Memorial Day

Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the year’s first sunburn.
Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the North and South led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead:
 In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg. The next year, a group of women decorated the graves of soldiers buried in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, cemetery.
 In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was recognized at the time as an act of healing regional wounds. In the same month, up in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched through town in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Maj. Gen. John A. Logan delivered the principal address. The ceremony gave Carbondale its claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance.
Waterloo, New York., began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.”
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. This date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
From the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn’t disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.
In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then came up with an idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.
Since the late 1950′s on the Thursday just before the Memorial day, around 1200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.

In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”

And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

Road to Reading

Do you remember learning to drive, how you had to get used to using three pedals with two feet while holding on to the steering wheel and watching the road all at the same time? It was difficult to coordinate and may have taken a while to get right. Your child is in the similar situation when he learns to read.
Learning to read is new, it is not easy and it can take a long time.
Your child is just settling into primary school after leaving the familiar environment of pre-school or home. Now he will be expected to sit and concentrate for longer periods than before.
You begin to realize that your baby is a baby no longer. He looks so serious going to school with that big school bag! You can encourage your child by following their school work closely and, in particular, by showing an interest in the reading folder.
Your child may be eager to learn to read and write but he will soon discover that it is hard work. It is important not to let him get discouraged.
You may find you are not as relaxed about your child’s progress as you would like to be. If things do not go according to plan, you might see it as failure. Perhaps you feel helpless and don’t know what to say when he bursts into tears because, “It’s to hard, I can’t do it!” or, “The teacher is too strict.” It is not always easy to help a child who, sometimes, does not understand what he is reading.

Your child may need to repeat things again and again. In the early days, the meaning of a story can be completely lost as he struggles with the words themselves.
You, as parent, may feel impatient and worried. Is it normal that your child is still slowly fumbling his way, while a best friend is whizzing through whole books?
The road to reading is often rocky. Your child might get out of breath, slow down or even come to a complete halt. Don’t worry. He will get there in time.
 To be continued…
Reading Part I


Reading can be fun!

Think of all the things your child has learned to do since birth- walking, talking, getting dressed, riding a trike- the list is endless. The next important step towards independence is learning to read.
Reading, a big step for your child.
Walking, getting mobile.
Children can be either cautious or daring when they take their first steps. Remember when your child was between eleven and twelve months? How he pulled himself on to his feet by holding on to the bars of his cot? How he moved around by holding on to the furniture? And how, finally, perhaps with a little help from you, he was fully confident… and was off!
Speaking, getting heard
Before you know it, your child is making “ago” noises and other gurgling sounds. Then comes the endless  ‘dadada’ and ‘mamama’ sounds and odd words here and there. This is followed by groups of words and sentences. By talking to your child, you have already been preparing him to learn to read.
Reading, a key to the world
Reading will probably not be completely new to your child. You may well have been reading bedtime stories aloud since he was very small, when he would snuggle up to you and ‘read’ the pictures as you read the words. The pictures are child’s word-free way into the story. By learning to understand the words, your child will be able to access the world of stories independently, and feel at ease in today’s world.
Whatever your child does later in life, he will need to know how to read and write.
Understanding the written word is important:
• to get on at school
• when filling out forms later on
• when reading instructions to operate a machine
• when accessing the world of technology and culture
•  to enjoy books and magazines
Walking, talking and reading are hard work for all children. They need time to develop at their own pace, and they need your support and encouragement to move forward. As a parent, you are an essential part of the process!
To be continued…



The ability to read well is a key to learning. Good readers can open up the entire world to themselves by merely opening a book. Helping your children to become good readers is a wonderful gift – it will help them to do well at school and to become lifelong learners.

Make Reading Part of Your Daily Routine
Establish a love of reading when you first bring your newborn home from the hospital. Long before they are old enough to comprehend the stories, your baby will love the time spent snuggled up with you, looking at the pictures, and listening to the sound of your voice as you read the words. Make reading as much a part of your daily routine as baths and mealtimes. Try to set aside a set time to read, say after dinner or at bedtime. Children do well when they know what to expect, so establishing a reading habit will be comforting to your baby.
Picture books and books with very simple stories or rhymes are great first choices. Babies and toddlers often enjoy repetitive rhythm, so choose a few books with a sing-song feel to them. Bright, colorful pictures will help to hold your child’s interest as you read, especially when they are very young and their attention span is somewhat short.
As your baby matures a bit, involve him in your reading by asking him to point to objects. Saying things like, “Where is the red truck?” will help them to be a part of the storytelling. In time, you will be able to ask your child what they expect to happen next in the story before turning the page.

