Connecting with Grandchildren and Books via Skype


by Elizabeth Stilwell
Early Childhood Specialist

If you are like many grandparents today, you may be experiencing the “love lag” of having young grandchildren who live far away and out of arm’s reach. More and more long distance grandparents are closing that gap using Skype, a service that allows you to communicate by voice and video over your computer. Seeing your grandchild on screen, watching all the new developments and making sure that they are familiar with your voice and your face, can make a big difference in feeling connected. Skype is also a great way to create read-aloud rituals with toddlers and young children.


If you are new to Skype – don’t worry! Chances are that you have everything you need to Skype. The setup involves a computer and a webcam. Most newer computers come with built-in webcams. Your computer will need a high-speed connection and you’ll need to use a speaker or earphones. That’s it! Then go to and set up your account. It is a free service and your adult children can help you with the simple set up and operations.


Reading aloud to children is a time-honored tradition used by grandparents to create special connections and memories with grandchildren. Although it’s not the same as having a little one snuggled on your lap, starting read-aloud rituals through Skype is another way to create and maintain meaningful relationships. Here are a few tips to make this experience more engaging for your grandchild and more rewarding to you.


  1. Choose books that are simple and age appropriate.   Often we remember childhood books that we read to young children when they were five or six. If you are reading to a toddler, classic picture books like ‘Make Way for Ducklings,’ or ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ have too much text and plot to keep a very young child engaged. It’s best to start with a simple board book, possibly with rhyming words or repeated phrases. Visit your library and get some help from the children’s librarian to find a rich selection of stories that are appropriate for you grandchild. The best part of this is that you can then invite your grandchild (and his/her parents) to check out the same story at his or her own local library!


  1. Make a “Skype date” for your read-aloud. Call or text your adult children to find a time that works for you to read to your grandchild. This should be separate from a regular video chat. The read-aloud Skype date will be a special time for you to share a story. Eventually try to set up a regular reading time that you can all plan on and look forward to.


  1. Practice the logistics of Skype reading with your spouse or another adult. It might feel awkward at first and if you practice you can be sure that you are holding the book so the child can see the illustrations and that you’re comfortable. Try pausing after reading each page and then do a “close up” so your grandchild can point to things in the illustration, just as they would in a traditional book. Read through the story in advance so you can anticipate characters, plot, and create special voices.


  1. Add a finger play, rhyme or song. Often at library story times for young children, the experience starts with a brief song or finger-play. This “warms up” the audience and helps the children settle in for the story. You could start each Skype story-time with the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Patty-Cake, or any other simple song or finger play. Here is a website with songs and finger plays in case you need some inspiration!


  1. Read chapter books to older children. At Family Reading Partnership we believe that reading aloud to children should continue well beyond the time they can read independently. Sharing reading time with older children through Skype is a gift of time that you as a grandparent can give. It might be while parents are busy making dinner or as a break from homework. Invite your grandchild to check some books out of the library, choose a book to share and text you the title so you can check out the same book. Or, as a special treat, send a copy of a book to the child, maybe one that you remember reading aloud to your own children. Invite your grandchild to read ahead if it’s too hard to wait for your next Skype reading time but to let you know so you can do the same. Then have a conversation about the book in your own private Skype “book group”. In real time, these focused interactions can sometimes be hard to schedule in the busy world of young families. Skype can actually be a more intentional one to one interaction with an older grandchild.


There is a quote I love by Lois Wyse that says, “Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation”. Sharing books through Skype is one more way for long distance grandparents to help connect the dots!

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Modern libraries have much to offer


by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

When you think of a library, what image comes to mind? A large, dusty room patrolled by a stern-looking librarian ready to glare at and shush you if you dare to make a peep? Or do you think of friendly, light-filled rooms full of activity and smiling faces, a happy librarian on the floor singing and doing finger plays; while in the next room, children are building with Legos and families are designing forts to act as their very own reading oasis for the evening? If the latter description doesn’t sound much like a library to you, it’s time to take a trip to your local library!

Modern libraries are gathering places for the community. At the library, one can view an art exhibit, listen to lectures, watch movies, and participate in book groups. Patrons can enjoy any variety of story times, read with cats and dogs, treat their favorite plush friend to a sleepover, participate in STEM events, play games and, of course, read! And all of those activities and books you can read? They’re free. And open to everyone. These books and activities are the library’s gift to the community.

