Encouraging Our Children to Read

Written by Les Dahl on December 30th, 2015. Posted in Family, Learning Solutions


document.write(" arial, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">As a kid, I loved books. Hardly a day went by without a visit to the school library.

Then, to my delight, I discovered the library in our church. I could borrow books on Sundays, too!

Milking time on the farm was intense. Contented cows produced the best milk. That meant feed them on time...and take the mechanical milking machine off the cow when its milk is done!

I can't count the number of times my dad caught me hiding behind some bales of hay reading a book. Yes, I fed the cows. Oops! I forgot to change the milker...again!

I know some of you could tell similar stories.

How do we nurture that kind of love for books and reading in kids today. Technology has changed the playing field.

Amazon, through Kindle eBooks, is using technology to capture our tech-savvy kids with an interesting reading format. Perhaps we do well to take advantage of the new, somewhat-more-level playing field.

Personally, I still prefer to hold the actual book in my hand and see my grandchildren's noses in real books. However, I won't deny them the fun of reading on a tablet.

I've discovered I can use both formats. The real secret is not the format.

The most effective way to encourage our children to read books and enjoy reading is the personal touch—read aloud to them, listen to them read aloud to you and tell them lots of stories.

My 'scientific observation' gives ample evidence that the more I engage them with the personal touch the more they love to read.

Proof positive: I see them on their own trying to read a book or looking at the pictures...often!


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5 Things We Can Teach Our Children About Christmas

Written by Les Dahl on December 24th, 2015. Posted in Family, Parenting Strategies, Peace, Sage's Scroll



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">It is easy to be knocked off balance and lose focus at Christmas. It is, after all, the busiest and most stressful season of the year.

Even more so for our children. Egged on by seemingly harmless questions, “What do you want for Christmas?” or “What do you want Santa to bring you this year?” children are swept off their feet by a marketing vortex that plays on their innocent fantasy.

Everywhere they turn, children are bombarded with high-definition, fast-action, color-intense visual images that prey on their impressionable imagination. As if the visual overload is not enough, an overdriven cacophony of Christmas sounds and advertising bombards their sensitive eardrums.

Exhausted and stressed, we parents get sucked into the Christmas juggernaut and miss what makes Christmas the “special time of the year” that it is.

Here are 5 things we can teach our children to help them stay balanced and not lose focus at Christmas.

1. Christmas celebrates Light

Just listen to the news for evidence that darkness encroaches upon our world. Our children feel it intuitively, along with their personal darkness and fear. Christmas is an opportune time to reassure our children that the Eternal Light of God, whose birth we commemorate, shines in their heart. It only takes a little candle to shatter darkness.


2. Christmas announces Joy

Darkness steals joy, especially that of childhood. Joy to the World is a favorite carol heard often at Christmas. But the commercialism of Christmas tempts our children (and us) to look for happiness in material things—toys, electronic devices, food. Joy, however, has its source within and springs forth by our choosing. That lesson will benefit our children all through the year.


3. Christmas proclaims peace and goodwill

Darkness promotes feelings of alienation. Home is designed to be a refuge of safety, especially for our children—the space where they can be themselves, accepted for who they are and loved simply and especially because they are family. Christmas is a good time to reaffirm family and extend expressions of goodwill to all.


4. Christmas denotes giving

On this point the significance of Christmas is most sadly lost. Too easily, especially for our children, Christmas becomes a season of getting. Giving of gifts tends toward superficial (it's the expected thing to do, especially if one expects a gift in return) or toward extravagant (an unnecessary and beyond-budget display).

True giving comes from a sincere heart and a habit of being kind and generous. It is found in a person who delights to elicit joy in others. Our children become authentic, fulfilled human beings as they learn this lesson.


5. Christmas heralds contentment

The attitude in the Christmas story that impresses me most is the unpretentious contentment of Joseph and Mary summarized by three words—simplicity, gratitude and wonder.

The young couple are content to begin their life together as a family in a rustic stable. Simple shepherds and dignified magi are welcomed with authentic gratitude and sincere wonder.

And after the grandiose fanfare of that first Christmas, Joseph, Mary and their beloved Yeshua continue a simple life filled with gratitude and wonder in Nazareth,.


The greatest gifts we can give our children this Christmas are the lessons of Christmas. These are best caught not taught, which happens when we parents model them every day of the year.

I bless my parents for these gifts. The lessons are deeply ingrained in me. I have the privilege this year of sharing them with two of my grandchildren who, with their mother, live with us.

