This has already been such a big week for Model Behaviors! If you missed it, we announced The Mommy Makeover Contest on Tuesday, and yesterday Rachel (January’s featured Behaviorist) shared why she’s chosen “adventuresome” as her theme word. Today we’re hitting you with another round of awesome as we announce our newest series—Woman of the Month.
We’ll interview a different woman each month who embodies the spirit of Model Behaviors, and we’ll also give you a peek into her everyday life. Our very first guest is my dear friend and incredibly intelligent educator, Anne-Marie Myhre!
She attended Stanford for her undergrad degree and then got a Masters from SMU. She’s the mother of three adorable kiddos and runs a business on the side as an ambassador for Barefoot Books. On top of all these impressive feats, she’s passionate about the outdoors and about making literacy accessible for ALL children, as you’ll see in Courtney’s interview with her below.
Please read on and give my friend Anne-Marie the warmest Model Behaviors welcome!
MB: Okay, I just have to ask you about Alaska! It’s on my bucket list of places to visit one day. You grew up there, on an island in Southeast Alaska to be exact, and you said it’s vastly shaped who you are today. For someone who’s never been to Alaska, can you share a little bit about why it’s so dear to you and perhaps a few places that we must see when we visit?
AM: When it’s 100 degrees in Texas, there is no better place in the world to cool off than Southeast Alaska. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the city of Ketchikan sits on the southernmost entrance to the Inside Passage. If you’ve taken an Alaskan cruise you’ve most likely either began or ended your trip in this beautiful little seaside town. I love the slower pace of life and the fresh air. The minute I step off the plane, I breathe deeper and feel myself relax as I soak in the pristine wilderness.
Growing up in Alaska was truly magical. I realize that now more than ever. Yes, winters were dark, wet and cold—but there was beauty in that as well. So much of my entertainment came from the incredible outdoors. I spent hours on the beach with my cousin, Stormy, digging for clams, swimming to nearby islands, catching bullheads in the tide pools, and trying to build fires without matches. We didn’t need much in the way of things since so much of our joy came from the land and making our own fun.
Every summer I return home and feel so grateful that my kids get to experience some of my heritage. As a family, we enjoy hiking and berry picking in the lush rainforest, fishing for the mighty King Salmon and searching for a glimpse of the incredible wildlife that surrounds us. We frequently see black bears, humpback whales, orcas, seals, and many bald eagles.
I highly encourage everyone to visit Southeast Alaska. It really is a special place. There aren’t that many places left in the world where you can find yourself miles and miles away from other people surrounded by snowcapped mountaintops, idyllic forests, and thrilling wildlife. You will LOVE it!
Here’s a cool video about Ketchikan.
MB: What an ideal way of growing up. Your description takes me right there. In fact, it sounds so much like Dallas—it’s no wonder why you made the move. But you eventually left Ketchikan to pursue a BA in Sociology from Stanford and your M.Ed. (Master of Education) from SMU. For those of us who aren’t familiar with what a degree in Education entails, or for those of us considering a similar career path, what drew you to these degrees and how have they shaped your life?
AM: I had amazing teachers growing up. They had such a positive impact on me that I knew from a very early age I wanted to follow in their footsteps. School was always a happy place for me. I begged my teachers for homework before it was part of the regular routine.
When I was pursuing my degree at Stanford University, they didn’t offer an undergraduate degree in education. After exploring many different areas of study, I settled on Sociology. A degree in Sociology allowed me to develop a broad understanding of human behavior and social organizations. I got to delve into social problems and inequalities, which allowed much insight into our educational system.
One of the highlights of my undergraduate education was completing the Graduate School of Education Honors program. A small number of us from all different areas of study had the opportunity to work closely with faculty members and pursue independent study as we tackled a range of thesis projects. I chose to examine the possibilities and limitations of educational reform. I visited a school that was doing things very different from a typical high school in America. I was inspired by the commitment and innovation I witnessed. This project solidified my desire to make an impact in the classroom.
