5 Ways to use Halloween to get kids thrilled about reading

Use Halloween to get your kids reading

It’s hard to imagine a kid that doesn’t love Halloween. You get to dress up like a fantastical creature or your favorite character, and when all is said and done, you end up with more candy than you could ever possibly imagine. What’s not to love?

Kids love Halloween. Kids don’t always love reading. So how do you take the love for one and transform it into a love for the other? Halloween provides the perfect opportunity!

1. Bake treats from their favorite stories

Halloween and sweets go together like… well… Halloween and sweets! Instead of making the usual fare this year, why not try to replicate some of the goodies from your child’s favorite stories? If your children are fans of the Harry Potter series, you’re in luck! The internet is full of Harry Potter recipes. There are also plenty of other resources for literary themed treats (like Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, the Turkish delight from the Narnia series, and many more) on the web.

2. Dress up like their favorite book characters

What better way to get them excited about reading than to let them dress as their favorite character? If your kids aren’t at the stage where they’re embarrassed by everything you do yet (and believe us, it will happen!), you may even want to join in and dress as your favorite literary character. Check out some of the adorable storybook characters these kids dressed as, including the cutest little Madeline we’ve ever seen.

3. Read Halloween themed stories

This one may seem obvious, but reading some spooky stories around Halloween is a great way to get kids hooked on books. Just make sure that the stories are age appropriate so that you don’t risk spooking them too much! Here’s a helpful Halloween reading list that breaks it down by age bracket.

4. Make your Halloween décor book-themed

If you already decorate for Halloween, why not throw some book-inspired decorations into the mix? It can be as easy as letting your child paint or carve a pumpkin into their favorite character, or even painting their favorite scene right onto the pumpkin itself. Get creative!

5. Book-themed Halloween party

If you’re the party-throwing type, having a book-themed party is no more difficult than throwing a regular Halloween party. Combine all of the ideas above, and encourage your guests to dress as their favorite storybook character. Decorate appropriately, serve book-themed treats, and then dim the lights and read a spooky story!

P.S. for those of you reading your spooky books in the dark, check out our “Itty Bitty” Book Light

Book Buying and the Fall of Civilization

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The movie You’ve Got Mail is one for the ages. Not only is it a love story with a classic twist ending, but it’s a commentary on the future of book sellers and book sales. In the movie, two competing book retailers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side fight for customers.

The two opponents are Fox & Sons (a massive bookstore chain run by Joe Fox) and The Shop Around the Corner (a charming children’s bookstore run by Kathleen Kelly).

The movie is replete with all the expectations of a true romantic comedy. In the end, viewers forget how evil President Joe Fox and his corporation really are and care only that he and Kathleen Kelly, recognize and reciprocate their feelings of true love.

[And everyone sighs in relief as the screen fades to black.]

Little did movie makers known in 1998 how perfect a prediction the opening scene would be. In it, Kathleen Kelly wakes up and reads the newspaper column on the reality that computers are ushering in the fall of civilization.

(Side note: As irony would have it, Amazon, the world’s current largest Internet retailer was in its infancy at the time the movie was produced.)

Today, online book sellers in particular are viewed as the Fox & Sons of this generation. Likewise, The Shop Around the Corner is now any physical bookstore. The stage is set: two booksellers must fight for sales. Only this time it is highly unlikely the story will end with a loving couple riding off into the sunset.

Today online retailers will do virtually anything for sales. Unbeatable prices, undeniable convenience, and guaranteed satisfaction make buying books on the Internet a piece of cake. What’s not to love? Booksellers on the Internet are always open, and the luxury of uploading a book to an electronic device in the blink of an eye is service at its finest.

Book enthusiasts, however, would argue that buying a book was never supposed to be just an item on a to-do list–it was intended to be an experience. From the quaint sign in the window and the tinkling bell at the door, to the book smell and the chatty manager, book shopping was intended to be an adventure. Who knew what thrilling book (or silky black cat) might be discovered amongst the shelves that would lead to a lifechanging voyage?

Truth: Some of the best books have been discovered–not by setting out to buy them–but by bumping in to them in the search for something else entirely.

No matter. In the end, readers may forget how evil Joe Fox really is and care only that he and the owner of The Shop Around the Corner find a way to work together.

Creating readers, after all, is the real goal, right?

