How Technology Has Changed How Children Discover Reading

kids media

Please welcome my guest Caroline from Culture Coverage.  Check out the site for some great reading info on popular culture, and of course, reading.  (Image credit: Pixabay)

Most of us enjoy a good book, but it’s not always easy to figure out how to share that feeling with others, especially children. We’d like to extend our thanks to Julia for featuring our post and contributing to a needed area. If you’re looking to do some reading of your own, check out her summer reading list.

Many times technology designed for adults finds its way into the hands of children. As a child, I found myself fascinated by the toys and gadgets used by adults; now, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. What TV was then, tablets and smartphones are now. Let us see then how things have changed.

In School

Several decades ago, the educational system set a goal to encourage children to read books. They did so in a variety of ways: the Reading Rainbow series, point-based test taking (e.g., Accelerated Reader), summer readings, group sessions, book reports…the list goes on.

And while many of those ideas have stuck around, smart technology has changed the delivery system. For instance, better-funded schools have begun providing tablets for each child in a classroom. Others have gone the route of individual laptops or even desktop computers. All have software installed designed for a few different things.

These apps tend to focus on helping kids get better at ready either by having them listen and respond or by playing games that incorporate reading skills. While this doesn’t replace group reading, it definitely offers some alternatives to allow each child to get more personalized attention.

The programs mentioned above such as Reading Rainbow have naturally jumped on board by creating their own apps to expand their original program to more children. Non-physical books are considerably cheaper in most cases, meaning parents can afford to purchase more reading material for their kids.

At Home

Naturally, the environment at home mirrors some of what’s happening at school. Children just barely able to walk are playing first with devices that resemble phones and tablets, while kids just entering kindergarten may already have their own devices. If configured right, these tools enable parents to offer their children entertainment beyond the television.

Busy parents may find it difficult to sit and read to their kids as often as they’d like, but with digital audiobooks, they can offer alternatives. Another big area of change is for parents that simply can’t be home: Skype or similar programs allow them to come face to face with their children no matter what the distance. It’s much better than phoning in and makes reading together very close to sitting together the old fashion way.

Tomorrow and Beyond

Today’s newest methods of engagement may not be tomorrow’s. Sure, new apps are always being developed to answer new needs, but will the technology remain the same? Wearable smart items and previously unconnected items are becoming more and more popular. In time, our children are also likely to become more connected, which means their connection to reading is likely to change as well.

Thankfully, books don’t appear to be going anywhere too soon. Kindles might be convenient, but there’s still no substitute for the physical copy of a favorite book. Children are engaging in different ways than before, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

My own kids have very mixed interests: they read books at school, but at home they’re already becoming pretty attached to my tablet (it’s bigger and easier to use than my phone and a lot less personal). While they tend to enjoy games the most, I have to remind myself that nearly all games require some degree of reading. Even outside of the games though, they find it easier to read at home sometimes because they aren’t distracted by all their friends.

Do you have children? How have you encouraged them to become avid readers? Share with us in the comments how technology has changed the game for you!

About the Author: Caroline is a technology enthusiast and internet security specialist. Reading is an integral part of staying current in these areas; if you’d like to read more, check out some of her posts on Secure Thoughts and Culture Coverage.

New Releases from J.K. Rowling

cursed child 2

I’ve seen posters at Barnes and Noble and excited updates on social media – new Harry Potter stories are coming out soon!!   J.K. Rowling’s name is floating around on many upcoming releases, and the kids and I had to figure out what is going on in the world of magic.  Here are some Word Nerd updates on everything Rowling.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Currently in previews, this play by Jack Thorne will open officially at the Palace Theater London on July 30, 2016.  Based on a story written by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, where we find Harry as an adult, struggling with his past while he juggles fatherhood and his job at the Ministry of Magic. Find more information about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the official play website.  Here’s a snippet about the premise:

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

The official script book (official rehearsal edition) of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will go on sale July 31, 2016; according to Amazon, a “Definitive Edition” of the script will go on sale in early 2017.