Teaching is an incredible profession. Parents give you the gift of time with their children and you have this huge responsibility to make that time matter. I wanted to continue my own education and get my master’s degree to expand my educational knowledge and impact. While working as a full-time teacher, I enjoyed courses on educational and behavioral psychology, philosophy, creativity, and literacy development. Although challenging, working and going to school at the same time was a real benefit. It gave me the opportunity to implement what I was learning at night in the classroom the next day.
MB: Now that you’re on the other side of this equation (with a two-, five-, and seven-year-old), what advice or wisdom would you share with other parents about helping their own children succeed during early education?
AM: I strongly believe that the number-one thing parents can do to help their children succeed at school is to read together regularly. Research shows that, of all the academic subjects, reading is the subject most responsive to family influence. And it’s never too early to start!
The foundation of learning to read is laid from birth. Looking at picture books together, singing, rhyming, and simply speaking aloud during the day are all proven to have a profound influence on children’s learning through life. No matter what you read aloud, infants will tune in to the rhythm and cadence of our voices. Reading with babies and toddlers stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and gives them a good start to a lifelong love of reading. It also helps with speech and language development.
If you’re a new parent, take the opportunity to read aloud that novel or parenting book you’ve had by the bedside table during your child’s regular feedings or tummy time. Establishing reading routines at home early on is really important. You and your child will come to anticipate these times together, strengthening your parent-child relationship.
When my children were infants, my husband enjoyed reading the sports page aloud. I remember Julianne laying on her play mat, kicking her feet and squealing as my husband, the sports enthusiast, read her sports scores and game highlights. Now, seven, Julianne and I fight over the Arts and Life section of the Dallas Morning News. She loves reading the comics aloud to her siblings. Reading the newspaper each morning is just one of our regular at-home reading routines.
My two- and five-year-olds both love rhyming books and books with predictable and repeating text. These types of books empower children to join in on the reading by making it intuitive for them to guess which word comes next. I recommend reading good ol’ nursery rhymes together. You’ll be amazed at how many you can recall from your childhood. Try pausing when reading aloud and let your child fill in the blank. This builds their reading confidence. The more familiar they become with the rhyme, the more they can “read” it on their own. And, rhyming ability is also correlated with later reading and writing ability. Mother Goose is one smart lady!
Also, you might be surprised to learn that sing-alongs are actually one of the best kinds of books for developing Kindergarten readiness. Not only do they help develop children’s attention span, but they also help children develop their ability to follow directions. We have an amazing collection of sing-alongs at Barefoot Books that cover all sorts of topics. We frequently start our mornings with Animal Boogie or Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush.
As your children get older, it’s just as important to maintain a reading routine together. Whether you read at bedtime or during meals, be active when reading. Try pointing and naming objects you see and ask questions as you read. Almost any book can be made interactive, but certain books build it right in to their structure. Many of the Barefoot board books encourage toddlers to seek, count, and name objects as well as answer questions and make predictions. For older readers, discuss the story as you read it. You can ask about challenging vocabulary words you come across or ask why a character is feeling the way they are during a particular moment in the story. Encourage your child to make connections. Has your child done something similar to what the character did or have they read another story that reminds them of the one you’re reading? All of these activities actively engage children in the books, building their attention span and critical thinking skills. These are important foundational abilities for later academic learning.
AM: Barefoot Books is an award-winning independent children’s book publishing company. It was founded in 1992 by two young moms who dreamed of creating beautiful books that would capture children’s imaginations and celebrate diversity through art and story. Barefoot Books has published over 600 award-winning books, songs, games, and puzzles. The books and gifts are AMAZING!!! I’m so excited to share some of our family favorites through the giveaway.