Libraries have so much to offer, much more than I have mentioned here. The next time you’re looking for something to do, head to your local library! Check out the variety of activities your library has to offer. From infants to seniors and every age in between- the library has something for everyone!

Check out these events happening at local libraries:

Tompkins County Public Library

Laura Doherty Performance: Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Laura Doherty will make a rare tour stop in Ithaca. She has won multiple awards, including the American Library Association’s prestigious Notable Children’s Recording Award.

LEGO at the Library: Saturdays from 2 to 3 p.m. Children are invited to attend this weekly LEGO building program. ‘LEGO at the Library’ encourages children to use their imaginations or LEGO books from the TCPL collection to create their own LEGO art! The library provides LEGO bricks, and all creation will be displayed at the library for one week!

Yoga Storytime with Diane Hamilton: Wednesday August 24 and 31 from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Children ages 3-10 are invited to join yoga instructor Diane Hamilton for ‘Yoga Storytime’ to bring favorite stories to life with yoga pose. No yoga experience or mat required, but comfortable clothing is recommended.

Ulysses Philomathic Library

Farmers’ Market Storytime: Wednesdays until October 26, from 5 to 6 p.m. at Trumansburg Farmer’s Market.

Summer Storytime and Art Project: Thursdays until September 29, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Southworth Library

Guided Storywalk: August 20 and 27 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Montgomery Park Storywalk.

Pajama Storytime and Author Visit: Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Children will hear “How to Put Your Parents to Bed’ by Mylisa Larsen.

Lansing Community Library

Preschool Storytime: Every Tuesday at 1 p.m. This event includes stories, crafts and fun for preschool children.

Toddler Storytime: Every Thursday from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Geared especially toward toddlers with new themes each week!

Newfield Public Library

Family Storytime: Every Tuesday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Themes for the next two events are games and the circus!

Groton Public Library

Fun Day: Every Tuesday until August 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Join other kids for a half-day of fun and activity that includes read-aloud, crafts, lunch and free play!

Tween Nerf Wars @ the Village Park: Aug. 26 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Bring your nerf guns and ammo, if you have them. Some are available to borrow. Hot dogs and s’mores provided!

For complete lists of activities, please visit each library’s website.

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Read-aloud for Big Kids!


by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

Everyone loves a good story. Infant, child or adult, we all enjoy tales that entertain us, teach us about the world, and connect us with others. This is why so many children- including big kids- crave read-aloud and “just one more book!”

Although read aloud is widely considered one of the most important things parents can do to influence the future success of their children in both life and school, it’s startling to learn that only one in three children ages 6-8 (34%) are read aloud to at home 5-7 days a week. By age 9, that number is halved to just one in six children (17%) and drops even more dramatically after age 11. (Scholastic’s ‘Kids and Family Reading Report’)

This loss of read-aloud robs children of the numerous benefits and pleasures that come with time spent reading with a family member. There is no reason to stop reading aloud to children, no matter what their age. In fact, there is much to support continuing read-aloud long after your child has learned to read on his or her own.

Read-aloud builds relationships.
When reading with your child you explore many topics together. As you both share your thoughts and opinions about these topics, you have an opportunity to model respectful listening and your child has the opportunity to practice this skill. When you have differing points of view, as may often be the case, discussions about why you each feel the way you do allow you to develop a deeper understanding of each other, strengthening your bond and associating the sense of closeness with read-aloud.

As children enter their teen years, parents may find read-aloud particularly helpful in lieu of lecturing when the need to discuss tough topics arises. Telling your child you don’t want them participating in certain risky activities or befriending a particular person may not be well received and instead seen by your child as you not trusting them. But by reading a book together about a kid that finds himself tangled up with the wrong crowd, your child will be able to experience the situation and possible consequences that you are guiding him or her away from. When reading together, you have the opportunity to talk about these situations and discuss what a character could have done differently or about what your child would have done in that situation, leading your child to a clearer understanding of why you cautioned against those activities or friends. Being able to have honest, open dialogue with one another is an important aspect of a strong relationship.

Read-aloud supports learning and school success.
A child’s listening level, the level at which he or she comprehends what he or she is hearing, is far more advanced than what he or she can comprehend while reading. Most children reading at a fourth grade level will be able to understand read-aloud from a sixth or seventh grade level book. Hearing read-aloud of a higher-level will increase the number of complex vocabulary words the child hears. Research shows that children with larger vocabularies perform better in school than those less familiar with words. Since most instruction in school is relayed orally, a child with a larger vocabulary will have an advantage because he or she will be able to comprehend more of what the teacher is saying.

