5 Ways to Encourage Your Child’s Passions Through Reading

Every kid has something they love and are passionate about. It might be sports or music or chess or computers or art or cooking or whatever. And while not every kid loves to read, here are some great ways to use books or magazines to encourage whatever passion your child does have while also boosting their reading, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills.


  • Get out the How to Books. This may be the most obvious answer to how to encourage your child to read when they would rather be doing what they love but it’s also the truest. Virtually any subject you can name has a book about how to be even better in that subject. If your child is struggling with a particular skill or just wants to tackle some new facet of their chosen activity, suggest they find a book on the subject and get to work.
  • Try a Biography. Kids often become inspired to try something new by reading a biography of someone who succeeded in the same thing. My friend’s ballet-obsessed daughter, who doesn’t normally pick up a book for fun, took to Misty Copeland’s biography with a vengeance and then moved on to biographies of other dancers.
  • Give Them Some Background Knowledge. No matter the passion, chances are it has a history or evolved in some interesting way. Young skateboarders might enjoy discovering how their sport evolved from the earliest days until today. Young soccer players might be interested in reading about the first women’s soccer teams and the struggles they faced in earning respect for the sport.
  • Bedazzle it. Whatever your child loves, I bet there is gear or at least clothing that goes with it. Craft books can help your child make their equipment or team shirts more their own or might provide interesting ways to preserve special mementos of their experience.
  • Try a Magazine. There are magazines out there with topics as specific as nature photography, camping, horseback riding, birdwatching, and collecting baseball cards. Plus, as people who subscribe to professional and trade magazines know, magazines generally have more updated information than books. Here at Cricket Media we have award-winning magazines perfect for kids who love American history and the Presidents (Cobblestone), geography (Faces), Science (Muse, Ask, and Click), reading and writing (Cricket and the gang), and archeology (Dig).

It may be that your child’s interests change over time. Perhaps this year they are all in to Harry Potter but last year all their energy was focused on softball and the year before that they were all about swimming. A thread that can connect all of these interests and also help them throughout their entire lives is reading so don’t be afraid to suggest that they get a book or magazine to help them take their skills and knowledge to the next level.

Ice, Ice, Baby: Frosted Window Craft with Your Kids

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. As I do every year. I heard much of the Midwest got slammed with snow recently, and they probably don’t understand my desire for it. In truth, I don’t love snow, but having a white Christmas is so rare where I live that you’ll have better luck spotting a white elephant. Last year, I hung my decorations up wearing a t-shirt. Thanks global warming!


For those of us who live in the mid-Atlantic and below, and rarely (if ever) get to experience the stuff songs are made of, Christmas decorating can be a bit of a let-down. No icicles to frame roof, no snow-covered lawns to reflect the lights, no icy windows to suggest a warm, cozy inside.


[insert ‘as seen on TV’ advertisement voice here]


Oh, but wait! You can!


Thanks to this handy craft, you can create the illusion of icy widows even in 100 degree weather. It will last until you take it down (don’t worry, it’s easy to remove) and your kids will have a great time painting the ice on. And the type A parents out there will appreciate the fact that you literally can’t make it look bad, so you don’t have to “fix it” once they’re in bed.


Here’s how you do it:


  • Boil 2 cups water and bring it a boil.
  • Slowly add a cup of Epsom salt until it is dissolved completely.
  • Then add 3tbsp liquid dish soap and allow the solution to cool.
  • Find a clean window and paint away! Using a paint brush or tissue, paint the solution on the window using a sweeping or stippling motion. Thicker layers will look like bigger icicles.
  • When the holiday season is over, you can wipe it clean with a towel or cloth.

Ice, Ice, Baby: Try this Easy Frosted Window Craft with Your Kids

Whether you string your lights up in a palm tree or a pine tree, I hope you enjoy the holidays, the decorating, and the weather!


Cricket Media Mama heard a rumor you can also create this ice-frosted window craft using beer, but she’s never managed to make the beer last long enough to find out if that version works.