Barnes and Noble will host release parties nationwide to celebrate this new story in the Harry Potter series.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic BeastsThis movie about Newt Scamander, author of the Hogwarts text Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, follows his adventures in New York’s secret community of wizards and witches seven decades before Harry reads his text at school. Release date: November 18, 2016. See more about Fantastic Beasts on IMDB.

The screenplay for Fantastic Beasts, written by J.K. Rowling, will be available November 19, 2016.

Die hard Potter fans can also buy their own copy of the textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Hogwarts Classics

In June of 2016, publishers released a box set of two classic texts any Hogwarts student (or fan) should read: Quiddich Through the Ages and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Available at Amazon.

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination

Very Good LivesI stumbled across this book by J.K. Rowling on one of those “must read” tables in the middle of Barnes and Noble. In 2008, Rowling gave the commencement speech at Harvard University. Very Good Lives is the transcript of that speech, which many reviewers on Goodreads found inspiring. Profits from the sales of Very Good Lives benefit Lumos, a non-profit international children’s organization founded by J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalization of children around the world.


Goodreads fans say it takes 15 minutes to read and is worth every second. I could use a short but inspiring speech right now…

Do you have any news to add on these releases or others from J.K. Rowling? Do you plan on getting the books, or seeing the play and/or movie?

I’m leaving on vacation next week and will return with more Word Nerd tips, and hopefully some fabulous photos, in August. Watch for a guest post on kids, books and technology soon.

Thanks for getting fangirl with me!







When to Use Capital vs. Capitol

capital graphic

I traveled with my daughter’s eighth grade class to Washington, D.C. this spring, and one of the things that struck me, besides how loud teens can be on a bus at 11pm, was that I still don’t know the difference between capitol, Capitol, and capital.

Clearly, a woman who prides herself on “Word Nerd Knowledge” should have this basic spelling issue resolved, especially during a presidential election year.  Do you know when to use which?

Let’s start with the one with the most inclusive definition first:

capital \ˈka-pə-təl\ from the Latin caput, head [Merriam-Webster]


  • the uppermost part of a column or pilaster


  • describing an uppercase letter <A, B, C, etc>
  • punishable by death <a capital crime>
  • important or influential <capital ships>
  • the seat of government <Richmond is state capital>
  • relating assets that add to the long-term net worth of a corporation <capital improvements>
  • excellent <a capital book>

Now, for capitol (switching the second “a” to an “o” makes a big difference here):

capitol, from the Latin Capitolium, temple of Jupiter at Rome on the Capitoline hill

  • a building in which a state legislative body meets
  • a group of buildings in which the functions of state government are carried out

US CapitolCapitol (note capitalization)

  • the building in which the United States Congress meets at Washington


I think it’s cool how the word etymology reflects a significant difference in the different spellings here.

Word Nerd Workout

Choose the right word, (capital/ capitol / Capitol) for each of the sentences below.

  1. We went on a field trip to Columbia, the state capital/capitol/Capitol of South Carolina.
  2. Picketers were protesting outside of the capital/capitol/Capitol building in D.C.
  3. Proper nouns should always begin with a capital/capitol/Capitol letter.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!








How to Save a Wet Book

The fanning stage for damp books.


You’ve got the perfect summer set-up: feet ankle-deep in sand, hat on head, book in hand. But then, that wave hits. You know, the one that you never thought would come all the way up to your spot on the beach. The one that soaks your towel and, worse, soaks your book.


The book disaster in our house wasn’t as exotic as a beach flood. More like a water bottle explosion inside a backpack. Nevertheless, we ended up with the same problem.

Have you experienced a wet book crisis? Good news. You can preserve your book after excessive water exposure. (If you read on a Kindle or iPad, seek help elsewhere. This post is about good old-fashioned printed books.)

Luckily, the bottle explosion we experienced only dampened the edges of Orwell’s 1984. (Daughter is plowing through classics with admirable determination. Since I’ve never read Lord of the Flies, and she has, that’s up next on my TBR. According to daughter, I need to finish before the end of summer because it’s too depressing for the winter. Can’t wait.)

wet book 2
Lucky for us, just the edges got wet. The potential for damage increases if the binding gets soaked.