Your turn. Would you rather buy your books from a corporate bookseller (like Amazon, Barnes & Noble online) or the small bookshop around the corner?

Get the Kids Excited for Back to School!

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Summer vacation always flies by when you’re a kid. As the first day of the school year approaches, it’s time to motivate the troops and get everyone excited about starting a new grade.

Try these helpful ideas to get your kids energized about learning, and excited about school.

Check Out the Local Library

Plan a trip to the local library and let your kids check out two books. One can be for fun, and the other has to match their ability to read. Establish a reading schedule that’s age appropriate, and set daily goals. Customize goals for each child based on their age and level of reading.

Some ideas could include:

  • Finding and defining new words
  • Completing a chapter
  • Reading a certain number of pages
  • Recognizing sight words
  • Finishing an entire book
  • Writing a summary of each chapter
  • Writing a short book review

Reward each goal with a gold star or sticker so children can visualize their progress, then offer an incentive for completing the entire reading project.

Ideas for incentives could include:

  • A cool Yo Lamp from www.zelco.com for late night reading
  • End of the summer last hoorah at a water park, swimming pool, arcade, bowling alley, or plan a party at your house.
  • A new outfit
  • A new backpack
  • A shopping spree with a set limit
  • A free pass during the school year to skip a night of chores
  • A new toy
  • A special night out to dinner

Encouraging a child to read by establishing goals and offering rewards is teaching children that hard work and responsibility pay off. This is a great lesson for kids to learn young and carry into adulthood.

Plan a Week of Special Lunches

Let the kids do the grocery shopping and prepare special lunches for the first week of school. Set a budget and a guideline for purchases. Tell each child to include healthy choices and a treat. Enforce your nutritional standards with them but allow them the opportunity to plan the lunches, find the nutritional value, and manage the budget.

This activity is full of learning, fun, and confidence building. They’ll surely feel a sense of pride in accomplishing the responsibility.

Quick Ideas for Motivating Children to Get in the Back to School Groove:

  • Take a bicycle ride to school
  • Tell stories about last year
  • Encourage children to share their expectations of the coming year
  • Invite their friends over
  • Start adjusting bedtime and morning wake-ups, if they’ve been unbalanced over the summer

 

The Young Book Worm: An Endangered Species?

Summer Reading for Kids

Do you remember your childhood summer breaks? We remember them fondly – long hours of reading to escape the summer heat, keeping our imaginations watered with the flow of words across the page. Summer marks the beginning of children’s reading programs in libraries across the United States. Parents and teachers alike begin to encourage children to read so that the valuable literacy knowledge gained during the school year doesn’t slip away during idle summer months. However, research indicates that an increasing number of young people are choosing apps over books. The number of young readers in 2012 and 2013 dropped by 8%, while the percentage of children using game apps increased dramatically. At first glance, it appears that technology is hijacking the cherished world of literature. If you’re like us, you’ll find this thought alarming.

At Zelco, we believe in the magic of a good book – especially in the hands of a child. If you are struggling to come up with creative ways to encourage your kids to read, never fear! We’ve put together a handy list of tips and resources, and some of them may surprise you.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

Before you begin confiscating tablets and smartphones, you may want to rethink the way you view technology. We’ve found that technology doesn’t always have to be the “bad guy;” instead, it can be used as a springboard to push hesitant children into the vast pool of literature. For instance, incorporating fun technology, such as our colorful traveling book lights, may increase a child’s desire to read.

LeVar Burton, host of the beloved “Reading Rainbow” television show, has brought the concept of technology-promoted literacy into the limelight in recent months with his greatly successful Kickstarter campaign for an online edition of Reading Rainbow. In multiple interviews, Burton has defended the use of technology as a means to spark children’s interest in reading, stating that if we are to reach kids in today’s society, we must be heavily involved in the digital world – the world children migrate toward.

When used effectively, technology may be the best way to bring the concept of reading to the very places where children of today most often “hang out:” iPads, Android devices, and smartphones. The following resources will give you some ideas when it comes to encouraging reading via technology:

Old-fashioned Tips and Tricks

While we think that technology may be a very useful tool for developing a love of reading in your child, we also think that some of the good old-fashioned tricks still work too. With a little patience and a great deal of encouragement, you can very effectively teach your child to value and even love reading. Give one of these ideas a try the next time you see an opportunity:

As you can see, there’s no need to give up on the present generation. We don’t think that reading will ever fizzle away. In our opinion, no technology can ever replace the warm and fuzzy goodness of a great read. There are many ways to instill a love of reading into children of the 21st century, so begin encouraging your child to read today by incorporating some of these nifty ideas.

