Teach Struggling Readers to Love the Story

In another post I talked at length about encouraging struggling readers. My goal was to get readers to love, like – or at least, not hate reading.

I gave many tips. Please take a few minutes to read it over if you haven’t already.

One bit of advice I gave was to focus on the story. Find fun tales that will spark their interest in fiction, fantasy, escaping into another world, etc. Talk about how an author paints a compelling scene, the voices, tension, and funny elements.

Getting a child to appreciate books and the work of great authors is a huge step in forming the love of reading in a child. It may also take their minds off of the choppy, slow, and sometimes painful reading sessions. Focus on the story!

Sometimes you need to step away from actually reading in order to do this.

I’d like to offer up a great title that will do just that – this will be especially helpful with male reluctant readers.

The Audio Version of The Maze Runner

maze runner audio CD

This titles is best for ages 12 to 14 and up. There are some tense and violent scenes.

We listened to this story while on a looooooong driving trip to Mount Rushmore. I was so flabbergasted at the narrator, Mark Deakins! This guy is beyond talented. The story is about a large group of boys living in a strange maze – they are all boys! (OK, there is one girl but, shhhh. No spoilers) I knew who Deakins was portraying even before he added the name tag.

The book is exciting and perfect for boys. I kept saying things like, “This book is great.” “This author is so talented.” “He wrote some very descriptive scenes. I can picture it in my mind clearly.” Focusing on the BOOK.

In my opinion, don’t read along with a paperback or hardcover – enjoy the tale and Mark Deakins’ outstanding narration.

If you are interested, this title has a Lexile of HL770L.

Let’s get those reluctant readers into books! Audio books are a great way to show fiction is amazing!

~ Jenna

FYI – I’m a mom and not a teacher or reading specialist. These are my opinions.

There are many posts about struggling readers to come. Subscribe 

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Recycle Old Sweatshirts

Here is a free doggie sweater pattern. I made it out of one of my husband’s old sweatshirts.

Note – this item is for small dogs or puppies. I have a ten pound shih tzu.

Dog Sweater Pattern

Take an old men’s sweatshirt and lay it flat on the ground. You will only be cutting the arms off the old sweatshirt. Use a garment with a stretchy cuff.

Measure the length of your dog’s back. Cut the sweatshirt arm just a bit longer than the length of your animal’s back. You can always take away more later. Do this at an angle. 

Cut away extra fabric on the under side of the sweater. This will leave extra room underneath to allow for the puppies to tinkle. If you need to cut notches for the front legs, go ahead and do that too.

doggie sweatshirt pattern

Try it on your dog and cut away more fabric to adjust the fit. The entire belly should be fairly open.

If the neck area is too tight (be sure to check this) you can cut away most of the cuff and then a notch.

dog sweater 

If you’ve completely messed this up, start again with the other arm of the sweatshirt. 

You now have something that looks like a cape for your dog. :-)

The sweater will spin if you don’t add a band across the bottom.

Simply take some more fabric from the old garment and sew on a band. No machine required. Just use a needle and thread.

recycle old sweatshirt

Put it back on your dog and see if further adjustments are needed. The doggie’s front legs should go in front of the band. The band should fit somewhat snuggly across their tummy.

My sewing skills are very bad – I didn’t sew down the seems or add embellishments. I’m sure yours will look much better!

pooch sweater

Pooch says – “I like it!!”

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It’s cute and easy!!

~ Jenna

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One Struggling Reader and His Kindle

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Look what we bought the Kiddo. A Kindle!

kindle with special offers


I’m sure he wanted this primarily so he could show off at school. Some of his classmates got Nooks for Christmas. I said I’d be happy to buy him a Kindle but it would be the basic, no frills, no Internet, made for READING, Kindle.

He loves it.

Kindle are great for struggling readers. You can read all my reasons HERE.

The first book we purchased for his new device was Monster by Walter Dean Myers. It has a reading level of 670L or Grade Level Equivalent of 7.1.

Monster Walter Dean Myers

He is already 25% into and enjoying it very much.