The procedure for drying damp books vs. completely soaked books varies, so read the directions carefully.

For soaked books:

  • Do not open the book or fan the pages. Place it on its end on absorbent paper, like paper towels.
  • Place the book in a spot with good air circulation; fans are helpful.
  • Replace the paper towels as they become wet.
  • Let the book dry like this for an hour or so before trying the next step.

For partially wet books:

  • Blot the cover and pages with paper towels. Never rub, as this will damage the soft paper.
  • Carefully open the book and interleave (!?! New word!) paper towels every 20 pages or so.
  • Lay book on its side.
  • Replace the paper towels as they become wet.
I interleaved book pages with paper towels.
I interleaved book pages with paper towels.

For damp books:

  • Place book upright in a dry spot with good airflow and fan out the pages.
The fanning stage for damp books.
The fanning stage for damp books.

For almost dry books:

  • Place book flat and put a weight on top (I used a big fat dictionary).

To de-wrinkle pages once the book dries:

Water damaged pages will most likely wrinkle. The Chicago Tribune suggests placing a tissue over the warped page and ironing it on low heat.  We didn’t mess with this step.  If it had been that beautiful hard cover copy of Pride and Prejudice, maybe.

Make sure the book is thoroughly dry – check the binding and cover- before storing on the shelf. Or in your backpack. 😉  You don’t want to grow mold!

For more details and advice, consult

Have you ever had to save a wet book?  Can you share any other tips or tricks?  

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!








Betcha Didn’t Know: Who I Am

Photo credit: Alex Roberts via Flickr CC-BY-SA

Sure, most of my friends and blog readers know that I love to read, run, and write. They’ve picked up on the fact that I enjoy coaching (soccer or running), and that I dabble in painting and photography. They might even suspect that, as a Word Nerd, I silently correct grammar. However, for this month’s Who I Am prompt, Dana asked me to share a few things that people don’t know about the Word Nerd who loves fitness.

Three Things You Might Not Know About Me

Photo credit: gacabo via Flickr CC-BY-SA
Photo credit: gacabo via Flickr CC-BY-SA

I lived in Germany for a year and a half and during that time visited Neuschwanstein castle. Sadly, I was an infant, screamed during the tour, and don’t remember anything about Germany or the castle. My dad was in the U.S. Army and stationed in Stuttgart, Germany when I was born; we returned to the states before I was old enough to form memories. After Germany, we lived in New Jersey, Arizona, Wisconsin, Norfolk, VA, and finally settled in Alexandria VA.  So, this Word Nerd with an army background knows words like commissary (the post grocery store) and exchange (the post “K-mart”).

Hopefully, one day I’ll get back to Neuschwanstein, preferably during a castle tour of Europe. I won’t scream inside the palace.  😉

I love Coke, particularly from a soda fountain. Most people think I’m super healthy, and I try to eat lots of plant-based foods and limit sugar, fat, and salt. But I love my Coke. There’s something about the combination of fizz, burn, and sweet that picks me up at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. And nothing pairs better with pizza or popcorn than Coke. (Note: I hate beer.)

I’ve tried to give it up, but I can’t kick it, even though I know it’s terrible for my body.  For example, one can of Coke has 10 teaspoons of sugar. In most cases, you’d puke if you consumed that much sugar at once, but the phosphoric acid cuts the sweetness and inhibits the action of sugar for a bit. It also rots your teeth. One article I read said that Coke has the same effect on the brain as heroin; I’m not surprised. On those days when I’m tired or cranky, that first fizzy sip feels like a fix.

Clearly, Coke can’t be an everyday drink. Or every other day. But how about every other week? I’m currently in a soda detox challenge with my sister-in-law. So far, I’ve only had two Cokes in the month of June. That’s good, right?

Photo credit: Bryan Wright via Flickr CC-BY-ND
Photo credit: Bryan Wright via Flickr CC-BY-ND

Nirvana’s in my running playlist. I particularly like “Breed” for hill work. I’ve explored eclectic music styles over the years, including Twisted Sister, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest in middle school, and Candlebox, Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the 90’s. When daughter downloaded a ton of Linkin Park, I was a bit concerned. Why all the screaming? Then I remembered what I listened to at her age.  Sometimes you need an angry song, and not all Linkin Park involves yelling.  (Take ”Leave Out All the Rest”, for example.) When I recently found her jamming “Baby Got Back”, I panicked. That came from my music library: parenting fail! She said, “Mom, I’m doing a leg workout. It’s perfect.”