What If You Could See a Song?

Pharrell Williams visited New York University’s Clive Davis Institute in February 2016 to critique students’ compositions. His masterclass took a turn no one expected. The raw work of an NYU senior named Maggie Rogers left the triple-platinum artist visibly awestruck. By now, well over 2 million people have seen the video of Pharrell listening to Maggie’s song “Alaska.” The song is special (you can hear a mastered version here), and I love watching the star’s eyes shine as the music washes over him. But, to me, the most illuminating moment of the video is when the conversation turns to synesthesia.


What’s that now?


Author Aimee Odgen taught me the word—and how to pronounce it—in a recent MUSE magazine article. “People with a condition called synesthesia (sin-ess-THEEzhah) experience the world with two or more of their senses blending together in ways that might seem strange to you,” Ogden writes. “These people may be able to taste certain letters of the alphabet, for example, or to see the honk of car horns and the songs of birds as a special pattern of colors.”


When Pharrell expresses interest in visuals to accompany the song “Alaska,” Maggie replies, “I’m synesthetic, so colors are there, very there.”


“Yeah, well those were, like, some awesome colors,” he says.


Odgen’s piece goes on to explain synesthesia from the perspective of individuals with the condition. (Says Katie Lau, “It wasn’t until after college that I realized that not everyone had subtitles running through their heads when people spoke, or that other people didn’t see colors in their mind—life must seem so dull and mundane for them!”) It explores hypotheses about what’s happening in the brain when senses undergo creative crossover, as it were, and current areas of research. And it mentions two synesthetic musicians: Billy Joel and Pharrell Williams.


Popular singer/songwriter Pharrell Williams is synesthetic.

Popular singer/songwriter Pharrell Williams is synesthetic.

“You’re doing your own thing,” Pharrell praises Maggie. “It’s singular. . . . and that is such a special quality.” I couldn’t agree more. For more on the joys of thinking different, take a look at MUSE’s September issue.



So is singer/songwriter Billy Joel.

So is singer/songwriter Billy Joel.


Johanna Arnone is the editor of MUSE Magazine.

The Art of Letting Go

The creative process begins when the artist forgets himself and becomes the work. That is when the magic happens. It is an integral part of every artistic form of creation; theatre, music, dance, writing and art.


Art by Chip Ghinga

Art by Chip Ghigna

My son, Chip Ghigna, is an artist. He paints pictures with paint. I am a writer. I paint pictures with words. My wife, Debra, was a dancer. She painted pictures with movement. The three of us discovered early on that to create our best work we must first be true to ourselves — and to our art. We learned the art of letting go, to let go of ego and let the painting, the poem, the dance take hold.


In his poem “Among School Children,” William Butler Yeats wrote about how the dancer becomes the dance by asking the rhetorical question “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” When the dancer is true to the dance, the dancer and the dance become one. We see the artist in the painting, the poet in the poem, the dancer in the dance.


The creative process teaches us the art of letting go. It teaches us to let go inside, to follow our natural instincts and trust our sense of wonder. It teaches us to savor the joy of each new discovery and to celebrate with all our might. It teaches us how to identify the creative force that stirs within us, how to nurture it like a child, and how to finally let it go so that it may take on a life of its own.


The artist learns that he is not in search of something greater than himself. He learns that he is a part of the search. He learns that following the search within and letting it go, so that it can communicate with others through images, words, music or dance, is the greatest gift he can give to the world — and to himself.


*      *      *

Art can move us to question and examine, to ponder and celebrate, to see and feel and understand ourselves and the world around us beyond what we thought possible.

*      *      *

To the artist who thinks every piece of art must make a statement.

Art does not have to make a statement. Art is a statement, a visual statement of what it means to be alive.

*      *      *

The Magic of Making Art

Make Art Because You Love To

Make art because you want to, need to, have to!


Paint What You Feel, Not Want You Think

Good art is intuitive. Feel it. Follow the feeling.


