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My son is in those beginning stages of reading.  He's 3 1/2.  It's so exciting!

While I can't say I've sat down with him to do actual reading lessons on any sort of daily basis, I've done some things with him that I think are pretty important for parents to do.  And the first and foremost thing to do, of course, is READ!!!

My son's shelf is full of books!  Well, actually, my house is full of books.  He has picture books filling his shelf in his room.... two really.  One full of board books and those less expensive books from the dollar store and garage sales that I don't mind him bending or tearing pages of that he can have access to at all times.  Another, higher shelf that has the picture books that I'd rather not have torn quite yet.  And, of course, there's a basket of books in the living room and the stack of library books are, well, I think they are scattered at the moment!

I can't say it enough.  Reading is so vital.  We actually began reading to him when he was in the womb.  And that actually wasn't me.  That was my son. (The teenager 🙂 )  He would talk to him and sometimes read a well-loved Dr. Seuss book.

I don't know that reading to children in the womb is necessary for good reading skills.  I'm betting not.  I think that helps though to recognize voice patterns and the tones of those in their environment.  And it certainly can't hurt.

Usually reading starts after birth.  Of course we just started with little plastic books and board books that he could finger with.  He loved books with bright pictures and books that had some texture...and apparently they didn't taste bad either. 😉  In this stage, it's just pointing at pictures and telling him colors and names of objects and maybe telling him what the objects do.

I would say as soon as he was able to really sit up in my lap is when I started the ritual of bedtime stories.  Of course it was very simplistic at first.  Just looking at one of those simple books with the pictures and talking about it.  Then we moved on to simple board books that told a story but were short and sweet.... like Where's Spot?

By the time he was a year old, we were reading 3 times a day.  While I'm not sure he really retained the 'stories' from his bible story book, he did listen and look at the pictures and I'm sure it helped him recognize terms (God, Jesus, angel, etc.).  We continue to read these and as time goes on, he is pointing to various pictures and showing recognition of the people in them.  We also read at rest time and at bedtime.  My goal is always a minimum of 7 books a day in addition to his bible storybook.  No particular reason for the number...it's just what I decided on.

Reading is of vital importance.  Daily reading is essential.  If you don't know why, let me share some interesting tidbits with you:

  • Reading to young children promotes language acquisition and literacy development and, later on, achievement in reading comprehension and overall success in school. The percentage of young children read aloud to daily by a family member is one indicator of how well young children are prepared for school. Yet, recent studies on family reading suggest too many youngsters go without the benefit of a family member reading to them.  (RIF.org)
  • Reading builds a stronger relationship between you and your child.  While it's obvious (at least to me) that reading prepares the stepping-stones to academic success, it may not be as obvious that it gives opportunity for you and your child to bond.  There is usually close proximity between the reader and the child, whether it's the child sitting in the lap or very close by.  There is interaction between the reader and the child as the child may ask questions and the reader clarifies or comments and as they both laugh together at the antics of fictional characters.  The reader and child are able to talk about their observations and feelings about what they are reading and share about things that may not come up in other daily interactions.
  • Reading does prepare stepping-stones to academic success.  The child is introduced not only to sounds and new vocabulary, but to the basic process of reading a book.  The child observes how the book is opened and left to right progression as the reader turns the pages and it is good to point to the words as you read again demonstrating left to right progression and you may be amazed at how quickly the child can pick up on common sight words they see over and over.  My son's first recognized word was STOP.... from the delightful book Go Dog Go by Dr. Seuss.  He loves to shout that word out when we are on the right page and he started pointing out this word on Stop signs all on his own.
  • The Children's Reading Foundation suggests reading to your child at least 20 minutes a day.  They state that reading to your child from birth literally wires brain cells together in networks that later facilitate independent reading.