Blessed Christmas to all...


Question: Will you take time this Christmas to impart these lessons to your children? They will bless you for it.



Written by Les Dahl on December 1st, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions, Parenting Strategies



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif;">“TV provides no educational benefits for a child under age two.”(1) ... “Watching TV in childhood increased chances of dropping out of school and decreased chances of getting a college degree.”(2) ... “Watching sex on TV increases the chances a teen will have sex, and causes teens to start having sex at younger ages.”(3)

Is TV a “one-eyed monster” devouring our children? These strong statements backed by research suggest it is. Is there any good effect of TV on our children?

“The bad” and “the ugly” - some shocking statistics.

  • Infants and toddlers exposed to programs designed to “teach” and enhance “brain development” learn less than children who play and interact with other children and adults instead. A child watching 1 hour of TV a day during his/her first 2-3 years increases their chance of developing attention problems by nearly 10%.
  • Watching TV contributes to obesity. On the tennis court, 8.1 calories are burned per minute; an “active” video tennis game like Wii burns about 5.3 calories per minute. Watching TV burns only slightly more calories than sleeping.
  • On average, children 8 years and older watch TV and/or computer more than 7 hours daily (this includes DVDs, video games, calling or texting on the phone). That's over 30% of their time. Usually kids are engaged in more than one of these activities while doing homework.
  • Kids immersed in TV are less likely to read books. Even watching kids' cartoons results in poorer pre-reading skills at age five. Language, which is developed by reading, conversations and play, is delayed and vocabularies are smaller.
  • In 1 year, the American child is exposed to 12,000 violent acts on TV. That's 1,000 per month! The American Psychological Association Help Center counted 20 violent acts per hour on children's TV programs. Children watching violence learn aggressive behavior, like hitting a child to get the toy they want. They get the idea this is acceptable from TV programs they watch.
  • Many parents do not discuss sex with their children, so kids get much of their information from TV. The number of sex scenes has doubled since 1998. Of the 20 most-watched shows by teens, 14 include sexual content. These include an average of 5 scenes per hour. Research documents the increase of sexual activity and teen pregnancy with this drastic increase of sexual content in TV programming.

“The good” - a silver lining around a dark cloud.

For years, “Sesame Street” was the most-watched and loved children's TV program. Melissa Kearney of the University of Maryland and Phillip Levine Wellesley College studied the impact of “Sesame Street.” They found that “the famous show on public TV delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of American children — benefits as powerful as the ones children get from going to preschool.” They also found that “the show has left children more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age, an effect that is particularly pronounced among boys, African Americans and children who grow up in disadvantaged areas.” Kudos to “Sesame Street”!

How can parents salvage “good” out of TV?

  • Become informed about “the bad” and “the ugly” effects and make necessary adjustment to TV viewing habits, not only of the kids but of the entire family. Set limits about how much time is allotted to watching TV. Monitor what is being watched. Be a good role model.
  • Use TV effectively to complement what kids are learning at school. Kids who watch informative, educational and non-violent shows score higher on reading and math tests than those who do not.
  • Follow-up a “good” TV program with discussion and appropriate activities. (e.g. after a show that featured cooking, have kids join you in the kitchen; take the kids to the library to find books to read on a topic viewed; start up a conversation that will expand the kids' curiosity about the topic viewed.)
  • Create a culture of family in which the uniqueness of each individual is appreciated and the contribution of each individual to the whole is valued. Out of this springs family entertainment with meaningful conversations, engaging story telling and spontaneous laughter. Include outdoor activities and outings that create happy and satisfying memories. All without sacrificing the necessary private space of each family member.

“Any positive effect of television ... is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. ...[They] are far more important to a child's development than any TV show."

So says the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Public Education. I agree.


Image courtesy imagrymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(1) Chacha Tumbokon, <www.raisesmartkids.com/all-ages/1-articles/13-the-good-and-bad-effects-of-tv-on-your-kid>

(2) (3) UNHS, Your Child: Development and Behavior Resources <http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm>

University of Maine Bulletin #4100, “Children, Television, and Screen Time” <http://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4100e/>

“4 Good & 6 Bad Effects Of Television On Children”, Dr. Saara Fatema http://www.momjunction.com/articles/good-bad-effects-television-children_0074078/

“Positive Effects of TV”, <http://www.odec.ca/projects/2005/zerb5m0/public_html/positiveEf.html>

“Study: Kids can learn as much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from preschool”, Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/sesame-street-and-its-


Written by Les Dahl on September 27th, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Children have a hard time listening. You carefully explain what you want them to do, and they turn around and do something completely different. Exasperated, you ask, “Were you not listening?”