Make Reading Fun
Be sure to make reading time fun and relaxing. Choose a comfortable spot such as a big, soft chair, your child’s bed, or under a backyard shade tree to sit with your child and read. Make the stories come alive by making silly faces and using unique voices for different characters. Soon, your child will have a few favorite books that they will request over and over.
Try to provide books on a variety of subjects to keep it interesting and to spark your child’s curiosity. Visit your local library and enlist the help of the librarian for suggestions on popular books. If you can remember the titles of a few of your childhood favorites, bring them home to share with your child.
As your child grows, ask him to read to you. In the beginning, he will merely recite passages that he has memorized, but over time, you will establish a routine of taking turns and reading to each other.
As your child’s interests broaden, include books on new topics. Those about hobbies, sports, athletics, gardening, cooking, music, travel, and history are all good choices.

Using Books to Stimulate
Help your children to create their own books. Make up stories with your children (one good way is to take turns every few sentences so that the story has some interesting twists and turns) and write them down. Once you have written the text, have your children add a few drawings and then bind the pages together. You can take the pages into an office supply store to have them professionally bound or you can simply punch holes along one edge and tie with yarn. These books are sure to become keepsakes!
Use the books that you are reading with your child to start conversations. Sometimes awkward subject matter can be a bit easier to approach by talking about the moral dilemma that a character faces. Often, even when children are at an age to be unwilling to share much about their personal experiences, they are comfortable talking about those same experiences in regards to a fictional character.
As your child gets older, many of the books that they will enjoy will be too long to read in one sitting. It works well to read a chapter or two each day or read for a set amount of time. Very often, children who are good readers have parents who love to read. Let your child see you reading for pleasure — books, magazines and newspapers. Show them that the love of reading is a lifetime thing.

Reading can be fun!Part I

Foreign Languages

Most experts agree that the earlier a child is introduced to a second language, the greater the chances are that the child will become truly proficient in the language.

In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with more people, children may derive other benefits from early language instruction, including improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills. Knowing a second language ultimately provides a competitive advantage in the work force by opening up additional job opportunities.

Studies have shown — and experience has supported — that children who learn a language before the onset of adolescence are much more likely to have native-like pronunciation. A number of experts attribute this proficiency to physiological changes that occur in the maturing brain as a child enters puberty. Of course, as with any subject, the more years a child can devote to learning a language, the more competent he or she will become. Regardless, introducing children to alternative ways of expressing themselves and to different cultures generally broadens their outlook and gives them the opportunity to communicate with many more people.

The three major types of programs available in elementary schools are language immersion programs, foreign language in elementary schools (FLES) programs, and foreign language exploratory (FLEX) programs.

  • Immersion programs allow children to spend part or all of the school day learning in a second language. In full (total) immersion programs, which are available in a limited number of schools, children learn all of their subjects (math, social studies, science, etc.) in the second language. Partial immersion programs operate on the same principle, but only a portion of the curriculum is presented in the second language. Under this type of program, a child may learn social studies and science in Spanish or French in the morning and learn mathematics and language arts in English in the afternoon. In both cases, the second language is the medium for content instruction rather than the subject of instruction. Children enrolled in immersion programs work toward full proficiency in the second language and usually reach a higher level of competence than those participating in other language programs.
  • FLES programs are more common than immersion programs. A second language is presented as a distinct subject, much as science or social studies. Typically, the course is taught three to five times per week. Depending on the frequency of the classes and the opportunity for practice, children in these sequential programs may attain substantial proficiency in the language studied.
  • FLEX programs introduce students to other cultures and to language as a general concept. Time is spent exploring one or more languages or presenting information about language itself. Although this information may be introduced, the emphasis is not on attaining proficiency. While some proficiency may be attained with a once- or twice-per-week program emphasizing the use of a specific language, parents should not expect children to attain fluency in such programs. These programs, however, can provide a basis for later learning.

In most cases, learning another language enhances a child’s English ability. Children can learn much about English by learning the structure of other languages. Common vocabulary also helps children learn the meaning of new words in English. Experimental studies have shown that no long-term delay in native English language development occurs between children participating in second language immersion classes and those schooled exclusively in English.

In fact, children enrolled in foreign language programs score statistically higher on standardized tests conducted in English. A number of reports have demonstrated that children who have learned a second language earn higher SAT scores, particularly on the verbal section of the test. One study showed that by the fifth year of an immersion program, students outperform all comparison groups and remain high academic achievers throughout their schooling.