Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just Right Books

This week on the FAMILY Magazine and Moms Like Me segment on WUSA 9 News Now, we are discussing choosing the appropriate book for your child. FAMILY Magazine’s Assistant Editor, Amy Bevins has put together some information to help parents achieve this and I am very happy to share it with you.

As parents, we all want our children to love reading. Choosing a “just right” book can help children become better readers and hopefully develop a love of reading. Choosing a “just right” book means to choose books at the right reading level for your child.

How do you find the right level?

There are several ways. One is to think of books your child reads as being divided into three groups – Independent, Instructional and Frustration.

A book at a child’s independent reading level is one a child can easily read on his or her own.

An instructional level book, or “Just Right” book, may have a few challenges, but your child can read it with a little support. Maybe help with a word or a meaning. They can retell the story and enjoy it, even if they have to work a little.

The last group is the frustration level. This is a book where your child constantly stumbles on words, isn’t able to retell the story and that discourages your child.

How can you tell what your child’s reading level is so you pick books at the right level?

First, ask your child’s teacher. They do routine assessments of kids reading levels and can guide you.

Second, periodically, have your child read out loud to you. Listen to how well they read most of the words. Have them retell the story. They should be able to tell you most of the main events and answer who, what, why questions.

Also, look at the reading level of the book.

Where do you find a book’s reading level?

Some books have the reading level listed on the back. For example this book says RL 4.0. That means this book is at a 4th grade reading level. This one has RL 2.9. That means its reading level is 2nd grade, 9th month.

What if the reading level isn’t listed?

Check with your local library, teacher or bookstore. They have lists of books arranged by grade or reading level.

Should we stay away from books they find frustrating?

Actually, not necessarily. Books that are very challenging can be wonderful for reading to your child or for paired reading, when you each take turns reading. Especially if the book is on a subject your child loves.

For example, when my son was little, he was fascinated by ocean creatures. We got him this early reader that he could read himself. We also got these two more challenging books that we read together. As he got older, he started being able to read parts of the book himself and eventually, these became books he could read on his own.

What about books that are really easy for your child?

These books are great for kids, because reading them can increase fluency, recall and be fun for kids to read, or even reread. They can also be relaxing for kids. Kind of like a “beach read” is for us.

Choose books at all levels.

You really want to choose a mix of books for your child. As well, if there is a subject they are really interested in they will often stretch themselves to read about it.

What have you done to help your child love reading? Please share your tips with us.

And, remember to enjoy every minute when you are reading with your children.

Happy Parenting, Brenda

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fun with the Kids This Weekend

Looking for something to do Saturday or Sunday? Easter egg hunts in Northern Virginia begin in earnest this weekend, with three scheduled for Saturday! Unfortunately, rain’s in the forecast, so check for rain dates!


Bivouacs and Battlefields: Fauquier County’s Civil War Landscape
Fauquier High School Auditorium
705 Waterloo Road, Warrenton
Saturday and Sunday 8:30 am-5 pm FREE
Discovering Fauquier County’s Civil War History has been recently re-energized by the work of local historians and neighborhood groups in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the war in 2011 and in honor of Fauquier County’s 250th anniversary in 2009. This symposium will bring to life the historical significance of the countryside we live in.
The lecture series will start at 8:30am, break for an hour at lunch, and feature Robert K. Krick, Bud Hall, Garry Adelman, Childs Burden, and Kris White as speakers. The lecture will conclude with a special 3-D presentation by Bob Zeller that will be entertaining for children of all ages. For more information contact Kimberly Abe at (540) 347-8660 or e-mail:

Fairfax Follies
Lord Fairfax Community College
173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown
Saturday shows 1 and 6 pm; Sunday show at 6 pm FREE
This show features family entertainment with singing, dancing and skits celebrating the best of the last 30 years of follies. Before the show we have live entertainment, free ice cream, cake walks and hand and face painting in the cafeteria. Pre-show activities on Saturday take place at noon and 4:30 p.m.; Sunday pre-show activities begin at 4:30 p.m. For more info visit or call (540) 868-7194.

