Kids reading Swimming.  BBQs.   Staying up late.  Road trips.   Yes, all signs that summer has arrived.   What about reading?  Does it matter that our kids keep reading during the summer months?   Summer is the perfect time to help cultivate a child's love of reading, especially when we consider that the average child loses 6 weeks in their reading level over summer vacation.  How else does summer loss affect students' reading achievement and why does it matter?

"Summer reading loss refers to the decline in children's reading development that can occur during summer vacation times when children are away from the classroom and not participating in formal literacy programs (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2003). Far from being an intuitive perception in the minds of educators, the reality of summer reading loss is well documented – and it is more persistent among students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are already at risk for academic failure...

Access to reading materials has been consistently identified as a vital element in enhancing the reading development of children. Of all the activities in which children engage outside of school, time spent actually reading is the best predictor of reading achievement – the more students read, the better readers they become (Allington, 2006; Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). The research indicates also that students, on average, spend pitifully little time reading outside of school – about 10 minutes (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding).

Summer Reading Loss by Maryann Mraz and Timothy V. Rasins via

What are tips to keeping your child interested in reading this summer?

  • For Early Readers, point out words in their environment - on toys, cereal boxes, restaurants and street signs.
  • Use your public library. Hands down this is one of the best tools to keeping your child reading.   Most public libraries have put together wonderful (and free!) summer reading programs with pre-set reading lists for kids at different reading levels.  They tend to have built in rewards systems that kids love too!  If your local library doesn't have such a program in place perhaps you can consider starting a small book club with their friends.
  • Model your appreciation for reading. Show your children that reading is important by reading around them - not just with books, but newspapers and magazines as well.
  • Think about creating a small reading nook in your home. All you need are age appropriate books that can be borrowed from your library and a comfy chair (or throw/beanbag).  You can keep books on a shelf or even a basket.
  • Discuss the books that they are reading by asking them open-ended questions. What is their favorite character and why?  What is your favorite part of the book and why?
  • Reading for the road. If you are planning on doing a long drive with your family this summer, bring some audio books from your local library.  Let your kids help pick a few of them out.  Allow your children to help you research aspects of your trip - on the internet, using guidebooks, a Farmer's Almanac, etc.  My kids loved having a map with them on our road trip from California to Iowa - and anytime they asked "are we there yet" I would tell to look at the map.
  • Encourage your child to become well versed in a new topic this summer. Encourage them read about their new interest online and checking out books at the library.
  • Get cooking! Plan a few meals with your child and encourage them to help you find the recipe.  Look up a new recipe online or in cookbooks. They can even grocery shop with you for the ingredients - reading the aisle signs, the food labels, etc.
  • Download kid books. Many of us have access to technology devices that allow for downloading of books - how cool!   However, there are a few sites that allow you to download books for free!
  • For younger kids, read stories aloud to your kids. Feel free to get silly with different character voices, they will love it! Online at sites such like and are great tools for audio stories for little ones.  Simply choose your story and let the very talented narrators read classic and new tales to your kids.
  • Read together past the time they can ready by themselves.  The best way to encourage a love of reading is to read to your children - the younger that you get started on this awesome habit, the better.  Once your children are reading all alone, encourage them to read to YOU.
  • Encourage your child to write a letter. Perhaps a grandparent or cousin that lives in another state, or just a friend that they won't see much this summer.
  • Get a magazine subscription for your child. There are numerous magazines that are just for small kids and tweens. Even though most of these magazines tend to have "light" content, at least the age appropriate content will keep them interested in reading.
  • Visit a comic book shop. The box office has renewed an intretst in comic books, which is great because they are great tools for helping children practice their reading skills. Our local library even has a comic book section!
  • Have your child create their own book! Sites like and are websites dedicated to taking your child's story and accompanying illustrations and turning them into keepsake books.  What a great and unique way to share their creative stories!
  • Come up with an incentive system that works for your child. Maybe it's something as simple as for every 5 books that they read they earn a trip to the dollars store.  Whatever works for you and your family.  Be creative!  Our local bookstore allows kids to earn 1 book for every 8 that they read - cool!
  • It is the summer, so relax the rules a bit.  It's very common for many kids to have a required amount of reading that they must do everyday during the school year.  During the summer months don't set a minute requirement or page requirement.  Instead encourage them to read books/series that they enjoy or books on a subject that they already love. Bed time can always be pushed back during the summer, just a bit, if they are really enjoying a book!
  • Feel free to download the templates below to keep track of their reading progress too! While I am not requiring my kids to read a certain number of minutes, I am recording them per their incoming teacher's request.

