Required Reading

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Guest Post by Dr.Tinita Kearney Author of Lola Koala Travel Adventures

Dr. Kearney's New Book 
A Guest Post by 

Author Dr. Tinita Kearney 

Creative Ways to Build Your Toddler’s Language Skills While Quarantined
By Dr. Tinita Kearney

Like many families impacted by the Covid-19 quarantines, I have found myself bound to my home alongside a high-energy toddler, struggling to find ways to keep her two-year-old brain entertained (while also maintaining my own sanity). As many of us are finding out first-hand, homeschool life is not an easy one and finding ways to occupy our children’s time with fun, meaningful activities can be a difficult task. The learning has to go on, however, and one way to ensure that your child remains ready for the expectations of school is to work on his/her language and communication skills. This happens to be right up my alley since I am a speech-language pathologist, and I am happy to share some of the ways that I’ve put my skills to work each day with my own little one!

1. Tag Team Dressing

You’re probably already familiar with the growing independence of your toddler! Encourage this important development and also build expressive language skills by getting your toddler involved in the dressing process each morning.
Activity: Play “I Choose, You Choose,” where your child gets to select one clothing item that they would like to wear for the day, and you select another until a complete outfit is created. Spoiler alert: this game leaves NO room for meltdowns because your little one makes all the decisions — even on your turn! When it’s your turn to choose, make a show of not being sure which is the better choice (get as dramatic as you like!) and ask your toddler to help you pick something.
Language Booster: Use sentence-starters to encourage your child to use more complete sentences during this activity (e.g., Caregiver: “I choose…” or “I want to wear…” or “My choice is…”). Also, try giving your child 1 ‘silly’ option (e.g., a thick sweater as a choice in the middle of summer) and encourage your child to tell you why it’s a silly choice (e.g., Parent: “Is this sweater a good choice? No, it’s silly! It’s too hot outside! Tell daddy why this is silly.”). This exercise helps your little one to grow his/her critical thinking skills while also working on his/her ability to form more complex sentences.
Tips & Tricks: Present your child with only 2–3 clothing item choices at a time to avoid spending 2 hours on this activity!

2. Match It Up!
Categorizing is a great way to grow vocabulary and to teach basic concepts (words that we use to indicate location [in/out], descriptions [little/big], feelings [happy/sad], time [always/never] or number [more/less]). It is easiest to teach categorization skills using physical items that your child is familiar with, such as toys, clothing items, familiar foods, common household items or school items. The goal of this activity is to work on building your child’s ability to categorize items by their attributes (e.g., an item’s color, shape, size, use/function).
Activity: Start by picking an attribute that you want to focus on (I like to start with colors, so let’s use this as an example). Gather 2–3 items around the house that are the same color (red, for example) then hunt for 2–3 additional items that are a different color (e.g., blue) and finally, 2–3 more items that are another color (e.g., green). Place all the items together on the floor, pick one up and ask your child to find another item in the pile that is the same color. Each time your child finds a ‘match,’ he/she gets a point; collect five points and win!
Language Booster: Label and describe each item as your child selects it to teach new vocabulary
(e.g., “Yes, this magnet is red!”) and basic concepts (e.g., “This magnet is big and shiny”). Tips & Tricks: Before starting this activity, allow your child to select a toy, game or snack that they would like to receive as a reward for ‘winning.’ Use this as a motivator during gameplay to keep them working hard!

3. ‘WH’ Question Basketball

Increase your little one’s vocabulary skills, verbal reasoning skills, ability to understand spoken language and grow expressive language skills with this fun game that combines answering who, what, where, and what doing questions with basketball!
Activity: Grab a basket or bucket that you can use to toss a ball into (think laundry basket, extra storage bin, empty wastebasket), a ball (if your home is ball-free, grab some sheets of paper and ball ’em up!) and an age-appropriate picture book. The object of this game is to earn chances to toss a ball into the basket by correctly answering ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘what doing’ questions about the story. Have your child sit with you to read a page or two of the story, then ask one question (e.g., “What is this girl doing?”). Each correct answer earns your child two shots at the ‘hoop’!
Language Booster: Give two answer choices if your little one finds it difficult to answer questions on his/her own (e.g., Caregiver: “What is this girl doing?” Eating or running?”). Be sure to encourage your child to form a complete sentence to answer questions before earning a turn to toss the ball (e.g., Child: “She is running” NOT “Running”).
Tips & Tricks: Pick a picture book that has colorful, vivid illustrations of characters engaging in different activities throughout the story to 1) keep your little one engaged, 2) allow you to ask a
variety of WH questions about what is going on in the story and 3) provide visual clues to your child as they try to answer your questions.

4. Chore-Helper

Unfortunately, chores don’t take a break during quarantines. Little hands can be a big help though, so take advantage of the opportunity to get a bit of assistance completing daily chores while also teaching your toddler how to follow directions!
Activity: Pick a chore (e.g., loading safe dinnerware in the dishwasher, putting away folded socks, sorting their own dirty laundry, cleaning up toys). Set a timer for 10-minutes and have your little one see how much they can get done before time runs out. The idea is to give simple, specific instructions for completing the assigned chore — making sure to give only as much work as they can actually complete in the 10-minute time frame. If they can follow your directions to complete the chore in the given time, they get a reward!
Language Booster: Start with one-step directions (e.g., Caregiver: “Put the socks in the drawer”) then build on this by gradually introducing two-step and three-step directions (e.g., Caregiver:
“Open your sock drawer and put your socks in”).
Tips & Tricks: Set your timer for 5-minutes and work your way up to 10-minutes if you think your little one will have a hard time focusing on one task for 10-minutes, even with your guided instruction. Also, if you’re looking to maximize your ‘me-time,’ give your child reward options that don’t require your direct supervision (e.g, coloring, playing with a favorite toy that doesn’t require your assistance, a short episode of a favorite TV program, etc.).