Creation Does Not Come From the Outside In

Art comes from the inside out. It is already in you. Let it out.


Paint Fast and Fearlessly

Your brush is an extension of you. Use your whole body, not just your arm and wrist.


Forget the Color Wheel

There are no primary or secondary colors. There is only color. Make your own.


Put the Critics on Mute

Art is a silent visual song. Turn off the chatter. Listen to your own music.


Good Art Takes Time

Take time to make good art.


Charles Ghigna - Father Goose®Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He is the author of more than 100 award-winning books for children and adults from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca and other publishers. His poems appear in hundreds of magazines from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Cricket and Highlights. For more information, please visit his website at FatherGoose.com

Is Reading Fantasy a Bad Hobbit?

When my daughter was in third grade, my husband and I showed up for a parent-teacher conference where we were told that our child was spending too much time reading fantasy books. It wasn’t the reading the teacher had issues with; it was the selection of books. Instead of my daughter’s chosen genre, the teacher gave us a list of “reality” based books that showcased human children in real-life situations. His goal was to help her translate the teachings that books instill into real world situations. Books by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Jerry Spinelli were recommended to replace her beloved Harry Potter, Warriors, and Lemony Snickett series.


Here’s what this teacher didn’t know: My husband and I are fantasy nerds with a capital N. I am the author of a YA dystopian-future sci-fi novel. My husband played D&D for decades (still does!). We are all about elves, fairies, and wizards, oh my!


That’s not to say I totally discounted the teacher’s concerns. I know he meant well. But I’m not sure we should perpetuate that Hermione Granger is any less real than Ramona Quimby – after all, both are fictional characters. In both sets of books, kids learned valuable lessons about solving problems, the importance of perseverance, valuing their teachers and friends, and more. Does it matter that one character uses magic to defeat a tangle of Devil’s Snare, while the other crowns herself with burrs and devilishly tangles her hair?  In my mind, if the lesson itself comes across, why does the reality of the lesson matter?


Imagination is a muscle. If you don’t stretch it, it’ll become stagnant and lose its potency. Let’s foster and encourage children’s senses of wonder, their creativity, and the belief in magic while we can. Chances are, they’ll outgrow it naturally (unless they are like my husband and me). But in the meantime, if my daughter would prefer to fly through the air with demigods, go on endless quests for magic rings with hobbits, and defeat life-sized rat armies’ miles under the earth rather than read the “real world” drama of teens and tween fiction, such as “Ohmygod, I didn’t get asked to prom!” … Well, I find no fault in that. Everyone needs a way to escape from reality, and honestly, in this modern day of the scary Interwebs, reading fantasy books is an escape option that I’m A-OKAY with.


You know who publishes excellent fantasy fiction for tweens?


Cricket Magazine. I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve grown up with Cricket Magazine. Stories from Cricket featuring magical creatures have helped shaped my love of this genre and have inspired my writing as an adult. Now I’m happy to share these fantasy stories with my fantasy-loving daughter. It’s a great feeling to know that virtually every month new stories featuring new fantastic characters will arrive in our mailbox. These are stories with real heart and real soul. Characters that stay with us and inspire us. And guess what? Like stories about kids who don’t have prom dates and yet somehow come out better people by learning it’s not the prom itself that matters, but the journey they took to get to prom night and the friends they made on the way, fantasy stories from Cricket somehow always manage to impart some takeaway that inevitably comes in handy in a social situation. But, spoiler alert: anyone who has ever read a fantasy story knew that already.


Are you interested in trying a Cricket fantasy story?


Download Part 1 of a story called “Ren and the Shadow Imps” which appeared in Cricket Magazine a few years ago. Want to read the rest of it? Comment below and we will send you the link to read the other 4 parts of the story. If you are a fan of fantasy, you will not want to miss reading the whole thing. And, of course, for more stories like this one be sure to subscribe to Cricket.