School’s Out for Summer!

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School’s out, no more homework, quizzes or tests. What should you do with your children for the next few months?

Reading books, doing mind exercises or turning recreation into a learning activity are all great ways to keep your children occupied while being productive at the same time.

The summer offers plenty of opportunities to read, whether it be traveling for vacation, laying out in the sun, or just in down time – there are tons of chances to dig into a good book.

When looking for a good book and deciding if the content is appropriate, check out suggested reading lists.  The LA Times Summer Books Preview 2014 is a great list with tons of options in every genre.

Exercising the brain is a great activity. You can do this on lumosity.com, which has plenty of exercises for all ages to get your brain cranking.  It helps with attention, flexibility, memory, speed and problem solving. The good thing about lumosity is that it’s fun, has games that kids can enjoy and was developed through collaboration of researchers.

Summer is also the time to get outside and play! Whether it’s in the neighborhood with other kids, a community pool, a local ball field, or simply going for nature walks, encourage kids to step away from the television and video game console and find other ways to entertain themselves. Games and sports are also essential for developing skills like critical thinking and hand-eye coordination.

When your children ask questions about things they encounter during the day, use this as a research opportunity. Instead of outright answering questions like “why is the sky blue” and ending the conversation, take a trip to the local library and guide them through the process of finding the information for themselves. If this isn’t an option, let them search out the information on a kid-safe search engine (like KidRex.org). Challenge your children to learn one new thing a day when going out for free time. Set up rewards or gifts to keep them interested once finished so they can see an end result (a prism is a great tie-in to the blue sky question!)

Have your children help you in the kitchen. Not only is it a help to you, it can become a learning experience as well. Cooking is a great introduction to concepts like measurements, fractions, portions, and timeframes.  Try this fun, kid friendly recipe – Cheesy Chicken Bagel Pizzas! The recipe is super simple and easy to make.

All you need is:

  • 2 plain bagels
  • ½ cup low-sodium marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

To make these cheesy chicken bagel pizzas just:

  1. Preheat broiler
  2. Place bagel halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  3. Spread 2 tablespoons marinara on cut side of each bagel half. Top each half with 1/4 cup chicken, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Broil bagel halves an additional 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Cooking is a great way to spend quality time with your children and can be a great way to learn and explore together.

Summer is a time to relax and enjoy but incorporating some fun, educational activities is the perfect way to enrich the summer months and keep your children learning and practicing essential skills.

Ready, Set, Jet!

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Summer is fast approaching and the itch to travel is growing strong.

Whether you’re planning a solo-getaway or you’re bringing the whole family along, it’s a stressful process.

From researching the cheapest flights and finding activities for the kids to budgeting your money properly and making sure all of the necessities are packed – you end up needing a vacation from planning the vacation!

The most stressful part of traveling for us is the packing – and we’re sure you agree!

There are too many things to worry about… which books to pack, size restrictions on liquid toiletries, folding your clothes so they’re not a wrinkled mess when you arrive to your destination, fitting all of our belongings into one 50 pound bag (at most!), keeping the shampoo from spilling all over your suitcase – the list of worries goes on and the task of packing seems nearly impossible.

Good news – you’re not alone.

The ZELCO family business is spread across 30-countries worldwide – so we know all about those daunting travel tasks and have prepared a few of our favorite stress relieving resources for you!

Not sure where to start?

Having trouble packing?

 Traveling with kids?

Traveling on a budget?

 If you’re a bookworm on the go you must check out ZELCO’s portable lighting 

 

Spring Has Sprung

That’s right…spring is finally upon us!  After that dreadful winter we were beginning to wonder if the weather would ever warm up or if the snow would ever stop falling.

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Even though we’re a family-run business, ZELCO has products in over 30-countries worldwide – which means not everyone has been as cold as us here in New York this winter. But, whether you’re waiting for the snow to melt or reaching for the A/C remote (we’ll try to hide our jealousy!), you can still get in the spirit of springtime…

And that means getting organized.