~ Jenna

About Me

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Easy Crochet Bow Tie or Bow Pattern

I was playing around with my crochet items recently and decided to share a cute bow tie pattern with all of you. It’s very easy. I would say a beginner could handle this one. I’ve added an edge to this bow. Many others do not. I like the clean look of the edge.

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The following pattern and two others are included in my pattern book – Easy Crochet Bow Tie Patterns. Check it out. You’ll find many variations and project ideas – all easy!

To purchase all the patterns and download them to your computer, MAC, Kindle Fire, or smart phone  – first download the free Amazon Kindle app by clicking HERE. Then pull up the ebook  HERE. Viewing this ebook on a regular Kindle with grey eink will result in poor picture quality. It looks great on my computer.

You can get the pdf file or HTML version on Smashwords click HERE.

Easy Crochet Bow Tie Patterns

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How to Make a Crochet Bow Tie.

The size of hook used is up to you. The bigger the hook, the larger the bow.

chain 31

Chain 31 (I used a G/6 hook) You can also increase and decrease the size of the bow by the number you chain. Smaller – 21 or 26 chains. Larger – 36 or 41 chains.

double crochet

Double crochet (DC) in 4th chain (ch) from hook and then all the way across.

Ch 4 and turn.

double crochet chain one

DC in 2nd DC from hook, ch 1

Skip the next stitch and *DC and ch 1. Repeat from * across until end.

mesh stitch crochet

This makes a box or mesh stitch.

Ch 3 and turn

double crochet in chain space

DC in the 2nd stitch from hook. You will be DCing on top of the DC columns and also in the chain space. The image above shows what I mean by a chain space.

double crochet row

DC all the way across.

Make sure your last DC of the row is in the 3rd ch stitch of the row beneath.

You should have a band with 14 boxes/holes.

Side note – This pattern can easily be modified to make a headband, scarf, etc.

turn the corner

When you are at the left corner, ch 1 but don’t turn the piece over. Single crochet (SC) around the left edge of the piece. (see above image)

This part won’t show in the finished product so there is no need to be exact.

When you get to the next corner, add a ch 1 as you are rounding to keep things loose and prevent the corner from curling. Again, no need to be exact. This part will be folded under.

sc across original chain

You should now have your band upside down. You are back to your original chain. (see above image.) Single crochet all the way across. This part will show so try to insert your hook at a consistent location. This will made the edge of the bow look sharp and uniform.

Turn at the next corner and add a ch 1 to prevent curling. Remember, the short edges will not show.

Turn the next corner in the same fashion – by adding a ch 1 at the corner.

sc across row of dc

Now SC across the row of DC. (see image above.) You should have gone all the way around the piece with SCs.

Slip stitch in the last DC of the row (insert hook and pull the yarn through both loops.)

fold narrow ends together

Fold the piece together. (above image.) The narrow ends are together and the right side is facing out.

sew ends together

Stitch together the two ends – loosely! Insert your hook into both sides, yarn over and pull all the way through. This won’t show, no need to be perfect.

Ta da! You’re done!! Move the joined ends to the back. Pinch in the middle to form the bow.

crochet bowtie one

You can crimp the bow by winding the yarn. (above)

crochet bowtie number two

Or using a strip of chain or single crochet.

You can leave long ends of yarn to use to fasten onto something, add a ribbon, velcro, etc.

These would be fun for baby photos, photo props with dogs or cats, added to a blanket, present, the corner of a baby blanket, pocket of a sweater, etc. You could make them really small and add to mittens, socks, etc.

Here it is with the mesh/box stitch as the first and last row:

crochet bow variety

Isn’t this one pretty? I used a shiney white yarn and laced a pink ribbon through the middle:

baptism blanket and bow

That one would be cute for a baptism or christening blanket.

Want to see more of my crafting ability? (Ha ha) Then click HERE for another post about crocheting!

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Would you like to have this patten in HTML or pdf format? Or would you like step-by-step instructions for these projects -

fancy bow

easy bowtie

crochet bow tie with ribbons


easy crochet headband

easy crochet coffee cozy

They are all included in my pattern book Easy Crochet Bow Tie Patterns.