Shades of Beauty
Potomac Falls High School
46400 Algonkian Pkwy, Sterling
Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. shows
To kick off its 2009 performance season, the Loudoun Ballet Company is pleased to announce an exciting and mesmerizing new Spring production, “Shades of Beauty.” The production features a creative and visually stunning medley of ballet scenes from select ballets such as Princess Aurora and the fairies from “Sleeping Beauty” and the Company’s debut of the classic ballet scene “Kingdom of the Shades” from “La Bayadere”. In addition, new, creative original work choreographed by LBC’s artistic staff will be featured to enthrall and delight audiences of all ages in the Loudoun community. Advance tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students; tickets at the door are $15. For more info visit or call 703-771-8074.

Saturday, March 28

Runnymede Park and Sugarland Run Annual Stream Clean-up
Meet at the entrance to Runnymede Park between 8 am-Noon FREE
We need your help to collect winter trash that has been washed into Runnymede Park and along Sugarland Run! Volunteer for an hour or all morning and get free hot dogs and cookies for your efforts. We recomment that you wear long pants and sleeves, old boots and gloves. For more info call 703-435-6810.

Recycling Roadshow
Unity of Fairfax Church
2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton 10 am-5 pm FREE
Fairfax County residents may shred up to 5 medium-sized boxes of personal documents at no charge. All shredded documents will be recycled. Also, residents may bring compact fluorescent lights for recycling (no long tubes or broken bulbs will be accepted). There are no fees for these services. For more inifo call (703) 324-5052.

Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Marshmallow Harvest
Great Country Farms
18780 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont 10 am-5 pm
Bring your Easter basket and participate in one of 3 egg hunts with more than 3,000 eggs filled with treats. Do marshmallow peeps grow on trees? Follow our maze to find and gather peeps, then roast a few on the bonfire with Farmer Bob. Ride the cow train, see our spring chicks and baby animals, check out the greens and spring plantings in the greenhouses, take a hayride, and rejoice in spring! Egg hunts: 1 pm for children under 3; 1:30 pm for ages 4-6, 2 pm for ages 7-10. Admission is $6 per person, free for kids younger than 2. Cow train ride is $2 extra. For more info visit

DYI Workshop: Yard Mobile
All participating Lowe’s stores 10-11 am FREE
Get your kids ready for Spring! Bring your kids to Lowe’s and they can build this fun Yard Mobile! To register, visit

Civil War Living History Event
Merchant Park at Weems Botts Museum
3944 Cameron St., Dumfries 10 am-5 pm FREE
Historic Dumfries hosts this educational, family-friendly and fun event that allows you to explore Civil War camp life. For more info call 703-221-2218. Handicapped-accessible.

Women’s History Day
Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center
10209 Main Street, Fairfax 10 am-2 pm FREE
Meet the late environmentalist Rachel Carson through the performance of a re-enactor at 11 a.m. at the museum. Take a free guided walking tour of the Ratcliffe-Allison House and Kitty Pozer Garden, stepping off at 2 p.m. from the museum. Other activities include painting flower pots and a gallery scavenger hunt.

Go Fish
Lake Accotink Park
7500 Accotink Road, Springfield 10 am-Noon
Join us for fishing and fun at and receive a free one-day trout fishing pass. Learn the wildlife-friendly catch-and- release fishing technique. Find out about fish species and environmental issues, Bring your own pole and tackle or borrow one of ours; barbless hooks only. The cost is $15 per child; accompanying adult free. This program is suited for children age 7and older. Reservations are required; call 703-569-0285.

Children’s Book Fair
Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum
201 South Washington St., Alexandria 11 am-4 pm FREE
Join children’s book publisher Usborne at this special event for kids and adults! Usborne will be offering dozens of selections focusing on social studies and other educational areas. Kids can play “Museum Detective” on a scavenger hunt of The Lyceum and enjoy other free activities like storytelling, crafts, and hands-on artifact stations. Stimulate your child’s curiosity at this fun family event.