Summer Reading Chart Template 1Summer Reading Chart Template 2

As a side note but kind of related to this post, my mother used to tell me stories about of what life was like in her small rural town in Mexico.  She always wished that they had access to more books, in the school and at home.  Maybe that's why she used to take me and my siblings to the local public library.  I especially loved walking to the library during the summer break months because my mother would sign me up for the summer reading program.  I loved trying to read as many books as I could and earning more points than my peers (I was competitive!).  I would check out as many books as I could carry!

I grew to love being around books.  Even though my family had a very tight budget, my father would always give me a few dollars to spend at the school book fair - one of the highlights of the year for me that always left me wishing I had more money to spend.  Maybe that's why I find it so hard to say "no" when my kids want a book!  One of my favorite things to do after class in high school was to take the "EL" train to the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago and explore it, always ending up on the top floor, sitting in the gorgeous atrium with a book, feeling really happy.  In college I would always find myself drawn to the old, beautiful ivy covered libraries instead of the modern looking ones.   Although not nearly as cool, now I love to stroll through the aisles of my local Barnes & Noble.  And in my dream house I would have a massive library with ladders that would move along the long floor to ceiling shelves packed with books - and let's not forget the stained glass windows and a huge antique wooden table right in the center of my book paradise!

Sadly, my busy schedule doesn't allow me to read as much as I would like, but I am looking for ways to encourage my kids to develop a love of books this summer.  If you have a tip that has worked well for your kids please feel to add it to the comments for this post.

Here are some sites that offer great tips for fostering a love of books in kids:

Sunday, 08 December 2013 09:53

Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

Our Lady of GuadalupeGrowing up, December 12th in my household was a very important day.  I would say that next Christmas, we probably anticipated the arrival of this day the most and inquite a big way. December 12th marks the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and as a Mexicana from a Catholic family this was a very big deal to me and to those around me.   I am hoping that my children will feel the same!

On this day Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated in a very special way, especially in Mexico, but increasingly in the United States too. If you grew up in Mexico or in a Hispanic Catholic family, chances are that you are very familiar with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Friday, 12 August 2011 06:25

Mexican Baptism Traditions

AJ's Catholic BaptismI love Baptisms. They are beautiful celebrations of the entrance of a person, usually a child, into the faith community. Baptisms in my Mexican Catholic family growing up were full of many wonderful memories and traditions. This summer we celebrated our son Anthony’s Baptism and I’m happy that my husband and I are celebrating our children's Baptisms with Mexican traditions.

Recently, I came across an old picture of my younger brother on his Baptism day. He was standing next to the piñata that my parents had bought for the party – it towered over him! Yes, our Baptism parties had piñatas – and lots of family, friends, food and fun. I was quite relieved that my husband, who is not Mexican and did not grow up  celebrating Baptisms in such a big way, was on board for large Baptism celebrations. Why the big deal? Well, blame it on tradition. My family is from Mexico, where a Baptism is an important religious event but is also regarded as an opportunity to celebrate with friends and family.  Es una fiesta!

How do you have a Mexican Baptism?

The Catholic religious ceremony is the most important aspect of el Bautismo. The child wears a white baptismal garment called a ropon; the white color symbolizes purity in the newly baptized.  The baptismal candle symbolizes that the child is now enlightened by Christ. Parents choose the godparents of the child very thoughtfully.

Baptismal Rite BookBaptism Supplies

Baptism Baptism

Parents typically will ask a couple (a male and female, but not necessarily a married couple) to be the padrinos. The padrinos and parents of the child call each other compadres, which I would agrue that in Mexico is a very strong, life long bond. My husband and I (center) are pictured above with Anthony's padrinos, Karyme Lozano and Eduardo Verastegui.