Easy Crochet Bow Tie Patterns

To purchase all the patterns and download them to your computer, MAC, Kindle Fire, or smart phone  – first download the free Amazon Kindle app by clicking HERE. Then pull up the ebook  HERE. Viewing this ebook on a regular Kindle will result in poor picture quality. It looks great on my computer.

All patterns are creations of Jenna Anderson. The crafts you make from this document may be sold. If you have an Etsy store or participate in local craft fairs, feel free to sell the bows or and them to your handmade scarves, and blankets. They may also be modified and tweaked however you see fit. Let your creativity shine.

You may not resell any of the patterns listed in this document or post them online in part or whole.

~ Jenna

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Weaning Off Mirapex

I’ve recently decided to stop taking Mirapex (Pramipexole) for my Restless Less Syndrome (RLS). I plan to wean myself off of it for various reasons. I’ve heard this process can be quite horrible. Note: I am not a doctor. Do not proceed with any of the advice listed on this blog post or in the comments until you have talked to your doctor.

Post update – read through the entire blog post and comments. Readers have updated us on their weaning efforts.

Mirapex has  – caused me to gain weight, is the type of drug in which the more you take, the more you’ll need, is really expensive even in generic format, and can lead to icky side effects leading to compulsive disorders such as gambling or sexual addiction and other odd behaviors.

Last month I paid about $125 for my monthly Rx. Yuck. One of my sisters recently reached her max dose of pramipexole and was told by her doctor that she couldn’t increase it.

No thanks. Let’s just jump off this wagon before I’m too far down the road.

I plan to wean myself off the RLS medication slowly, very slowly. I currently take one dose of .375 mg a couple hours before bed. I will decrease my dosage by 1/4 pill and take that amount for seven days. I’ll then decrease it by another 1/4 tablet for seven days, etc. I predict it will take me over a month to wean off Mirapex. That is IF I can tolerate being without the medication. I have moderate RLS. I do not get jumpy legs during the day – luckily. It is only at night.


Many times people who have tried to stop taking RLS meds fail due to: awful rebound, depression, anxiety, etc. One person stated online “It is one of the most brutal events I’ve gone through in my life.”

Great. And doctors continue to prescribe this??!

I plan to try some or all of the following to help me wean off. I also hope that life after Mirapex will be somewhat tolerable. I do not want to replace this med with Requip, Sinemet or any other Rx.

** Have you stopped taking prescription medication for Parkinson’s or Restless Leg Syndrome? What natural remedies have you tried (that worked)?

I will…

1. Cut down on sugar and caffeine. If I can eventually give these up all together I will.

2. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. (Be careful not to overdue the exercise – I feel there is a tipping point in which too much activity can aggravate you muscles and legs.)

3. I will avoid Viactiv vitamin supplements - holy crap, those things make my RLS go off the charts.

Note: if you are taking SSRI antidepressants these can make your RLS worse. Google it, read up on the kinds that are involved.

4. I will take a slow release iron supplement. (Again, see your doctor, too much iron can kill you.)

5. In the evening I will eat foods that increase dopamine levels. These include: almonds, avocados, and bananas. These aren’t necessarily the best on the list – you can see lots of good options and info HERE. A reduced amount of dopamine is thought to be one of the causes of RLS.

6. I will investigate sleeping with my legs raised.

7. At night I will make sure my skin is not dry and itchy. This can lead to twitches. Once they start… you’re sunk. There are various anti-itch or itch relief lotions out there. I will give them a try.

8. Wear tight leggings to bed. Some people use ace bandages.

9. Have ice packs and heating pads available in case I need them. Temperature changes are said to help relieve episodes.

10. Get up and walk around, massage my legs or convince the hubby to help with that. :-)

11. Avoid using antihistamines such as Benadryl, contact or a sleep aid or cold remedy. These pills make me sleepy, but also make my RLS worse.

12. Try to find a doctor in my area who knows about this syndrome and seek his/her advice.

13. Investigate Iron Infusion therapy. Some people feel RLS may be caused by decreased iron levels. Some researchers have found that normal blood tests do not indicate an issue – things are fall into a normal range – but post mortem autopsies on RLS sufferers have shown that there is an issue. I’ve read that the iron supplements may not work for severe cases and an IV infusion is needed. I think more research needs to be done on this. I hereby donate my body to science in the name of RLS research… once I’m dead.

