My Child Didn’t Like to Read

A few years ago, I was talking to my then 6-year-old son.  He was in the midst of first grade and learning how to read.  I was beyond excited for this stage in his life.  I had dreamt of having him sit on my lap to read one of our favorite books to me in that sweet innocent voice.  But in fact, this was not our reality at all.  My child did not enjoy reading.  He only practiced when forced, and complained about reading every single time.  It wasn’t only a struggle at home, but at school as well.  Even though he was learning and making progress, the love and curiosity of reading was sadly missing.


My entire job as an adult was teaching children.  Not only did I love teaching, but I felt it was my duty as a teacher to instill the love of learning and reading.  I was so passionate about teaching kids to read.  I loved showing them strategies to be successful and confident readers.  To enable them to independently escape into a book while learning new vocabulary and reading skills.  And in my very own home, I was struggling to help my own child.


Needless to say, I pulled out all the stops, and after some trials and failures, I was able to figure out how to have more successes than failures. Below are some of the reading strategies that helped my son slowly gain that love of reading.


Shared reading

Many kids look at a page of text and crumble.  They get overwhelmed with the amount of words and often give up or feel frustrated before they start.  I have found that taking the pressure off my child from reading all the words can be very encouraging.  We take turns reading, which not only motivates the kids to read longer, but the other reader is able to model fluency, syntax, and pronunciation of vocabulary.


Image heavy texts

From my own experience, my son starting getting excited about choosing his own texts when he started reading graphic novels.  These types of books, as well as books with a lot of great illustrations, lure the kids into the story.  The illustrations are also a great tool to help students who may struggle with reading, and gives them imagery for story context.


Choose texts based on their interests

This seems like an obvious one…but it makes a difference.  Kids will want to read about what they like.  If they love animals, try reading animal books.  If they love soccer, find some books about famous soccer players or a storyline that revolves around the sport.  The more they are intrigued about the subject matter, the better chance they will try to find out by reading it.


Use various forms of text

Sometimes, all kids need is a different format to read from.  I love eBooks to change things up.  I take advantage – when my son really wants to use the iPad, I have him read an eBook before he plays a game.  I love the eBooks and content on Genius Plaza, because there are so many different types of books that intrigue him.


We must remember that reading is a lifelong process.  All it takes is one book, one topic, one person to change the course of our child’s love for reading.  Being supportive and continuously providing engaging material are the most important things we can do to make our child’s reading career a successful one.


Educating Through Stories

Stories stick with us, and they spread from person to person through the Internet, the news, and conversations in grocery store lines. I started reading books on my own in elementary school, and today I try to read a book a week. Stories fascinate me—this may be why I became an English major. Beyond their entertainment value, narratives can make education a process that involves not only facts but also compassion.

Experiencing the Book

When a person reads a story and connects with it, it can have an immediate physiological effect. While reading a powerful book or an intense movie, viewers’ brains will often release oxytocin, a neurochemical that makes us feel closeness and compassion with others.

As readers, we aren’t actually experiencing the events of a book, but we place ourselves in the position of the protagonist. We feel and experience things that we otherwise would not have the chance to.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one.” writes George R.R. Martin, whose A Song of Ice and Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones ) has enthralled millions.

Teaching Through Stories

Narrative is the foundation of communication, finding its way into journalism and advertising. Most of what we tell each other is storytelling, and we have a tendency to spread the stories we hear, telling them again and again.



By teaching through stories, students can learn while they experience new things. They can also attach emotions to this new knowledge, making it easier to recall this knowledge when they need it. Perhaps most importantly, stories offer a way to show students how knowledge can be applicable and dynamic in different situations.

Learning Champions

Genius Plaza brings stories to the classroom through our Learning Champions. These stories focus on individuals who are protagonists of their own educations and have pursued meaningful careers in a variety of fields. We aim to make education not only accessible, but also memorable and emotional.



Summer shouldn’t just be a vacation

Summer vacation seems like an inextricable part of culture in the United States. Sleepaway camp, sports activities, and lazy days of relaxation seem synonymous with childhood. While the summertime offers many enriching opportunities for children, possible gains are often offset by proven educational losses.

Research shows that students lose literacy skills over the summer break when they are not engaging in supplemental educational activity. A meta-analysis of more than a dozen studies examining students from first to ninth grade found that upon their return to school in the fall, students performed an average of one month behind where they were in the spring. Our former first lady, Michelle Obama, once addressed this problem:

“Summer shouldn’t just be a vacation. Instead, it should be a time to get ahead, to branch out and learn new skills, to have new experiences, like acting in a play or doing some outdoor learning. And for anyone who’s fallen behind, it’s a time to catch up on lessons they missed…and of course, you’ve got to read, read, read!”

Student age and socioeconomic status has an influence over the amount of summer learning loss a child experiences. When first entering school, students from households in different income brackets didn’t differ much in terms of summer learning. However, the difference increased drastically as grade levels rose.

Low-income students became more likely to lose reading and math skills than their higher income peers, while higher income students were shown to be more likely to make gains. This has a domino effect. As the low-income child ages, the farther he or she falls behind as a result of repeated summer learning loss.

But why does socioeconomic status play such a starring role in disparate levels of summer learning loss? The answer may be the relative accessibility of technology and the educational opportunities it provides. Educational technologies equipped with the right strategies can help close the accumulated achievement gap between peers. It can also target students who need it the most, working to improve not only reading and math skills, but also qualities as school attachment, motivation, and their relationships with adults and peers.