If you had to share three quirky things about you, what would they be?  I’ve bared my soul… how about you?

Who I Am


Thanks for stopping by this installment of the Who I Am Project, hosted by Bev and Dana.  If you’d like to join in, visit Dana’s blog for details.










Cruising the Caribbean: Info and Advice


I’ve never considered myself a “cruiser”, and when our family was invited to go on a seven day Disney cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, I had many concerns:

  • Lots of people packed into a confined space = Julia gets tense
  • I can’t swing without getting nauseous – what will sea waves do to me?
  • That’s a long time out at sea, in the middle of no where. What if we go down like the Titanic?
  • Um, how many ships have had norovirus outbreaks?
  • Will a Disney cruise be too “kid-ish” for my teens?
  • What happens to all the trash and waste? Will I be contaminating the seas?

Turns out, we had a fabulous time, and most of my fears were unfounded.  Here are the highlights from my trip aboard the Disney Fantasy.

Removing the Freak Out Factor: Cruise Fears Debunked

Top deck = pool deck. Note the awesome water slide.

Claustrophobia: Our ship carried 4000 passengers and 2500 crew. Yes, that’s the size of a small town, but the Fantasy is HUGE!! The only time I felt claustrophobic was when were all crammed on the lower decks hoping to be the first onto Castaway Cay. Our state-room was a tad narrow, but it had a balcony to the outside, which gave an illusion of more space. In some spots, ceilings are low and hallways are long, but in general, I felt comfortable.

Sea sickness: We packed Dramamine and prescription motion sickness patches, but nobody used them. I could feel the ship move sometimes – the captain often mentioned “rocking us to sleep” overnight – but it’s not like a roller coaster, or even being on a fishing boat. I got used to it; in fact, it took three days post-cruise to lose the feeling that I was walking around on a ship!

Stranded out at sea: There is SO MUCH TO DO, I never felt “stuck on-board”. Movies and shows, cooking classes and margarita tastings, mini golf and ping-pong. (Yes – ping-pong at the top of the ship- the wind could be vicious!) And don’t forget the beauty of doing nothing but sitting on the “adult deck”, sipping a Mai Tai and reading. All while you hear a toddler screaming on the deck below and think, “Thank goodness we’re done with THAT stage.”

Putt putt on ship requires steady hands… and legs!

Illness: Disney runs an immaculate ship. Crew members were constantly, but not obtrusively, cleaning and polishing the Fantasy. At all dining rooms and food and beverage stations, crew members handed out sanitary wipes to promote good hygiene. My brother-in-law boarded with a slight cold, and we joked that if the crew found out, they’d stick him in quarantine. However, there were no issues with illness.

Too kid-ish: Disney accommodates all ages. There were several areas designated for adults, and the teens had their own hangout spot with activities and hot tubs! Disney owns Marvel, so my teens found plenty of movies to watch. One night, they went up to the top deck at 10:30 to see Captain America: Civil War on the giant “funnel vision” screen. Unlimited soft serve and pizza nearby sweetened the deal.

See the giant screen on the funnel?  Funnel Vision!
See the giant screen on the funnel? Funnel Vision!

Waste disposal: Unfortunately, this is a growing problem as the cruise industry expands. According to Friends of the Earth and, cruise ships dumped over one billion gallons of sewage into the oceans in 2014. Ship sewage includes bacteria, heavy metals, viruses, and pharmaceuticals, all of which harm plants, animals, and humans. Unfortunately, although better technology exists, many cruise lines still treat sewage with ineffective, 35-year-old methods. Luckily for my conscience, Disney Cruise Lines is very environmentally friendly, earning A’s for sewage treatment and water quality compliance and a B- for air pollution reduction. (Cruise Ship Report Card)

Other environmental concerns: There was a lot of waste. Passengers were encouraged to use a new cup every time they visited the beverage station, and that means TONS of paper cups thrown out each day. And I didn’t understand why we couldn’t use squirts of hand sanitizer in the dining areas instead of all those wipes. And I saw so much food tossed out.

