YEA! Blog

Creating Better Lives, Brighter Futures & Stronger Families

Get Kids Excited About Reading With These GREAT Story Books!

Having a hard time convincing your kids that reading a good book is just as much fun as a video game?  Or perhaps, you are finding it difficult to find a storybook to read with your kids that doesn’t involve the same old tired storylines?  Today, I am sharing with you my favorite books in the creative storylines category.  Hopefully, you will find more than one book on this list that your child will ask to read again and again (and you will be happy to do so because they are just that good)!!!

Book #1:  Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude 

By:  Kevin O’Malley

He wants ogres, scary motorcyclists, and raging battles.  She wants flowers, hearts, ponies and princesses.  How will they solve the conflict and get a story written and make their teacher happy?  Read and find out!

Book #2:  Pssst!  It’s Me the Bogeyman!

By:  Barbara Park & Stephen Kroninger

This book provides a unique take on scaring children, its from the Bogeyman’s perspective!  Read it to see what has him so upset!

Book #3:  The Day The Crayons Quit

By:  Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

This book is HILARIOUS!  Find out what happens when Duncan goes to get his crayons out of his desk, only to find they have gone on strike!!!                              Peach crayon is my hands down favorite!

Book #4:  Aliens Love Underpants

By:  Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

A story about what REALLY happens to our laundry when it is drying on the clothesline.

Book #5:  I Need My Monster

By:  Amanda Noll

Why would a little boy want a drooling scary monster under his bed?  What lengths will he go to in order to replace his missing monster? This book practically screams READ ME!!!!

posted by samantha in Parenting Tips and have No Comments

Fun With Sight Words: Part II

Continuing our theme of last week’s post on Sight Words made fun, I am posting a list of ideas to keep your kids engaged this week (assuming the kiddos have tired of the Sight Word Munching Monsters that we posted earlier).

The biggest key to sight word success is to interact with the words.  This means building them, writing them, drawing them and yes, even discussing them with mommy and daddy during “play time”.

        Sight Words Ideas

  1. Use wax sticks (like Wiki Stix) to spell out the words and make pictures for words.
  2. Use bathtub paint to draw and write “sight word graffiti” on the wall during bath time.
  3. Use toothpicks or scrabble tiles to spell out the words (for the toothpicks they can glue them down and display the paper on the fridge! :))
  4. Create coloring pages then color them in a creative way (see image below)


For the coloring pages, I would recommend finding a printable that is on a subject your child is interested in (my nephew loves Mario brothers).  I cut up tissue paper into small squares, with a little plate of glue and a pencil you can create the wonderful work of art you see below! (Photo courtesy my nephew!  He was doing color sight words).

posted by samantha in Education Advice,Parenting Tips and have No Comments

Brain Longevity: What to Do to Keep Your Smarts for the Long Haul

Welcome to the Youth Education Alliance’s blog for brains! In this first segment we are going to discuss what you can do to be sure that your brain stays healthy and working at  its best your entire life.

Research shows that to maintain your mental edge throughout your life, you must train your brain!  When your brain learns a challenging new skill, it literally rewires itself creating thousands of new connections.  To stay healthy you must form a habit of lifelong learning.  This will slow down or eliminate the decline in mental acuity typical of old age.  For those of you who want to avoid the decline and stay sharp, we present: YEA! Youth Education Alliance’s suggestions for maximum brain fitness.

You know you’re building connections when you are physically or cognitively challenging yourself, the task should be difficult but achievable with practice (very easy tasks do not actually help your brain build its connections).


1.  Switch hands on everyday movements (use your opposite hand):

a. Brush your teeth or hair

b. Dial the phone

c. Operate your computer mouse

2.  Involve your whole body in a new skill

a. Learn a sport

b. Learn yoga, tai chi, etc

c. Sculpt (or play with clay, especially good for children)

3.  Travel

a. Taking a vacation is good for your brain, the novel area allows you to navigate in a strange place as well as interact with new cultures, and you are relaxing too! All  brain friendly activities!