Ren and the Shadow Imps


Cricket Media Mama spent much of her childhood flying on the back of Falkor the Luckdragon, walking mazes with Hoggle, and defeating the rodents of unusual size. And she grew up to be perfectly normal. PERFECTLY. NORMAL.

Yoga: Find Your Zen Today and Every Day

I’m feeling very Zen today. It’s certainly not because it is the first day of summer break, since that has already resulted in an entire box of cereal being dropped all over the floor and a resulting tantrum when my daughter was told she had to actually clean it up herself. And it definitely isn’t because we have new kittens in our house, since that has resulted in very wet floors from a kitten who somehow managed to fall in the toilet. So perhaps it is because today has been officially designated the International Day of Yoga.


According to the International Day of Yoga website, yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice which aims to transform both body and mind. Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi described yoga as an “invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”


If you want to bring some of this harmony into your life (and seriously, who wouldn’t want to add a bit of calm to our crazy days) but aren’t sure how to start, below you’ll find two articles with pictures of easy Yoga poses. Why not get everyone in the act and see if you can’t achieve that sense of oneness with your entire family? Even if you don’t manage true harmony, you might just get a few minutes of quiet, and that could almost feel Zen-like.


Download these articles:



yoga for kids

For even more articles like these, be sure to subscribe to your favorite Cricket Media children’s magazine.

Helping Fairies Stay Real

There is only a very short time in a child’s life when he or she really believes in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Dragons, Elves, and other mythical creatures. So when I saw this little journal entry in my daughter’s notebook, I wondered: How can I keep her believing in fairies as long as possible (no matter what the more-worldly Taylor has to say about it)?


Dinosaurs Some parents have taken really complicate steps to bring a little wonder into their kids’ lives. I love the stories of people using the “Elf on a Shelf” to make Christmas even more magical. And how cool are these parents for using dinosaurs to inspire their children’s imaginations.


But in my crazy, hectic life, elaborate games like these are not likely to happen. Not only can I not picture myself making the elf do something new every night for a month, I can’t even picture myself remembering to make the elf do something for one night.


So how can I help my daughter keep her sense of wonder alive? From what I can tell, inspiring a child’s imagination begins with stories that seem so real that they could actually happen. These types of stories are usually set in contemporary times and locations that are easy to relate to and involve events that seem plausible. This is exactly the appeal of Harry Potter. Harry is so contemporary and his world is so vivid that it is easy to think that you could go down to King’s Cross Station, find Platform 9¾ and be off to Hogwarts. Another story that kept my daughter’s belief in fairies alive is Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant. Could a magician really make an elephant fall through the roof of an opera house? My daughter sure believes he could.


Another safe haven for my daughter’s imagination is Cricket’s Chatterbox. I’ve written previously about how this online writing forum allows kids to develop stories, create characters, and build new worlds. The kids on this forum have imaginations that know no bounds and that in itself is enough to keep the idea of dragons and elves and unicorns alive.


Finally, Cricket magazine itself features a fantasy story virtually every month. I love knowing that when she opens her issue of Cricket, there will be some sort of fantasy and wonder waiting for her. And even if she is in the middle of book set firmly in the here and now, there is always time slip in a bit of magic that comes in the mail.

A Jock of All Trades

So full disclosure: I’m so un-athletic that I am still recovering from playing fantasy football. Luckily, my kids seem to enjoy sports. We’ve got currently got Kung Fu, Youth in Motion/Girls on the Run, and horseback riding on the roster, with soccer and field hockey starting this spring. My kids swim, ride bikes, rock-climb, hike, surf, snowboard, and hoola-hoop dance (yes, it’s a thing). I get my workout taking them (and all their gear) around town to all their various sports each day.


So when I was asked to blog about National STUDENT-Athlete Day, which occurs on April 6, I had to do a bit of research on this topic. I discovered that this day was created in 1987 as a way to honor high school and college student-athletes who have excelled both in academics and athletics and who have contributed to their communities and schools in a significant way.