Safety: My older kids ran free, and I never worried. Everyone gets a “Key to the World” card, which provides passenger identification, as well as a way to charge to the state-room account. Kids can not get off of the ship unless they were with the adults in their party or other designated guardians. If you opt to leave your children in the kids club for activities, they get an electronic bracelet to monitor check in and out.

And, obviously, we didn’t go down like Titanic, nor was Leo on the boat. Bummer.

What To Pack

If you’re considering a cruise, there are definitely some key items to bring:

  • Magnetic hooks – everything in the state-room is metal, so bringing at least six extra hooks will give you more space to hang wet swim suits and clothes.  I found mine at Lowe’s.
  • Lanyards with plastic cases – to hold the “Key to the World”card, even if you don’t have pockets.  Great especially for kids.
  • A refillable water bottle– to decrease paper cup waste and make sure you’re hydrated.
  • Workout clothes – because you’re going to need to work off all the delicious, readily available food you’re eating (I also recommend, if possible, avoiding the elevators and taking the stairs to burn more calories!)
Handy for keeping track of ID.

Ports of Call and Excursions

Our stops included Tortola, British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Castaway Cay, the Bahamas.

On Tortola, we explored on our own. At the port welcome site (newly and colorfully built in 2016), we found a taxi van big enough to haul all 17 members of our party across the island to Brewer’s Bay. During the ride on narrow, twisting, grab your husband’s leg in fright roads, our driver told us all about the history and economy of the island. The most interesting note: when sugar plantation owners decided to free their slaves, they gave the slaves land to start their own farming. (Taxi ride = $16 per person, round trip.)

Tortola, BVI
Tortola, BVI

Brewer’s Bay was a slice of paradise and the favorite stop for most of us. I liked that we got a feel of Tortola, even though we were only there for a day. Colorful buildings dot the mountain landscape, and roosters run loose on every block.

Our slice of paradise
Our slice of paradise

For our stop at St. Thomas, we booked a snorkel trip that included boating out to Buck Island, snorkeling with sea turtles, and a stop at a local beach. I loved the snorkeling but got no sense of St. Thomas. The island looked beautiful, and I’m sad we didn’t explore it.  This was our only paid excursion, as they are expensive, $50-$200 per person!

The view from the port at St. Thomas.
The view from the port at St. Thomas.

Castaway Cay had nice beaches with plenty of chairs and umbrellas, and all food was provided. We enjoyed snorkeling and a water play structure. Later, we learned that Castaway Cay used to be a stop for drug runners, until Disney bought it in 1995. So, that’s what the runway in the middle of the island was for!

Lots to do at Castaway Cay
Lots to do at Castaway Cay

Closing Points

Disney is fabulous with people management, and all staff was friendly and helpful. Disembarkation went faster than I expected.  We did get passports for everyone to facilitate boarding and disembarking.

Unfortunately, the DCL website is clunky and confusing to navigate, and I had to enter payment information more than once. My in-laws stayed up until midnight to reserve a boarding time for our group though the site, and in the end, we were assigned a time when we checked in at the terminal on the day of boarding.

Disney pushes its brand; there was a special boutique on-board for young girls to get “Princess Makeovers” for a significant fee. I grew weary of the constant emphasis on consumption, and I wasn’t alone. Day two my brother in law exclaimed, “Everything here is in excess!”

The gorgeous main staircase
The gorgeous main staircase

Since all of the food is taken care of, our family could truly relax. We were a huge party of extended family, and we all found different things to do during the day and regrouped at night for dinner. It was the optimal situation for a family vacation.

In the end, we had a great time, but I decided cruising is not my preferred vacation mode. I’d rather go to a few islands in the Caribbean and explore them… which, hopefully, we’ll do someday, now that I’ve had a sample.

Have you ever been on a cruise? What advice can you share? Do you have any other questions for me?

Thanks and Bon Voyage!