Catholic Mexican Baptism Traditions










In our family, we follow the religious ceremony with a special party, just like in Mexico. We invite our close friends and family for a big meal, complete with a mariachi band. While not as common, it's tradition for the pardrino give a "bolo" after the ceremony.  I have seen the pardino throw coins, the "bolo", into the crowd after the religious ceremony, symbolizing the godson´s/goddaughter's prosperity to come.

Decorating for a Baptism

I love using white everywhere, with a splash of color.  The hanging flowers are by Martha Stewart and are sold in kits.  They are a little time consuming to put together, but are an inexpensive way to make any space look pretty.   I hung several of these throughout the backyard.  For the centerpieces I borrowed vases from my friend and filled them with flowers from the market. I added the ribbon for an extra touch.

Hanging flowers by Martha Stewart


The menu was simple but so good with "the taco" man - a local catering company that will prepare delicious tacos at your event.  We also had a margarita machine!  But the best part of the food was the dessert!  The "sweet table" with cupcakes and other treats turned out so nice!  Cupcakes are my indulgence - we got ours from Sweet Arlene's, our favorite place!  They have won Cupcake Wars TWICE?  They are THAT good :).

Dessert TableDessert TableDessert Table

I took jars that I already owned and filled them with candy and other treats in the blue, white and brown color scheme.  I decorated the containers with coordinating ribbon and labels.

Baptism decorationsBaptism Decorations Dessert Table Containers

The banner read "God Bless Anthony" and hung over the sweet table.   I used blue and white cardstock to make it - it's really easy to put together.  I printed the letters directly onto the white cardstock, cut the white and blue cardstock to the appropriate sized circles, glued them together in the layered format (with glue dots) and then used a ribbon to string them together.

Baptismal Banner

Baptism banner

And for entertainment? A mariachi, of course!   And to help keep the kids entertained I set up an arts and crafts area, along with a very helpful friend to assist the kids.

Mariachi at BaptismMariachi at Baptism

Kids at Baptism Party

My husband and I believe that Baptisms can be celebrated in a big way because they only happen once in a child’s life, unlike a birthday.  We love making a big deal of this special day in our child's life. Incorporating the beautiful Mexican traditions into our child's Baptism is a real treat!

Celebrating BaptismsBaptism PartyBaptism Party

Baptism PartyBaptism Party

The pictures shared on this post were taken at our son's Baptism by my very talented friend Jennifer Carrillo of Bella Rosa Photography.   Check out her site - amazing pictures!

Thursday, 03 January 2013 19:02

Feliz Dia de Reyes

Dia de ReyesFeliz Dia de Reyes or Feast of the Three Kings!

On January 6, most of the Hispanic world celebrates El Dia De Reyes, the Epiphany.  We remember the day when the three wise men or Magi followed the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus,  bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  This is Epiphany on the church calendar, the 12th day after Christmas, also remembering when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus.

January 6th really marks the end of the Christmas season in Mexico. People start to head back to school and work after having spent time with family and friends during the past few weeks.  Mexican Christmas tradition generally calls for gifts to be exchanged on Dia de Reyes instead of on Christmas day, but it’s my impression that you see gifts being exchanged on Christmas day more and more often, with the traditions of Santa and Christmas trees becoming more popular.

Growing up, my family always celebrated three kings day.  The three kings would pass by our home on their way back from visiting baby Jesus in Bethlehem and, if we had been good, leave our shoes that had been left by the front door filled with candy and perhaps small treats.   My siblings and I ALWAYS made sure to leave our biggest shoes out by the door, for more treat space!

I grew up in a predominately Mexican community on the south side of Chicago, so I knew many people who celebrated this day. Yes, it was not as exciting as Christmas and Santa bringing us the “big” gifts, but I did look forward to waking up on January 6th and seeing what had been left behind in my shoe by the Magi! As my siblings and I grew up, the tradition of celebrating this day became less important to me, maybe because I stopped believing in the Magi and I focused more on the festivities around Christmas.   However, now that I have small children of my own I want to make sure that my they celebrate this Feast. They are likely not to learn too much about it from their school or friends, so it’s up to me. My husband is not Latino, but he appreciates our family celebrating my cultural traditions and is on board to celebrate as a family.