“Kite Flight” at Three Fox Vineyards
10100 Three Fox Lane, Delaplane 11 am-5 pm
Come take part in our 1st Annual “Kite Flight”. Have fun, win prizes, and help charity (Women Build – Habitat for Humanity) Bring your own kite or get one of ours on-site when you come. Fun for all ages and a great way to relax and just live life! For more information call (540) 364-6073 or visit

Easter Eggstravaganza
Frying Pan Farm Park
2709 West Ox Road, Herndon Starting at noon
Discover spring on the farm, enjoy an egg hunt and meet farm animals in the petting area. For children age 4 and under, please specify time including a first and second choice: noon, 12:45 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. The hunt for children age 5 to 7 is at 2:15 p.m. Prepaid reservations are required. The rain date is 3/29. The cost is $6 per child. To reserve, call 703-437-9101.

Homebrewing Workshop
Lovettsville Library
North Light St., Lovettsville 1 pm FREE
Learn the basics of brewing theory, the ingredients and equipment needed for homemade beer, and the processes of simple and advanced brewing techniques.

Bluebird Predator Guard Make It, Take It Workshop
Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve (Education Annex)
21085 The Woods Road, Leesburg 1-3 pm
Learn how to make your own Stovepipe Bluebird Predator Guards to help protect birds from snakes and other predators. All materials provided. Cost is $15 for materials required. Registration required; sign up online or contact Elizabeth Evans at 540-822-5438.

ThumbKnits Knitting Club
Potomac Library
2201 Opitz Boulevard, Woodbridge 1-3 pm
Michele Hirata, from the world of Fat Thumb, will teach you to knit or help you improve your technique. Supplies are provided.
For ages 5-12. Limit 15. Please register in person or by phone beginning one week before each program; call 703-494-8126.

Introduction to Wildflowers
Hidden Pond Nature Center
8511 Greeley Blvd, Springfield 1-2:30 pm
View spring wildflowers in a PowerPoint presentation and learn about wildflower field guides and good wildflower trails. Then look for them in the woods. Reservations are required. The cost is $6 per person. To reserve, call 703-451-9588.

Easter Egg Hunt
Sully Historic Site
3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly 1-3 pm
Children ages 3 to 7 years can bring baskets and hunt for filled Easter eggs in the fields. Hunts are set for 1:30 or 2:30 p.m. Find the special egg and claim your prize. Participate in an egg roll. Visit baby animals, create an Easter craft to take home, and indulge in yummy treats. Reservations are required. The rain date is April 4. The cost is $5 per child. To reserve, call 703-437-1794.

Tea Traditions
Historic Green Spring
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria 2-3:30 pm
Should the teapot spout face the host or the guest? Should I hold my pinky out when I lift my teacup? Learn protocol and etiquette and look at the origins of teatime traditions. The cost is $18 per person and includes a traditional cream tea (tea served with scones, cream and jam). To register, please call 703-941-7987.

Happy Birthday Clifton!
Clifton’s Town Park 2-4 pm
Come sing Happy Birthday to Clifton at a birthday party thrown for the town by the Clifton Betterment Association. The CBA will provide cake and beverages at the Town Park. Let’s have a fun spring afternoon and celebrate our town. For more info call (703) 988-0685 or visit

Fun with Your Digital Camera
Hooray for Books
1555 King St., Ste. 101, Alexandria 2:30-3:30 pm
Our friends at Tisara Photography know how to take a great picture, and they’ll teach you how to make the most of your digital camera in a one-hour workshop for ages 6 and up. Space may be limited, so call (703) 548-4092 for reservations!

Kids Crazy for Classics: A Musical Puppet Show
Loudoun County Extension Office Program Room
30B Catoctin Circle SE, Leesburg 2 pm FREE
The Rust Library sponsors Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by local high school musicians with the help of puppets. Recommended for all ages.

Laughing Pizza
McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Ave. 2 pm
Ages 4+. Laughing Pizza is a real family band that creates original pop music for kids and their parents. Dad, Billy, and mom, Lisa combine their skills as award-winning song-writers with their multi-instrumentalist daughter, Emily, to create fun, inspiring music for the whole family. For ages 4 and older. Tickets are $14, $10 for McLean Community Center district residents. For more info, visit

Family Movies!
Lovettsville Library
12 North Light St., Lovettsville 3 pm FREE
Take the family to waatch Disney’s animated futuristic film, WALL-E, rated G, 97 minutes.