So....  we read to our children.  (Yes, I actually still read to my teenager...he enjoys it.  I love it!)  It's the part of the day I enjoy the most.  And yes, he(our toddler) does know quite a few words already.  This doesn't mean every child that's read to will recognize words by 3.  But just because he or she doesn't, does not mean that the time you spend reading with your child doesn't matter because it does!!  So grab a book off the shelf and start reading!!  🙂

I want this T-shirt!!! But I couldn't find anywhere to actually purchase it...  🙁

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Today I write of Mary, the greatest woman who ever lived.  She is known to the Orthodox as the Theotokos.  I hope, even if you are not Orthodox, you will read this to find out why we Orthodox Christians highly honor this blessed lady.

A vast majority of Protestants are under the impression Orthodox Christians worship Mary (Theotokos).  This is simply not true.  She is honored greatly.  She is not worshipped.  Worship is for God. And while I know I am one person that cannot sway the mind of someone who has committed to this thought the majority of their lives', I hope that I can at least put a thought into their mind...that perhaps this idea is inaccurate and perhaps he or she could do a little further research before deciding to stick to this conclusion.  And maybe, just maybe, he or she will have a little better understanding of why we do honor Mary and why he or she  should as well.

Theotokos is a Greek term meaning 'birthgiver of God'.  This is the Virgin Mary.  This is the woman who was the first to accept Christ into her life. This is the woman who played an immense role in man's redemtion by her consent to bear Christ. This is the woman that leads us to Christ.  This is the woman the bible has shown us that we should honor. This is she who contained Christ, God who is uncontainable, within her womb.

The bible tells us that Mary was a virgin when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.   The prophet, Isaiah, predicted this conception.  It is written, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

We honor Mary because she is the mother of Jesus Chrsit.  Mary was not just any random young girl.  Mary had found favor with God.  "Do not be afraid, Mary," said Gabriel, " for you have found favor with God"( Luke 1:30). Mary was chosen by God for an honor that will always be hers alone. And Mary accepted the task given to her.  Mary had free will.  Mary could have run and hid from the angel.  Mary could have protested.  But Mary was willing.  She answered the angel, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).   In this action, Mary was the first to accept Christ into her life.

In accepting Christ into her life, accepting her role of the incarnation, Mary played an immense part of man's redemtion:

"Christ saves men, who have fallen through their own fault into the power of the devil, by breaking that power. He became Man for this purpose; He lived and died and rose again that He might break the chains by which men were bound. It is not His death alone, but the entire Incarnation, of which His death was a necessary part, that freed men from their captivity to Satan."           ~ Fr. John Romanides

The Holy Bible shows us that it is, indeed, fitting to honor Mary and that she is the mother of our Lord.  The angel Gabriel honored Mary,"Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, Blessed are you among women"Luke 1:28).  Gabriel told Mary that God had found favor with her (Luke 1:30). Mary herself, in offering one of the most magnificent prayer of praise to God, "My sould magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;  For behold, henceforth all generation shall call me blessed." Her favor was further established upon meeting with her cousin, Elizabeth, when the woman, upon seeing her, exclaimed,                " Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord shuld come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43)

The icons of Mary you will find in Orthodox Christian churches and homes never depict an image of Mary alone.  All icons of Mary are with her son, Jesus Christ.  Mary is honored because of her son and the icons reflect that. The icons of Mary display the mother leading us closer to Him. She led us to him in her acceptance of her part in the incarnation and she lead people to follow him in her life (John 2:5) and she continues to lead us to Him in our life by her example.  She is often seen pointing in his direction or gazing adoringly into his eyes while holding the child out to us to behold with our own.

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Mary held our Lord and Savior in her womb for 9 months.  God, who is uncontainable, was contained within her.  For this and all of the above reasons given and so much more, Mary was the greatest woman who ever lived.  Mary was his mother, giving birth to our Lord.  He honored her and so should we.

Sources Used and Further Sources That May Interst You:

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Other:

"He who is devout to the Mother of God will certainly never be lost."   ~St. Ignatius of Anticoh