Listening is an acquired skill necessary to be fully present and fully engaged. 


Listening is an essential skill in a child's learning process. Without it, s/he will be confused about what to do and how to do a given task. Good listening skills are particularly important for children who struggle with ADHD issues.

Listening is an acquired skill. It must be learned and then practiced until it becomes a habit. Well-honed listening skills ensure success at school and in the child's broader experience of life.

Listening requires that a child be fully present and fully engaged. All the 'moving parts'—ears, eyes, mind and heart—must be activated and synchronized before communication is fully and accurately received (and given). The ears capture sound, the eyes connect with the source of the sound, the mind processes the sound into the message, and the heart filters the communication through the bias of emotions.


What happens when a child is given clear instructions yet executes something quite different?


The child's ears catch the sound waves coming through the air but because none of the other components of listening are engaged, all that registers is a series of sounds something akin to, “Blah, blah, blah, blah...”

Meanwhile, his/her eyes are flitting about like a butterfly gathering and sending random data to the brain. Added to the sound bytes and visual images flashing through the child's mind are meandering thoughts and cameos of imagination. Emotions are stirred and attached to the messages and images according to temperament and mood. This barrage of multi-sensory data is processed in nanoseconds! You are lucky if your child receives any clear message, no matter how explicit you are.

Zoe is a bright eight year-old with dyslexia and ADHD. Both her mind and her body are constantly in motion, seldom pausing long enough to actually hear instructions let alone stay on the task at hand to successfully complete it. Yet, she is creative and capable—when fully present and fully engaged!

My challenge: how can I introduce and activate the four elements of listening within the small window of attention, against an ever-changing backdrop of swirling stimuli and emotion?


Imagination is a powerful tool that can activate listening skills.


A particular strength of dyslexic, ADHD children is a hyper-imagination. This creates problems such as distraction and daydreaming, but it is the very gift that produces brilliant artists, musicians and entrepreneurs. It is the powerful tool which I chose to activate the listening skills lacking in Zoe. After instructing Zoe to settle comfortably in her chair—upright, back against the chair, hands on thighs—and take a few deep breaths to relax, I guided Zoe to use her imagination to identify and activate the four elements needed to listen an truly hear.

“In your imagination, find the inside of your ear. See a door...it is locked. See a key hanging by the door...take the key, unlock the door and open it wide. Now step across to your other ear...see the door...use your key to unlock and open this door. Are your 'ear doors' open?

“Next, in your imagination, find your eyes. They are windows. Open the curtains to let the sun shine in. Spray on some window cleaner and wipe the glass with a clean rag. Can you see clearly through your windows? Is the room bright and cheerful?

“Now, in your imagination, let's go upstairs to your mind...it's your computer room. Open the door...step inside...switch on the light...see your computer on your desk. Find the power button and boot up your computer. Is your computer up and running?

Now let's go downstairs into the sitting room.This is your heart...where your feelings and moods are. This is where you like to hang out...to relax and enjoy yourself. See the comfortable couch and chairs? Look around...is there dust...dirt...cob-webs? These are bad feelings, bad attitudes and bad habits. Take a broom and sweep them out...or take a vacuum cleaner and suck them all up...Is the room messy...or is everything in its place? Make sure this room is just the way you like it...clean and comfortable.

Take a deep breath...hold it for a few seconds...and then release it. One...two...three...open your eyes. How do you feel? Are you ready to begin today's lessons?”

Once the initial procedure is completed, it is much easier to maintain or regain attention. As you notice the eyes shifting, remind your child that listening involves the eyes as well as the ears. When you sense their mind is wandering, ask something like, “Is your computer still engaged?” If negative attitude surfaces, you may need to stop and revisit the 'sitting room' and sweep out or vacuum up the negative emotion.


“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”*


Whether I am teaching in the classroom, coaching a struggling learner or home-schooling my two grandchildren, this simple exercise is effective and fun. Not only have the listening skills of my students improved, I have become a better facilitator of learning as I actually listen to what my they have to say. In time and with practice, student and teacher have become skillful listeners and communicators.


How do you develop listening skills in children which enable them to become fully present and fully engaged in the task at hand?