Read-aloud models fluency, which is especially beneficial for struggling readers. Read-aloud demonstrates how we read language; noting exclamations and questions with voice inflections, pausing at appropriate times in a story, at commas and periods, and showing that even a seasoned reader sometimes stumbles over an unfamiliar or difficult to pronounce word and how one can work though it.

Read-aloud creates community.
In addition to teaching children the art of truly listening and the skills to share their point of view while respecting the opinions of those that think differently, read-aloud develops awareness of others outside our frequented circles. By offering a view of the world that may not otherwise be experienced, children are able to gain empathy for and understanding of the lives others lead. With broadened horizons, a child is better able to determine what they value, and accept others regardless of their differences, making our communities a better place for us all.

 Read-aloud encourages a lifetime of reading.
Simply put, reading begets reading. A child that is read to will be a child that develops a love of reading. With warm memories of snuggling up with a parent and a book, or of a teacher taking time out of the day to devote to reading aloud from a chapter book, a child will develop a love of reading that will bring a lifetime of great joy, as the books they explore offer incredible experiences from worlds near and far.

Melissa Perry is the program coordinator of the Family Reading Partnership. Please send comments or your familys favorite childrens book titles to or call (607) 277-8602. Family Reading Partnership is a community coalition that has joined forces to promote family reading across the community by placing books into the hands, homes, and hearts of children and families.

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Read All Summer Long!

girl reading

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

Have you heard of the ‘summer slide’? Not the slide at the park, the slide that affects learning and the retention of knowledge. Did you know that children regress in their academic skills during the summer months? Fortunately, this can be avoided with one simple act- reading! Reading throughout the summer can prevent the loss of skills and knowledge and is a great activity to do with your child. Check out the tips below for planning a successful summer of reading.

Model Reading
Let your child see you finding pleasure in reading each day!

Read Together
Read aloud to your child, or have an older sibling or family friend read with him or her. Let your child read to a younger child, the family pet, or a favorite stuffed animal!

Let Them Decide
Let your child choose what he or she reads. Remember- newspapers, magazines, and comic books count!

Make Time
Set aside time each day to read. Make it an enjoyable time that everyone looks forward to! You can create a reading area with comfy blankets and a spot for books- inside or outside!

Take Reading on the Road
Whether you’re headed to the park down the street, a friend’s house the next town over or to visit family across the country, don’t leave home without something to read! Reading in the perfect way to occupy the lulls of travel time.

Host a Book SwapInvite your friends to gather up some books they are ready to pass on, and then get together to trade. You’ll have something new to read and the books will find new homes.

For more activity ideas, please visit


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Exploring Nature with Books


by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

With longer, warmer days and the foliage in full bloom, summer presents a great opportunity to explore the outside world. Imagine walks through the forest, lingering in a garden, swimming and playing in the stream, and laying out at night to discover the constellations. While enjoying these marvelous adventures, don’t forget to bring along some books!

Books enhance outdoor experiences by getting children excited about the possibilities of what can be found right in their own backyard or most any green space. Books inspire children to seek out the magic of the intricately spun web of the spider, the fragrant, spiky needles of the pine, and the pillowy, low-hanging cumulus clouds. Books, particularly field guides and nature focused non-fiction, offer a deeper look at living things and natural occurrences by providing facts, real photographs and/or life-like illustrations, information about life cycles, habitats and diets, and also answers to the many questions children are sure to have when they come across one of nature’s wonders. Field guides are designed to be portable, making them easy to bring along on any outdoor adventure. Plus, there are guides on just about any topic of interest, from amphibians to fossils to mushrooms.

Not only do books and field guides allow a child to explore the world local to them more deeply, they also open up entire new worlds of faraway places like jungles, deserts, outer space and oceans. All of these places (and many more!) can be explored through books. Apart from actually visiting these places, books are the next best way to be immersed in these unfamiliar worlds. As a bonus, you can travel to these places as often as you’d like!

An outdoor adventure can be many things: a visit to a waterfall, a nature walk through downtown, an afternoon at the park, or an afternoon examining the different types of stones in the driveway. Books are the best accessories for these moments, piquing children’s interests and offering more information about their world, introducing unique words and encouraging the practice of never ending exploration. Reading can happen any time, any place — even (and especially) when discovering the outdoors!

