraps from products such as paper towels, bathroom paper, napkins and diapers wherever plastic bags are collected for recycling

Visit for a list of stores that offer plastic bag recycling in your state. (Click on the “Consumers” tab.)

Bridge the second generation gap. It’s important to remember that recycled plastics go on to become second generation products. Bottles are used to make hundreds of everyday items, ranging from fleece jackets and carpeting to detergent bottles and lumber for outdoor decking. Plastic bags can also be made into many products, including new bags, durable backyard decks, fencing, railing, park benches, picnic tables, and shopping carts.


Make the Green Power Switch:

Global warming and climate change are huge threats to mankind. We’ve made remarkable progress since then in protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment. Your commitment to renewable energy through your Green Power Switch purchase helps us continue this progress. Everyone can battle these with little gestures that bring about big changes for a better future. Switching to renewable energy is considered a prerequisite to protecting our planet. Switch to green power energy today to save the earth and save money.

Eat outside:

In this day and age, we eat in front of the tv or on a short break from the computer. We are plugged in all day, all night, and even at meal times.Take a break from all that. Have a picnic, even if it’s in the local park. Start them young and build that habit when they don’t know any better.

Eat less meat:

Go meatless on Mondays … or Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays. Industrial meat and dairy operations are incredibly energy-intensive, from the production of feed to the operation of factories and slaughterhouses, to the processing and shipping. The Environmental Working Group estimates that if everyone in the United States cut out meat one day a week, the greenhouse gas emissions reductions would be like cutting out 91 billion miles of driving.

Learn more about the environment:

Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about the environment and how you can help to protect it. Read articles to get up to date on the current issues affecting the environment, like pollution, water shortages, and climate change. Or, learn about a region you’ve never considered before, like the Arctic, the deserts, or the rain forests. Not sure where to start? Check out your local news sources for information about environmental issues in your own backyard.
Understand how climate change works, and what you can do about it.
If you live in a city, look into urban environmental issues like contaminated drinking water and energy conservation.
If you live near a body of water, do research to find out whether it’s healthy or in need of help.
Learn more about fracking, which is affecting many communities in the United States.
Find out which species native to your area are under threat of extinction.

This Earth Day, remember: Helping protect the environment is something we can do everyday. Our earth should be protected so its precious resources can be available to us for many years to come. It is never too early to start teaching children the importance of keeping our planet clean and learning how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. With a little guidance and supervision, kids can get creative helping and celebrating the earth. Just because they are children doesn’t mean they can’t help make a difference. After all, little steps can lead to big changes.

Building Literacy with Crosswords for kids

Building Literacy with Crosswords for kids

Crosswords for kids help your child to learn about the meaning of words and how to use them in sentences. To solve a crossword puzzle, your child needs to search for alternative words, evaluate word choices and differentiate between homophones (words which sound the same but are spelled differently: i.e. pear and pair). These are all useful skills which help to enhance your child’s vocabulary and reinforce difficult spellings. If your child is struggling with a word, they can turn to a dictionary for help, thereby helping to develop their dictionary skills.

Here are some excellent on-line crosswords for kids created by grade level so that your child can practice spelling words appropriate for their age. I also love these homophone crosswords for kids.

There are plenty of websites which enable you to create your own crosswords for kids. I particularly like this crossword maker at The Teachers Corner.

Recently I decided to make up a crossword to help my children practice difficult spellings. Using lists of words commonly misspelled by primary children (for example, the words marked with an asterisk in this list), I chose twenty words which my children also have difficulty spelling correctly. The words I chose were:

  • aunt, bear, beautiful, caught, different, enough, fourth, friend, heard, little, name, people, pretty, school, should, straight, theirs, view, wear, white.

Before attempting the crossword, however, I wanted to give my children a chance to become familiar with the spellings of these words. For this purpose, I created a word search.

Word searches for Kids

Children can solve word search puzzles without paying any particular attention to spelling by just mechanically looking for one letter after another. So if you want to use a word search puzzle as a learning mechanism, it is important to sit with your child while they are doing it and help them to take notice of the spelling patterns of the words they are looking for.

First I created this word search for kids which you can download here or click on the image below.



For this exercise, we started by looking at the word list and grouping the words according to similar attributes or spelling patterns.

First my children identified all the words with double letters (different, little, pretty, school). They started looking for these words first since the double letters made them easier to spot in the grid. Then they looked for words with common vowel letters:

  • “ea”: bear, beautiful, heard, wear
  • “ou”: enough, fourth, should
  • “ie”: friend, view
  • “au”: aunt, caught

Finally they looked for the words which didn’t fit with any pattern: name, people, straight, theirs and while.

As my children looked for each word, I made sure they sounded it out and when they found the word they said the word again while tracing the letters with their fingers.

If you want to make your own word search puzzle, you can use this word search maker.