It’s been on the news for weeks now, this winter destroyed the grass and everyone’s backyards are a mess.  The plants are dead, the siding on homes has been torn away – needless to say this spring is going to call for some serious repairs.

Not only do we need to worry about the exterior of our homes but what about the inside?

For the last 3 months we’ve been cooped up inside, letting our organization slip away – our fitness following right behind.  What about your office space and your finances?

We all know that winter is time for comfort (I mean, with a blizzard forcing you to stay indoors there’s nothing to do but crawl up on the couch with a good book or movie and lots of food, right?) but now we’re forced to spruce up, de-clutter, get organized, get fit, and plan for the warmer months ahead.

The ZELCO team is doing it — we found a bunch of great resources to help us shake the cold and prepare for the warmth so we figured while we were at it we would share.

So, what do you say?  Let’s clean up from that terrible winter and get our lives in shape for the nicer weather!

Check out these great resources that the ZELCO team is using this year to help get ourselves back on track…

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Interior Home

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Office

Planning

Want to add a touch of light to your newly organized space? Check out our bestselling YO Lamp (perfect for compact spaces!) or our popular Freestyle Lamp (a must-have for those with an eye for design!)

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Whose Side Are You On?

Here’s a question for you –

Are you a hardcover or an e-reader?

This question sparked a serious debate here at the ZELCO offices this week (who knew this was such a sensitive topic!?)

Our team couldn’t settle the matter. Some of us like our hardcovers, but appreciate a compact e-reader for commuting and days on-the-go…

And others swear by their Kindles and Nooks that traditional books are a thing of the past.

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By and large, there seems to be a big divide between people who are loyal to the good ol’ fashioned bound-paper book and those who embrace all things electronic.

Many of us cling to the nostalgia of our favorite printed books (as Lewis Buzbee said, “How do you press a wildflower into the pages of an ebook?”)

…While others roll their eyes and say “it’s the 21st century, get over it!”

And they’ve got a point – E-reading is on the rise, with PewResearch reporting that 28% of adults have read an ebook in the past year (up 5% from the previous year!)

No matter which side of the debate you’re on, it’s time to show some respect to the ebook (at least for this month!) because…

March is “Read an eBook Month”

The ebook has gained such respect in recent years that March has officially been declared “read an ebook month” for the following reasons:

  • The ePublishing industry has created economic opportunities for entrepreneurs, authors, publishers and e-reader manufacturer
  • ebooks present significant benefits for seniors and children
  • ebooks are an environmentally-friendly alternative to books

To celebrate “read an ebook month” (and to help our ZELCO family out!) we’re sharing some great sources of free ebook downloads with you…

4 Great (Free!) eBook Resources:

1.     Project Gutenberg has the world’s largest collection of public domain books (books that are out of copyright and available for anyone to use). This is a source of many hidden gems from some of the all-time-great authors.

2.     DailyLit delivers you books in small installments each day  (each excerpt takes about 15-minutes to read). DailyLit is a great way to read the books you thought you’d never have time to get through.

3.     ManyBooks offers a huge range of free books in a variety of download formats. ManyBooks has a good selection of ebooks across lots of different genres.

4.     Authorama offers a collection of public domain books – much like Project Gutenberg – with an emphasis on readability. Authorama provides books in readable html formats making it easy to read on your e-reader or to print off and read offline.

With our mixed loyalties here at ZELCO HQ, it only makes sense that we offer reading aids for both e-readers and physical books.

Find your perfect companion here…

P.S. Got any free ebook resources to add to our list? Share them in the comments section below.

Knowledge is Power: 5 Top (No-Cost) Online Learning Resources, as Chosen by ZELCO

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The team here at ZELCO comes from a diverse range of backgrounds…

In fact, it’s our unique assortment of skills that keep us constantly innovating (it’s not hard to be inspired with so many creative minds under one roof!)

See, we believe that knowledge is power.

Which is why we always take the time to collaborate and share our individual expertise with each other. This ongoing “knowledge sharing” at ZELCO HQ is also what makes our products so unique.

For example, all of our fun and practical book lights are the results of our team’s combined engineering skills and design abilities.

(Sidenote: check out our design team’s inspiration board on Pinterest here).

We’re lucky to be able to learn from each other here at ZELCO. But, for those who want to brush up their skills and can’t pop into the design department or pay the in-house engineers a visit…

There’s OpenCourseWare.