4.  Hone Your Senses

a.  Do simple tasks that incorporate more than one sense at a time

–  Get dressed; brush your teeth or hair with your eyes closed

–  Communicate using visual cues only (no words)

–  Listen to music while smelling flowers or incense

5.  Change your routines

–  Take a different path to work

–  Order different meals at your favorite restaurants

–  Shop at a different grocery or clothing store

6.  Read regularly & play word games

–  scrabble

–  crosswords

–  bingo

–  learn a new language

The most important thing to remember is that your brain is a muscle; you must give it daily exercise to keep it healthy!

Join us next time when we discuss exercise and diet and how your habits in these areas shape not only your brain, but the brains of our children as well.


posted by samantha in Understanding the Human Brain and have No Comments

How “You’re So Smart” is Destroying Our Youth

Welcome to the first post on the Youth Education Alliance’s Parenting Tips blog.

Today we are going to explore how non-specific praise is creating a generation of fragile children, and what we can do as parents, educators, friends and neighbors to help better support our future!

Before we can get to the actual strategies, we must discuss the two mindsets common in the human brain.

1.  Fixed mindsets: these are individuals who believe that achievements are based
on innate abilities rather than perseverance and hard work.

People fostering a fixed mindset focus on:
a. Non-specific praise, “you’re so smart”, “you’re such a good musician.” , etc.
b. Do not feel as if intelligence is within their control.

2.  Growth mindsets: these are individuals who recognize that learning is a process and through exercising your brain, you can learn, grow and develop new skills.

People fostering a growth mindset focus on:
a. The reward of hard work.
b. Provide task specific praise related to one’s  effort or the ability to overcome a challenge.
c.  The belief that intelligence is within their control.

Traditionally, parents and anyone else who works with children have been told that the key to raising a happy, healthy, successful child is to praise extensively and often.  And so we do/did….little Johnny gets told a thousand times a day how smart he really is.  But the question of the day is, “does the type of praise matter”. According to research the overwhelming answer is YES!!!!!

Obviously society needs to make a shift in child rearing philosophy, the question becomes why and more specifically, HOW?

The why is very simple, research has shown that kids who are praised for their intelligence will develop the following habits and beliefs about themselves:

1.  They will be weak and fragile because the factor their identity is based upon (natural smart-ness), is not something within their control.  As a result, they do not take risks that might possibly shake this belief.

2.  They have decreased confidence in their abilities.

3.  They are less willing to take problem solving risks that might result in failure.

4.  They spend less time working on a hard task, than their peers who are of a growth mindset.

Nowhere, do these problems manifest themselves more apparently then in the classroom.  Students who are praised for intelligence, will rarely choose a hard task, where as students who are praised for effort will choose hard tasks 90% of the time, because they understand that learning, is not a gift, it is something that you work hard at all your life…It IS within their circle of control! We all know that there is real power in what we can control, and it gives us the security to take risks.

So, if praising for intelligence leads to a fixed mindset in our children, how do we help them?  As parents, educators and community members it is our duty to raise the next generation to be bigger and better than we were.  What do we do?

I encourage you to take the YEA! Youth Education Alliance Two Week Challenge. Focus on generating a family climate of growth minded-ness, for two weeks.  Yes, still praise your children, but focus on their efforts and their never give up attitude, instead of non-specific phrases like, “you’re so smart”.  While taking on the challenge, take notice of the changes that you see in your relationships to each other.  Then after the two weeks, if you really see a difference (and you will) you can make a re-commitment to foster growth in your family relationships, both with your children and even with your spouse!

TIPS FOR FAMILIES & EDUCATORS for fostering a growth mindset in your family:

1.  Tell stories and focus on individuals that were successful because of a willingness to work hard.

2.  Focus your praise on effort.

3.  Celebrate and learn from mistakes.

4.  Share your challenges and mistakes with your child and foster an attitude of learning from them. Encourage them to share with you as well; it creates open communication and closeness.

Above all, teach your children that true intelligence is having the confidence to see a challenge for what it is (an opportunity) and never give up.

For more information, specific tips and advice, contact or visit our website at

posted by samantha in Parenting Tips and have No Comments