Fighters Tournament
C3 Cyberclub
44710 Cape Court #118, Ashburn Starting at 3 pm
We’ve all been waiting for it and now it’s here Street Fighter 4 at the premier C3 gaming center. Battle it out Join the ranks of America’s finest Street Figther Video game champions at C3 Cyber Club. Test your skills against players all over the East Coast at our monthly Fighters Tournament! There is a $10 venue fee and $10 per game fee. For more info call (703) 729-0985 or visit

Bull Run Swamp Stomp
Bull Run Regional Park
7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville 7 pm FREE
Join NVRPA on a night hike and search for the fascinating amphibian life of Bull Run Regional Park. Find spring peepers, woods frogs and more. Rubber boots and warm clothes recommended. Adults and children age 6 and older. Please call 703-528-5406 to make a reservation and get directions.

Sunday, March 29

Animal Tricksters
Hidden Oaks Nature Center
7701 Royce St., Annandale 1-2 pm
From 1 to 2 p.m. at , families will view live animals, specimens and a slideshow and hear an American Indian story to discover how nature equips different animals to get a meal or to keep from becoming another critter’s feast. Prepaid reservations are required. The cost is $5 per child. To make a reservation, please call 703-941-1065.

Loudoun Symphonic Winds presents Around the World in 60 Minutes
Franklin Park Performing & Visual Arts Center
36441 Blueridge View Lane, Purcellville 3 pm
The Loudoun Symphonic Winds has become one of the area’s most exciting musical ensembles since its formation in 1993. Our goal is to give the Loudoun community and its neighbors an opportunity to play and hear the best of yesterday’s and today’s concert band music. All proceeds from this special fund- raising event benefit the Loudoun Community Band, Inc. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students. For more info visit

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chemicals in Baby Products

Every week our magazine, Washington FAMILY Magazine has a regular segment on the local CBS station in partnership with their mom's web site, This morning on WUSA9 News Now we discussed baby products that contain formaldehyde and dioxane. Both chemicals were found to cause cancer in animals and the EPA calls them 'probable human carcinogens.

How did these chemicals come to be found in baby products, are they harmful and what do we need to look out for?

Formaldehyde is created when other chemicals, preservatives in the product break down over time, while 1,4-dioxane is formed when foaming agents are combined with ethylene oxide or similar petrochemicals.

The trace levels found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make US products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth.

However both of those chemicals were found to cause cancer in animals and the EPA calls them 'probable human carcinogens.

The Personal Care Products Council which used to be the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, says “Allegations made that commonly used baby products are somehow contaminated with harmful levels of carcinogenic chemicals are patently false and a shameful and cynical attempt by an activist group to incite and prey upon parental worries and concerns in order to push a political, legislative and legal agenda.”

What should parents think, are they harmful?

The FDA does not have a standard for these specific ingredients. They only say companies need to follow the industry standard.

Way back in 1982 the FDA did conduct a study that showed that 1,4-dioxane could penetrate human skin when used in lotion.

CSC found one product, Baby Magic “Soft Baby Scent” Lotion contained high levels of formaldehyde. After analyzing two samples of the products, the researchers found they contained 570 and 610 parts per million (ppm) of the chemical.

In Europe, products containing above 500 ppm would require a warning label.

The European Union has banned 1,4-dioxane as an ingredient in personal care products, but the Food and Drug Administration has not established a safe limit for the chemical in shampoo, lotion and other toiletries. It maintains that the trace amounts found in those products are not harmful.

What should parents do?

The buzz on DC.MomsLikeMe has been to avoid using products that you believe contain these ingredients. My own daughter has an allergic reaction to sulfate and she has stopped using anything with Sulfate listed in the ingredients. Most moms on MomsLike Me agree. Although the amounts may not be enough to cause any concern, why take that chance? If you have a choice, choose the safe choice.