What is OpenCourseWare?

OpenCourseWare (OCW) is free online course content from some of the world’s top universities. The idea behind OCW is to make learning accessible to anyone, anywhere, online.

These OCW initiatives have been around since 1999, but only gained real momentum in 2002 when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began publishing its courseware for free online. Since then, multiple universities across the world have followed suit.

And, while you won’t earn a degree by reading this courseware, you will get the same materials used by students at the top universities across the globe.

(There’s really no catch!)

It gets better…

In the last couple of years, the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, MIT and Berkely, joined forces to launch edX, a “Massive Open Online Course” (aka. MOOC) platform. So, not only can you access university courseware across virtually any discipline, anywhere, for free, but you also get the best courseware in the world all in one place.

Power-Up Your Knowledge…

Here at ZELCO we’re always updating our skills to stay at the top of our game and we want you to do the same. So, to get you started, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 OnlineCourseWare resources…

Here are our top 5 OCW picks:

  1. edX: https://www.edx.org/
  2. OpenCourseWare Consortium: http://www.ocwconsortium.org/courses/
  3. MIT OpenCourseWare: http://ocw.mit.edu/
  4. Yale OpenCourseWare: http://oyc.yale.edu/
  5. Tufts OpenCourseWare: http://ocw.tufts.edu/

Learning after hours? Don’t get left in the dark… Check out our useful range of book lights here.

Got an e-reader? We’ve got the perfect companion for you here.

Beat those January Blues…

New York was Blanketed in Snow at the Start of the Month

New York was Blanketed in Snow at the Start of the Month

Snow, rain, freezing temperatures and an absence of twinkling holiday lights – January can be a tough month for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

But (this might surprise you), despite all the talk of “the January blues” setting in, this month is actually the busiest month for travel agents…

Last year, travel agencies’ online sales grew by 173.8% from their monthly average, according to data from Ve Interactive.

And it’s that time of year again…

Now that the holidays are behind us, we’re planning tropical escapes and weekend breaks to kick off 2014 (or simply giving ourselves trips to look forward to in the summer time!)

So, whether your bags are already packed, or you’re dreaming of your first trip of the New Year, our team of self-confessed bookworms here at ZELCO has compiled a list of 5 must-read books for escaping the January blues…

1) The Boys In the Boat

If you’re looking for a morale-boost this winter, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is certain to give you the dose of heart-warming heroics you need. The story of the nine American boys who famously rowed to gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is an uplifting read that’ll make any plane journey, well, fly by.

2) The Invention of Wings

Appropriately titled for travel reading, this touching book is set in the 19th century America and follows the story of two women faced with their own forms of oppression. A story of slavery, women’s rights, love and loss, Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel is so moving and absorbing that you’ll forget you’re even traveling (which is why this is the ZELCO team’s pick for the nervous flier)!

3) An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth

Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s true stories of his life spent among the stars on the International Space Station is wonderfully written (this won multiple votes from the ZELCO team!) Hadfield’s tale is simultaneously gripping, fascinating and truly inspiring – reading his unusual success story is a great way to start the New Year.

4) The Power Of Why

Business folks looking for empowerment in 2014 will love this book. Journalist Amanda Lang explores how the right questions have changed the world and how asking more of those questions can improve productivity and innovation. This is a great read for starting the year with a successful mindset.

5) The Fault in Our Stars

Not exactly a new book, our final pick by John Green is an incredible one. Be sure to pack plenty travel-sized tissues for this story of a teenage cancer patient Hazel and her chance meeting with a boy who changes her life. While this is a book for young adults, the message transcends age and will warm your heart. An absorbing read for any trip or even a weekend spent snuggled up on the couch avoiding the cold weather outside.

As you know, even though ZELCO has products in over 30 countries around the world we’re still family-run. And in the spirit of family, we want to help our ZELCO family (that’s you!) make the most of your winter reads…

So, check out our great new range of book lights (and avoid sparking air rage with your overhead light on your next flight!)

That’s here…

Are you beating the winter blues with a trip or do you have a must-read book to add to our list? Leave a reply below and let us know…

PS. Don’t forget that we’ve got bestselling book lights for e-readers too. Check out the e-reader book light that our travelling customers most rave about here.

Photo Credit: Lionel Martinez