As a child I had been in gymnastics, on the swim and dive team, and a soccer player. Sadly, this was back in the olden days, and due to a lack of encouragement of girls in sports, I outgrew any inclination to stay with them. More importantly, there were not many female role models in athletics who could have provided that inspiration. By the early 90’s, Tonya Harding was in the process of undoing the progress that Billie Jean King had made for female athletes, and Mia Hamm’s trailblazing victory for women in sports was still a decade away.


It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized I went to school with an Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast (Dominque Dawes, I heart you), but while we were in school, she was never acknowledged, let alone celebrated. In college, my school was all over the sometimes-winning Rugby team, but barely discussed the almost-always-winning girl’s Lacrosse team.


Times have changed and I’m pleased to see a new generation of famous female sports figures who are celebrated for their athletic achievements. And I am really happy to hear about National STUDENT-Athlete Day for a few reasons:


First, this gives recognition to peers of our children – not adults and – especially not sport-celebs. My daughters are able to see girls their own age get recognized and awarded, instead of wondering if they need to look like Anna Kournikova in order to succeed.


Second, the award criteria is quite clear: “All student-athletes honored have achieved a 3.0+ GPA and are involved in outreach and community service.” This sends a powerfully positive message about being well-rounded — about the importance of excelling in academics and being a good citizen.


So I encourage you to seek out the Student Athletes in your community who have been selected for this achievement. Bring your kids to a game or match to see them in action and explain what the award means. And if you know of a Student Athlete who has made a significant contribution to his or her family, school, town, or community we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.


Cricket Media Mama just partook in a marathon blog-writing session. She wishes someone would hand her a paper cup full of wine now that she has crossed the finish line. She would also like an oval sticker for her car’s bumper to celebrate this milestone achievement.

I Pity The April Fools

I’ve never been a big fan of April Fools’ Day, having been the victim of many a cruel prank by my cruel parents as I was in the crucial formative years of my youth. However, I am also a fan of paying it forward, so I gleefully embark on new and enjoyable ways to torture my own children in the name of “having fun during April Fools’ Day!”


Some of my favorite pranks to date have included the following:


  • When the kids were smaller, we would wait until they were asleep and then put them in each other’s beds.
  • Putting their bowls of cereal plus milk in the freezer the night before. The next morning, as they dug their spoons in, frustration resulted! A fresher alternative to this is to put out a bowl of cereal sans milk and add a few drops of food coloring to the bottom of the bowl. When they added the milk, there were jaw dropping results.
  • Scraping the cream out of Oreos (you can eat it. I won’t judge) and replacing it with a thin layer of toothpaste.
  • Having Jello set in juice glasses with straws and serving it to the kids.

I read about this one: If you still have Easter candy lying around (not an issue in my house, but you might be better than me), carefully remove the wrappers from mini-chocolate eggs and wrap them around grapes. Then accidentally leave the “candy” out where it can’t be missed.


The impending years of therapy notwithstanding, April Fools’ Day is simply a fun day. It’s a good chance to show your kids you have a sense of humor, despite what they might think. And to some extent, pranking can teach valuable lessons, such as how to laugh at yourself, how to roll with the punches, and good sportsmanship. I will caveat that by saying: Those lessons DO NOT apply when your kids try to prank you, because that’s just cruel.


April Fools’ Pranks 


Want to read about some other April Fools’ pranks played over the years? Perhaps it will spark a few other ideas you can roll out for maximum April Fools’ Day effect.


Enjoy this story, April Fool’s Day, which appeared in Faces, a magazine for curious young readers (ages ages 9 to 14), that takes them around the world and back to learn about important inventions and ideas from other cultures through amazing articles, folk tales, recipes, illustrations, and hands-on projects.


April Fools' Day April Fools' Day

Cricket Media Mama bypassed years of expensive therapy by simply chalking it all up to “severe trust issues due to all the April 1sts in her life.”