Happy learning!

Dr. Tinita O. Kearney is a speech-language pathologist who hails from New York. She owns a speech therapy private practice and lives to empower families to be their child’s very best advocate and resource. Check out her newest children’s book series at and subscribe to get weekly communication tips and tricks.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Under Pressure by Robert Pobi

Whew, in the midst of reading three other books, simultaneously as this, I had to close the cover on the Kindle, the tablet and the phone and finish this book.   Pobi grabbed my attention like a YumYum Donut’s dutch crumb dropped onto my plate.  Captivated my attention in one fell swoop.   Lucas Page is apparently a recurrent protagonist that may have a death wish for the frequency in which he wraps himself around flames and mayhem.  Physically challenged due to injuries from a previous book, Lucas finds himself involuntarily involved in a serial bomber hunt.

Page has an attitude which may have come from his previous injuries or perhaps only from his massive intelligence driven ego.  Page does not willingly suffer fools and seems to go out of his way to antagonize even people who want to help him.

Pobi created a marvelously complex plot.  Just when I felt vindicated that I had figured out the true villain early in the book, I found out I was wrong.   I love that, I hate books and TV show mysteries that are transparently portrayed.   Working toward the solution is half the fun and Pobi makes you exercise your intellect.   In addition, he does not substitute the appropriate word for the more commonly used one.  In other words, he doesn’t dumb his writing down for the lowest common denominator, he writes like he assumes you have a modicum of intelligence.

I was impressed with the book and truly enjoyed it.

I highly recommend it. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Hunter Killer: A Pike Logan Novel by Brad Taylor

This is part of a series.   Coming into the middle, a back story would have helped.  Pike Logan is the leader of a black ops team that is tasked with handling situations the establishment feels are too sensitive for normal sanctions.

This was a good action adventure.   Pike is obviously a poster child for anger management.   He struggles to keep the darkness at bay.   He believes his team is his family and will do anything to protect them.

This book was about a Russian crew that is similar to Pike’s team without any moral restraints.

The book was entertaining. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Rigged by D. P. Lyle

Jake Longly, a retired baseball star, Nicole his ravishing and humorous girlfriend, Pancake his enormous best pal and Ray his condescending father are the main characters in this series.   This time the private eye agency is drawn into a double and then quadruple murder just up the road in Alabama.  

Lyle does a good job with Tammy, Jake’s demented ex-wife.  Her character adds some light humor.   Jake’s self-depicted inadequacies are a bit tiresome.  You’d think that someone who pitched in the bigs would be more confident.   He and Nicole’s relationship reminds me of Parker’s characters of Spencer and Hawk except the sex part.  

The story was entertaining, light fare and good to get the mind off of the horrific aspects of the current year.

I enjoyed it and recommend the series.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Names of the Dead by Kevin Wignall

This was a violent rendition of soul searching.   Wes, a former CIA agent, is incarcerated for a crime that although he committed was not planned.   Mia, the daughter of a war-lord becomes his special needs side-kick.

Wes is the classic trying to clear his name protagonist with a very sharp and violent edge.   Mia is an almost gender neutral, socially awkward person who Wes learns to trust.   The plot of going country to country seeking retribution for a murder and the search for a lost child provide the rest of the plot.

The story was compelling, the author provides a reasonable rationale for Wes’s behavior.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it.

 This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Spotlight on The Journalist: Life and Loss in America's Secret War By Jerry A. Rose and Lucy Rose Fischer

In the early 1960s, Jerry Rose, a writer and artist, travels to Vietnam to teach English and gather material for his writing. Almost accidentally, he becomes one of America’s most important war correspondents.  He interviews Vietnamese villagers in a countryside riddled by a war of terror and embeds himself with soldiers on the ground—the start of a dramatic and dangerous career. Through his stories and photographs, he exposes the secret beginnings of America’s Vietnam War at a time when most Americans have not yet heard of Vietnam. His writing is described as “war reporting that ranks with the best of Ernest Hemingway and Ernie Pyle.”

In spring 1965, Jerry agrees to serve as an advisor to the Vietnamese government at the invitation of his friend and former doctor, who is the new Prime Minister. He hopes to use his deep knowledge of the country to help Vietnam. In September 1965, while on a trip to investigate corruption in the provinces of Vietnam, Jerry dies in a plane crash in Vietnam.

Now, more than half a century later, his sister, Lucy Rose Fischer, has drawn on her late brother’s journals, letters, and other writings to craft his story. She has written this memoir in “collaboration” with her late brother—giving the term “ghostwritten” a whole new meaning.

Buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 
#thejournalist #vietnam

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton

Dog people will find this book irresistible.  I like dogs, I’ve had three over the years but I am not really a dog person. Dog people live and breathe for their “children”.   Mason Reid is a dog trainer; his specialty is cadaver dogs.   He loves dogs and is a bit of a social isolationist after is marriage failure.   Vira, his golden retriever and Kippy Grimm a dog loving cop, combine with Mace to track down a serial killer.

The author either is a dog lover or did really good research because Mace and Kippy are clearly portrayed.   The plot was solid and the human and canine interaction was well done.

I recommend the book and I enjoyed it!

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.