Educational technology may be the key to making material fun and more relatable to children. This will help not only when playing summertime catch-up, but also in igniting a child’s thirst for learning. That’s Genius Plaza’s mission – to link recreation and learning.

We work to develop technology to make enjoyable learning accessible to all kids, so they can return to school in the fall refreshed from a summer break, but also ready to tackle the challenges of the school year using not only the skills that have honed, but also their freshly ignited hunger for learning.  We are proud to be a part of the effort to develop new technologies to democratize education for all children.

Parents often ask how they can help their children with summer learning. The most vital thing a parent can do is adapt a positive attitude for the children to mirror. The parents’ attitude toward summer learning will be transferred to the student. They must also help their children to not fall into the trap of complacency. A student may perform well in school during third grade, but this doesn’t ensure the absence of struggle later.

Coasting on current academic success without emphasizing improvement may discourage the student from working hard and developing healthy student habits. This type of student could benefit remarkably from a summertime education program, to not only continue to challenge themselves, but also reduce anxiety in regards to the upcoming school year.

Research shows that even a single summer spent using a quality educational program will show a significant improvement in a student’s skills in various areas including math, language arts, and others. It is recommended that the program last at least five weeks to allow the student the chance to reap all the benefits provided by the educational pioneers who are working hard to provide targeted educational materials in an effort to further the cause of educational equality.  

Vacation time should not be devalued, but it shouldn’t come at a detriment to learning. The games, exercises, and educational literature available through Genius Plaza are developed specifically to keep education engaging, enriching, and easily available to students. Summer should be time for fun–but fun and learning need not be mutually exclusive.


BookExpo America 2017

I recently spent a day with some of my Genius Plaza teammates at BookExpo America (BEA) –the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. The 2017 edition took place over three days at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

As someone with one foot in the door of the children’s book publishing industry, this was a great opportunity for me to see publishing friends, meet new ones, attend book signings, and gather as many free books and posters as possible.

But of course, our main focus was to represent Genius Plaza and share our message to “ignite the genius in every child” with the Expo’s 100,000+ attendees.

The Genius Plaza platform contains many options for learning, such as videos, games, animations, and worksheets. Since we were at a book expo, our focus was to highlight our eBooks, which are written by the professional educators on our content team with visual aids provided by our illustrators and graphic designers. Our team at BEA17 did a great job discussing our eBook collection, and explaining the eBook co-creation options that allow our users to write and add visuals to their own digital stories.

A few fortunate BEA attendees won full-year subscriptions to our entire eBook catalog by spinning our Genius Plaza prize wheel. The result of the spin could earn the spinner an instant prize (very cool Genius Plaza pens or Genius Plaza phone/device holders) or a raffle ticket for a chance at one of our bigger prizes – the full-year eBook subscriptions, virtual reality goggles, or a Kindle Fire preloaded with the Genius Plaza platform.

We all feel that our time spent at BEA17 was a real success. Attendees’ reactions to our platform were extremely positive, and we interacted with hundreds of interested and potential customers. We’re already planning for and looking forward to sharing our message again at BookExpo America 2018.

Celebrating Mother Language Day

Today the world observes Mother Language Day 

This year’s celebration is devoted to education. At Genius Plaza we celebrate diversity in languages, background and experiences and join today’s celebration for Mother Language Day. We will continue to focus on our mission of igniting the genius in every child with culturally relevant, personalized learning. Watch our video to commemorate the day:

Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Teacher Tweets:


Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Global Tweets:

Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Education Tweets:

The Classic Chalkboard Game with an Edtech Twist

The Classic Chalkboard Game with an Edtech Twist:                

Hangman by Genius Plaza brings the classic game to a digital format! The app is a fun game that offers the option to play existing games created by Genius Plaza educators, OR having teachers, students, and parents create their own Hangman games. Hangman offers the option to personalize the learning for students of all ages and abilities.

When you open the app, it has all the grade options to search for games that they have already been created for those specific grade levels. There are parent and teacher buttons for you access as well. You can assign your students a game to play or create a game based on a topic that you are learning about in your classroom. When you create a game, you can make the game as easy or as difficult as you want based on your students and their academic performance. It’s incredibly easy to use! You can format and pose each question however you would like. I created a ten question Hangman game that was asking about soccer terminology (since most of the students I work with are OBSESSED with soccer). I geared the questions toward 3rd-5th grades. I asked three types of questions. I did the typical 5W questions, as well as fill in the blank questions. In addition, I asked questions like “This player tries to score for their team.”

As opposed to the classic chalkboard version, the Hangman app caters to different learning styles. On top of personalizing the game to a specific topic, there is also the option of adding images to each question to offer a clue to students that might be visual learners. For the image options, you can either access images from Genius Plaza’s bank, pull images from a search engine, or take your own photos! For auditory learners, there is the option where you can record audio of you reading the question. This option helps students who are not strong readers but still want to participate in the game. There is a button where students can turn off the audio as well. Recording is very simple and you can do it on any mobile device. You hit record, read the question, hit “save and add another question”, and you’re done. If you are having the students create their own game, you can use this to assess their reading capabilities without them realizing it! When I was a student, I HATED reading out loud. This gives students the chance to read out loud without feeling self-conscious. This game appeals to our kinesthetic learners as well because they can touch buttons and see the result right in front them.

Hangman is a game that anyone can play and use to create games. It empowers students to take charge of their learning and offers teachers an easy alternative to assessing spelling and vocabulary review besides writing exams. The app is an educational tool that personalizes fun learning for any age.