Take some books on your next adventure! You can find many field guides and nature focused non-fiction books at the library and your local bookseller. Here are some to get you started:

“The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown Ups: by Gina Ingoglia
“Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World” by Julia Rothman
“The Night Books: Exploring Nature After Dark with Activities, Experiments, and Information” by Pamela Hickman
“Nature’s Day: Discover the World of Wonder on Your Doorstep” by Kay Maguire
“Backyard Birds (Field Guides for Young Naturalists)” by Karen Stray Nolting and Jonathan Latimer
“Insects (National Audubon Society’s First Field Guides)” by Christina Wildson
“Wildflowers (National Audubon Society’s First Field Guides)” by Susan Hood
“Clouds (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Anne Rockwell

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Communicating Through Books


parents reading together

by Melissa Perry

When my children are facing new or challenging situations, my first instinct is to turn to books. By reading books about characters that work through, overcome, and grow from difficult or unfamiliar experiences, children learn strategies that they can then apply to their own lives. Books offer the luxury of a type of practice run for handling situations and, as I have come to find, there really is a book to complement every occasion.

I’ve relied on books when my children were preparing for the first day of school and feeling unsure of what the new year would bring, and when they’ve had issues with friends that they found difficult to process and explain. I especially depended on books when we lost a pet that was a significant and treasured member of our family. I have found that when my children are unable to relate to my experiences, or if they need to work through something on their own, often times they can find answers and comfort in a book.

Books are also counted on in fun and celebratory times to help provide a connection and insight into life events. From losing a tooth, to having that first sleepover, to staying home alone, and planning a family vacation, each event was more deeply experienced through the power of a connection with books. And the lessons and wisdom these books exude claim a permanent niche within a person’s being; always there to be revisited as life deems necessary. For example, when my son was five he desperately wanted to be able to whistle. Try as he might, he just couldn’t get the hang of it. “Whistle for Willie” by Ezra Jack Keats became a daily read and when he finally did learn to whistle, he attributed his success, in part, to the companionship he felt with Peter. To this day, it is still one of his most loved childhood stories and a reminder to keep trying, even when a task may seem too arduous to overcome.

There are countless situations that our children face each day that invoke a variety of emotions. As parents, we may be able to understand some of these happenings but others may leave us needing a little extra guidance. And that’s where books come in. Books, both fiction and non-fiction, are so effective at offering a reference point and scenarios that both adults and children can relate to, allowing them to better understand themselves and each other, leaving them better able to conquer life’s uncertainties together.

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The Gift of Possibility


reading outside

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

As it is for many families, the last day of school is an exciting event in my home. Beyond the thoughts of long summer days filled with swimming, hiking and ice cream, and late nights filled with bonfires, lightning bugs, and a sparkling, starry sky, is the anticipation of what has come to be known as, ‘the summer bags’. The summer bags are simple- usually brown paper sacks decorated with each child’s name and a fun summer scene that the kids excitedly open as soon as they return home on the last day of school. Now, you ask, what’s inside that makes these bags so exciting? Books.

Books purchased for the occasion from local booksellers, books passed down from friends, books from a Bright Red Bookshelf, and books long forgotten on our own bookshelves. Plenty of books. There may also be magazines and homemade gift certificates for summer activities, but always books. These books, thoughtfully chosen and presented as gifts, become treasures waiting to be discovered during chilly mornings and rainy afternoons, or read with a flashlight during too-warm, sleepless nights. These books hold endless possibilities and become the inspiration for outdoor play and art projects. They become a friend when boredom strikes, are the best reason to curl up in a hammock, and are the perfect activity for a long car ride. They can be taken anywhere and enjoyed everywhere.

Not only do the books from the summer bags provide entertainment and companionship, they also help protect the valuable skills and lessons my children gained throughout the school year. Reading during the summer helps all children retain information and expand their knowledge, preventing them from losing valuable skills and having to work extra hard to catch up in the fall when school starts up again. Children who lose skills over the summer find themselves even further behind their peers because while they are regaining skills previously learned, their peers who don’t need to catch up are already moving on to more advanced skills. Summer reading is both a pleasure and a necessary activity.

My children see the books they receive in their summer bags as a gift. And they are. These books are a gift that will introduce unique words not used in everyday conversation and will provide a glimpse into unfamiliar worlds. These books are a gift that will expand on and challenge the knowledge of what is already known. These books are a gift that will be opened again and again and their influence felt long after they have been read. Books are a gift with unlimited potential in how they shape a person’s life. My children perceive their summer bags as gifts of fun summer reading. I see them as gifts that contain endless possibilities.


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