If you celebrate today, I hope that it’s a great day, bringing back some wonderful childhood memories. These sites have good explanations on the traditions and history around today’s Dia de Reyes.








Friday, 12 February 2010 09:30

Dos Idiomas

Bilingual FamilyHow are you teaching your child two languages?

Before I had children I thought that teaching them how to speak Spanish and English would be very easy.

I just figured that since I was fully bilingual my children would be too. However, now that I actually have children, teaching them both languages is proving to be a much harder task than I ever thought it would be. In this section we’ll discuss the issues that come up when trying to teach our children to be bilingual. Check back often for new resources and to share your thoughts on this subject.

The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for ParentsThese two books provide a good overview of the complexities involved in raising bilingual children and how to address them.


Raising A Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D

The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents by Edith Harding-Esch , Philip Riley

Friday, 12 February 2010 03:50

¿Qué dijo?

Did you translate for your family, friends, or perhaps neighbors as a child?

Child TranslatorMaybe you made phone calls for your parents, read the mail or went on errands with them because you knew English and they did not.

Many children of immigrant families serve an important role as child translators, and they are often the link between their family’s Spanish speaking world and the mainstream English world.

From a young age I began translating for my immigrant mother and father on almost a daily basis. On some days I would make or take a phone call for them, explain a piece of mail or school form, maybe pay their bills. Other times, I would translate at report card conferences or at my mom’s doctor appointments. Translating for my parents and even other family members and neighbors was something that I did regularly.

As college student I was fascinated that one of my professors, Dr. Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, was interested in learning more about the work of child translators. Working with her was a very rewarding experience for me, and I am very excited to have worked on part of the research in her book Translating Childhoods: Immigrant Youth, Language, and Culture. In her book, Dr. Orellana brings together her work with child translators in Los Angeles and Chicago – it’s great!

We will also do our best to add materials that are related to the topic. We would appreciate your thoughts, memories and feelings on your work as child translators.


Resources for the classroom or young children

Monday, 13 December 2010 01:28

Las Posadas

What are Las Posadas?

Photographs by Jennifer Carrillo, Bella Rosa Photography

I love celebrating Las Posadas! They mark the beginning of Christmas festivities across México, in some parts of Latin America, and even many communities in the United States. They are a beautiful celebration of processions and parties starting December 16th and lasting for 9 consecutive days in anticipation of Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. Posada literally means “lodging” in Spanish and they commemorate the journey that Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth on Christmas. Celebrating Las Posadas is one of the most unique Mexican traditions.

Each night between December 16th and December 24th a Posada is celebrated. A procession is formed by participants called los peregrinos or “pilgrims” and they are led by two children carrying a platform with Mary and Joseph statues. Sometimes two older children or teenagers are dressed as Mary and Joseph. In some larger scale processions, a real donkey may be used with Mary riding the donkey with Joseph by her side. Los peregrinos keep Mary and Joseph company by carrying candles (called farolitos, Spanish for “little lanterns”) and singing songs along the procession route. It’s common for young children to wear homemade costumes to represent shepherds and angels in the procession. Sometimes a child leads the entire procession while holding either a large star or a farolito. The peregrinos ask for posada or lodging at three different homes on their procession route, but only the 3rd home will allow them in. After songs and prayers around the nativity scene are complete, a party follows, of course!

As a child, my parents would often taken us to México to be with our family during the Christmas season and celebrating Las Posadas was a central part of our trips. The singing, the food, and the piñatas – I remember them fondly. When we did not make it to México for Christmas, we celebrated Las Posadas with our church community– it was just like being back in México, except that I grew up in Chicago and it was much colder during the outside procession!

As part of an ongoing effort to teach my children about their Mexican culture, my husband suggested that we celebrate Las Posadas with our friends and family. The celebration brought back many great memories for me. I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures and let us know what you think!

One of the most helpful things that parents can do to help their children learn to read and continue to develop their reading skills is to read to their children. So why not read to our children books that incorporate their Latino culture. These are some of the books that I have come across that are cover Latino/Immigrant Themes for younger children - not to mention are nicely illustrated.