Whether you have a newborn or a confident reader at home, Barefoot Books specializes in carefully crafted books that will captivate your little ones and nurture their creativity and compassion. I can’t say enough about how good it feels to have my kids begging to read these books and listen to the stories and songs. The company is exceptional in the sophisticated art and language they present to children. Too often, publishers undersell our kids, not believing they can enjoy such robust content. One of the many things I love about Barefoot is their belief in the power of stories and how important it is to expose children to our global world. As a family, we have enjoyed stories from Tehran, Tanzania, Guatemala, Nepal, and more.
Barefoot Books’ mission is to share stories, connect families, and inspire children. As an Ambassador, I represent the Barefoot brand and have the opportunity to market and sell books and gifts that make a real difference in children’s lives. The program empowers people to start their own home-based business and grow it in a way that fits their lifestyle and personal goals. With no order or sales minimums, I’m afforded the freedom to run my business in my own way. As with most things in life, the more I put into it the more I get out of it. I’m having more fun than I ever thought I would and the additional income is the icing on the cake! I love involving my kids in the business. They take inventory, price items, label catalogs, write recommendations and count money. It’s been an enriching experience for our whole family and a perfect way for me to pair my passion for literacy with my desire to run my own business.
MB: What drew you to this organization in particular?
AM: I was dissatisfied with the selection of books being offered and marketed to my young children. Too many books based on TV shows and book club flyers filled with charms and trinkets seemed to me to be encouraging consumerism instead of a love for reading. Essentially, I felt like my kids were more interested in choosing books with the coolest accessory instead of choosing books with rich stories and characters with depth.
I set out to find a new source for great literature for my family and discovered Barefoot Books along the way. Barefoot Books is committed to the kind of storytelling and art that encourages children to become happy, engaged members of society with an appreciation for diversity and the environment. I love that we carry books that showcase all kinds of families, even illustrations that depict moms breastfeeding and dads changing diapers. I see Barefoot as a way I can help my family and others invest in their values whether it’s literacy, diversity, girl power, or art.
MB: Speaking about girl power, if any of our readers are interested in the Ambassador program, how can they get involved?
AM: If the Ambassador program sounds interesting, ask me for details in the comments below, and how to join my team for additional coaching and support!Also, I’m always looking for fresh ideas and different takes on at-home literacy experiences. If you have a home reading routine, I’d love to hear about it. By creating positive early home literacy experiences for the children in our lives, we give them an academic boost that will help them in school and beyond. As a little parting gift, I’ve included a download printout of “10 Tips on Reading with Children”!
Download the free printable here!
MB: Anne-Marie, thank you for being our very first Woman of The Month. You’ve really set the bar with your enthusiasm for life and education!
Stay tuned because later this month, we’ll show what a day in the life of Anne-Marie is like.
Now it’s time to enter her Barefoot Books giveaway! First, Anne-Marie has shared an awesome discount for our readers. Using the code “NEWYEAR,” you can buy three books and get the fourth one free! Such an awesome deal!
Anne-Marie has hand-selected the six books included in this giveaway bundle (over a $60 retail value).
- My Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words by Sophie Fatus (hardcover)
- The Animal Boogie illustrated by Debbie Harter and sung by Fred Penner (paperback with enhanced CD)
- Clare Beaton’s Nursury Rhymes (board book)
- The Prince’s Breakfast by Joanne Oppenheim, illustrated by Miriam Latimer, and narrated by Hugh Bonneville (hardcover with story CD)
- Dara’s Clever Trap retold by Liz Flanagan and illustrated by Martina Peluso (paperback chapter book)
- The Girl with a Brave Heart by Rita Jahanforuz and illustrated by Vali Mintzi (hardcover)
To enter for a chance to win, log in with either your email or your Facebook profile and fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Anyone can enter, but you get two extra chances to win by joining our mailing list.
This giveaway is open in the US and internationally. Must be 14 or older to enter. It ends on Wednesday, January 13 at 11:59 p.m., Central Time. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Thursday, January 14. We’ll contact the winner by email. Winner will have 72 hours to respond. If there is no response, a new winner will be selected.
Good luck to everyone who enters and let us know in the comments your favorite way to read with kids!