Crosswords for Kids

Now that my children were a bit more familiar with the spelling of these tricky words, it was time for the crossword. I created this crossword for kids which you can download here or click on the image below.


I then asked my children to try to solve the crossword puzzle, reminding them that the answers were all words which they had just found in the word search puzzle. When they struggled to spell a word, I encouraged them to work it out using one of the following strategies:

    • I asked them whether they remembered how we had grouped the word in the word search. For example, when struggling to spell little, it helped to remember that we had grouped it with different, pretty and school because it has a double letter.


    • We used the Alphabetic Code Chart from Phonics International which lists the phonic sounds with many of their different spelling alternatives. For example, when my son was unsure how to spell the \air\ sound in wear, we looked at the chart and saw that he could choose from -air, -are, -ear or -ere. This helped him work out the correct spelling.


  • If the above strategies didn’t work we used the Look-Cover-Write method for memorizing word spellings. My child looked at the word, taking care to notice difficult parts such as double letters, silent letters or unusual vowel combinations. Then we covered the word up and they wrote it on the crossword from memory.

As you can see, crosswords can be a great way to fit in lots of learning moments!



Books, Books Everywhere: Create a Reader-Friendly Home for Your Children

Books, Books Everywhere: Create a Reader-Friendly Home for Your Children

For Houston children, I know how to read books are just the start of a love of literacy that will benefit your child all through life. Whether you buy more books of your own, borrow them from your local library or get them on loan from friends, putting books in front of your children is the key.

Here are some budget friendly ways to add more books to your child’s home library:

– refresh the books in your home by hosting a book swap with family/friends;
– ask family/friends to give books as gifts for special occasions; or
– look for gently used books at yard sales, Goodwill, library sales, etc.

Most local libraries have children’s sections and many also offer free story hours for little ones. (You can find the public library nearest you here.) Visit the library and let your child pick some books to take home.

Remember to keep books where children can reach them and look at them on their own. A basket on the floor or a low shelf works well.

Read aloud to your children every day and don’t forget to let your child see you reading on your own. Be a reading role model!


The advantages of reading to your children.

The advantages of reading to your children.

The vast mass of knowledge in the world can only be gained by reading, and if you want your children to be smart, they have to acquire a love for reading.   The love of reading has so many benefits.   You can develop this reading habit in your children in as early as their first few months by reading to them.

Many studies have demonstrated that reading to children has many positive effects.

For example, a study was made in Rhode Island Hospital to compare two groups of eight months old – one group was read to often as babies, while the other was not.  It was shown that those who were read to have their “receptive” vocabularies (number of words they understand) increased 40 per cent since babyhood, while the non-reading group increased by only 16 per cent.

Indeed, reading to your children is one of the most effective way of building the “language” neural connections in their growing brains.

When your read with your child, he derives these benefits:

  • Reading to your kid makes you bond with him, and this gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being.  This feeling of intimacy will not only make your child feel close to you, the feeling of being loved and getting attention also helps him to grow smart.
  • The intimacy of reading to your kid is such a pleasurable experience to him that he will have a positive attitude towards reading as he grows up.
  • It calms your child, especially when he is fretful and restless.
  • It promotes increased communication between you and your child.
  • Preschool children who are exposed to language by hearing words that are read to him and in conversation tend to do well in school.
  • Many studies show that students who love learning and do well in school were exposed to reading before preschool.
  • Your baby learns early the basics of reading a book, that words represent sounds and concepts, words are read from left to write, and stories continue when you flip the page.
  • It promotes longer attention span, which is an important skill for your kid to be able to concentrate.
  • It builds listening skills and imagination.
  • Your young child learns about colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, while your older child discovers an expanding chain of knowledge.  His interest in cars, for example, will expand to his interest in trucks, and other transportation like planes and rockets, and soon he will be reading about outer space, science and technology, and so forth.
  • A study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science in January 2013 concluded that “reading to a child in an interactive style raises his or her IQ by over 6 points.”
  • Books teach your child thinking skills early. When you read to your child, he learns to understand cause and effect, he learns to exercise logic, as well as think in abstract terms. He learns the consequences of actions, and the basics of what is right and wrong.
  • Books teach your child about relationships, situations, personalities, and what is good and what is bad in the world he lives in.  Fantasy books provide material for his imagination and free play.  Fairy tales fascinate your kid, and help him distinguish between what is real and what is not.
  • When your child reaches a new stage in his growth, or experiences a new and unfamiliar situation, reading to your child about a story relevant to his new experience can relieve his anxiety and help him cope. For example, if your child is stressed about his first day in school, or about moving to a new location, you can read a book to him that shows that these should not be painful experiences.
  • Your child learns early that reading is fun and not a chore. When your child grows up, you will not be stressed about getting him to read, as reading has become, for him, a pleasurable habit.