*Source: "Bryant H. McGill." BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2015. 25 September 2015. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnlubboc168254.html>

Image courtesy David Castillo Dominic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PLAY MATTERS—A Blog Hop All About Play

Written by Les Dahl on September 18th, 2015. Posted in Family, Learning Solutions

Girls dressing up as pirates

Girls dressing up as pirates

document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Using the unique platform of a "blog hop", Janine Halloran, a fellow blogger is promoting websites about the benefit of play in children's development. Check out these interesting and informative articles...



Written by Les Dahl on July 31st, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Educating our children must go beyond academics. Helping children acquire and practice right moral values is critical. The well-being of a community and a nation depends on it. Holistic development of children is the mandate of parents, care-givers and teachers.

Without sound moral values, children have no basis on which to make good choices. Moral values are guideposts pointing the right direction. They help children appropriately apply what they are learning to situations of real life.

Without positive moral guidance children become self-inflated and self-absorbed individuals with a gorilla-sized attitude of entitlement. They have little regard for, nor interest in, others except for personal gain. Only solid moral values rescue such from their illusionary, self-created universe.


How Can Values Be Cultivated In Children?



Phase 1: Teach

Values are 'seeds' that must be sown into the minds of children. They must be taught the concept (e.g. respect) clearly so they know what is expected of them. Relevance is established as children are shown clearly how the value (e.g. respect) is applied in their real-life experience. Role play followed by discussion can help clarify relevance and context.


Phase 2: Talk

Once a value is 'planted', it must be nurtured. This is accomplished as a vocabulary is developed around the value. For example, as respect is introduced, children must hear and use the word, its synonyms and words related to respect often (within reason, of course) throughout succeeding days. The objective is to establish a consciousness of respect, which in turn embeds thought patterns of respect which eventually become the paradigm by which children make choices and by which they interact with one another.


Phase 3: Walk

In this phase children “walk the talk” with the help of parent, care-giver or teacher. As a child demonstrates inappropriate behavior, the following three steps help get them back on track. The focus of intervention is restorative rather than punitive.


1. Facilitate clarity.

(a) Ask leading questions that help the child identify exactly what was wrong about their behavior. The issue cannot be resolved if the child cannot identify and name the inappropriate behavior.

(b) Guide the child to understand (i.e. identify and name) what would be appropriate behavior in the given situation.

(c) Explore several appropriate behaviors and the outcome each would produce. It is important for the child to see that more than one option provides appropriate behavior. They must see that their power of choice determines the outcome.


2. Help the child own their inappropriate behavior.

As long as the child makes excuses and blames someone or something other than him/herself, the issue cannot be resolved and he/she cannot move on.

(a) Help the child admit they were wrong. e.g. “I was disrespectful when I called Amy a name that hurt her feelings.”

(b) Help the child apologize appropriately. e.g. “I'm sorry for calling you a name that hurt your feelings.” The issue is not resolved with a vague “I'm sorry.” Help the child be specific in naming the wrong.

(c) Help the offended child express forgiveness. e.g. “I forgive you, Amy.” Saying the name tags the forgiveness precisely. It releases the offender to get up from her mistake and empowers her to move forward with a new level of respect—for herself and for others.

(d) Have persons involved in the incident promise they will help each other behave appropriately. We need each other to become the persons we want to be.


3. The goal: children making values-based choices and resolving personal conflicts using values-based strategies without adult intervention.


Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it well, We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the State is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the State.”

Whether by spontaneous, one-on-one mentoring or structured class/group discussion, children will embrace moral values that shape their character and conduct. They will become the kind of adults who make a difference in their community and in their nation.


7  Values That Help Children Live Wel


Of all the values (one list had 225 entries!), the following seven make a good starting point.

  • Respect: proper regard for the thoughts, feelings, wishes, rights and property of others
  • Honesty: sincere, genuine, truthful yet tactful, without deceit or hidden agenda
  • Forgiveness: ready and willing to forgive out of understanding and compassion .
  • Trust: firmly believing someone is reliable and free from suspicion and doubt
  • Patience: tolerating delay, problems or interruptions without becoming annoyed or anxious.
  • Gratitude: being thankful, ready to show appreciation and to return kindness.
  • Love: showing understanding and compassion; ready to sacrifice for the benefit and empowerment of others.


Children groomed in these values are equipped to live well. They benefit their family, community and nation. Where children grow with these qualities of character, there is hope.