That can be difficult because it may be impossible remember all of the ingredients to watch for. We will have the list inside the Washington FAMILY Magazine Group on MLM as well as some links to the reports.

Ingredients to Avoid –

DMDM Hydantoin
Imidazolidnyl urea
Diazolidinyl urea
Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate

Peg-100 steraate
Sodium laureth

Links about these issues –

As a parent you want what is best for your baby. Moms certainly never want to do anything that could potentially cause harm to our children in the future. On the other hand, is this inflated to create a political atmosphere of fear? I don’t know. I think I would stay on the side of caution and try to avoid these ingredients.

I think the baby product industry has a big PR mess to worry about and some of them might need to change the formula for their products or maybe launch a new line of healthy blends. Expiration dates might help so fewer preservatives would be needed. I would rather worry about a product expiring rather than causing cancer.

Brenda Hyde
Publisher, Washington FAMILY Magazine
.............. where parents come first!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good Nutrition Just Got Easier

I have always thought planning well-balanced meals was difficult. And, two of my four children won’t eat vegetables! It is always a struggle and I worry they are not getting the right nutrients. Two of children are easy. In fact, my son would rather eat fruits and vegetables so it is challenging to get him to eat protein.

I just attended an event hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture and Giant Food intended to teach consumers how to shop smart and healthy using the USDA’s MyPyramid Meal Planner in conjunction with Giant Food’s Healthy Ideas on-shelf labeling program. I was very surprised how interesting it was.

Dr. Robert Post, Deputy Director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion walked us through an example using real food and a new program, MyPyramid Planner found on their web site showing how making just a few minor adjustments can make a dramatic impact on healthy eating.

March is National Nutrition Month® (sponsored by the American Dietetic Association) and this presentation really brought home the importance of thoughtful meal planning. Washington FAMILY Magazine has always published articles relating to nutrition in March but the system presented by USDA and Giant make achieving good nutrition much easier. These are perfect tools for families.

The USDA’s MyPyramid program online offers personalized eating plans and interactive tools to: plan and assess food choices, make smart choices from every food group, find balance between food and physical activity, get the most nutrition out of calories and stay within daily calorie needs.

The Healthy Ideas symbol, found in 182 Giant Food stores, identifies foods based on the USDA/FDA’s definition of “healthy,” the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA’s MyPyramid.

Over 3,000 products in Giant Food stores have received the Healthy Ideas symbol, meaning they have less fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium according to USDA standards. It also means that they are a good source of at least 10% of the daily value for one nutrient (protein, fiber, vitamins A or C, or the minerals, calcium or iron).

Healthy Ideas criteria are based on the federal definition of a “healthy” food, which must:
· Be limited in total fat
· Be limited in saturated fat
· Be limited in cholesterol
· Be limited in sodium
· Contain at least 10 percent of the Daily Value for one or more of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein or fiber

Additionally, since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting trans fat and sugar consumption, Healthy Ideas includes additional criteria for artificial trans fat and sugar, taking natural sugars into account in appropriate food categories.

On the USDA’s web site contains a section for different ages of children. The preschooler planning page allows you to see if your child is getting the correct nutrition. They tell parents to not be concerned if your preschooler does not eat the exact amounts suggested. Each child’s needs may differ from the average, and appetites can vary from day to day and that average amounts over time are what is important. Every mom knows that some day’s one food is more popular than others and that you must be creative! With the Giant labeling system that challenge just got easier. On the USDA’s web site there is also a section on picky eaters and tips on how to develop healthy eating habits.

If you happen to be pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, this site offers some really good information on nutrition for pregnancy and also breastfeeding. There is a specific plan for your criteria – easy to use and tremendously helpful. The site even comes with a warning in case you are expecting twins, triplets, or more! I guess this is a sign of the times for our increase in multiple births. Here is the url for the MyPyramid Plan for Moms.

The USDA site is easy to use and extremely helpful. And, with the Healthy Ideas labeling system at Giant, nutritious meal planning has just become a whole lot easier for all us moms.

Happy Parenting, Brenda