14. I’ve heard one of the withdrawal symptoms of Mirapex is anxiety. I will purchase some lavender and chamomile aromatherapy to help combat this.

Is there life after Mirapex? Can I do this? I have no idea. To tell you the truth I’m very nervous. I feel like an addict facing heroin rehab.

I will update this blog post over time and check in.

Wish me luck.

My Experience

Update – I tried to wean myself after this initial blog post and gave up. it was just too hard. The RLS was too bad at night.

Update 7/17/2012: I’m trying to wean myself again! I can do this. Positive attitude.

Current dosage = .25 a couple hours before bed. This is 1/3 my prescribed dose.  Actions = vitamins (Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc and slow release iron) right before bed, exercise, no caffeine after 11:00 a.m., and eating food to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Just after lunch I am taking a B-Complex, C, and D vitamin.  Results = Sleep has been fine, a little more twitching in the night, but not too bad. I think I am more crabby and irritable during the day. I hope this will go away.  Plan = I will stay at this dose for a few more days then drop it down again. I will also stay with the diet and supplement routine and try to increase my exercise.

Update 7/25/12 – I am now taking only 1/2 of my prescribed dose. My legs get jumpy between 7 – 8:00 pm and then again starting around 4:30 or 5:00 am. Taking the C, B-Complex, and D vitamins during that day has really helped my mood. Body aches are going away AND I can stay up later – no more falling asleep an hour after taking my meds. Whew. That’s a nice perk. I haven’t noticed any change in my weight or appetite though. Next step is to cut the dose more. Wish me luck.

Update 7/28/12  – I am now down to only .125 at night. I’ve had a few rough nights of only 4 to 5 hours of sleep. My legs and arms are very twitchy – worse then before I started taking the meds. About the third or fourth night of this lower dose, I was able to sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Not a great sleep. Very odd dreams, etc. But I slept.

Do not take a cross country road trip while trying to wean off Mirapex. Bad idea.

Update 8/1/12 – I did not have any Mirapex last night and let me tell you – that was the worst night of RLS in my life. Severe jerking in my legs that got progressively worse as the night went on. Nothing helped – ice, icy hot, magnesium, valerian root… nothing. I’m pretty sure it is from me coming down off the meds. I hope that after a few hellish nights of this that I will start to see a turn for the better.

I have no idea if weaning helped me. I can’t see that stopping cold turkey could have been any worse.

I’ve heard good things about magnesium citrate (not oxide) and RLS – that it will lessen the bouts, not cure it, but take away some of the intensity. I bought some today.

Update 8/3/12FAIL.

I couldn’t handle it anymore and took some of my Mirapex last night. It had been three nights of very little sleep and increasing legs jerking and movement. Last night they were happening every four seconds and quite strong. They also came on a few hours earlier than previous nights med free. I was very tempted to take some old Oxycodone in our cupboard and decided that wasn’t a smart move. UGH. I opted for the Mirapex.

So today I will be digging for a doctor in my area familiar with RLS. I still want to get off this medicine.

Post Update 2/16/13 – I am still taking Mirapex. I need .375 a night in order to sleep. I’ve decided to wait until the medical community figures out how terrible this medication is. Once they do that, hopefully they will find a way to help people get off of it.

Here is a great Facebook page – lots of support and information. RLS Foundation

If you want to freak yourself out, read this article – Reducing Dosage of Parkinson’s Drugs Can Cause Symptoms Similar to Those of Cocaine Withdrawal Fan.Tas.Tic.

For those of you following my attempt to wean, a couple things to note: I never had issues with RLS during the day or in my arms and the only Rx med I’ve taken is Mirapex. I haven’t tried any of the others. After the issues I had with Mirapex, I won’t try any other Rx meds for this syndrome.

~ Jenna

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Books for Struggling Readers in Second and Third Grade

It’s time for another book list. I am trying hard to take away some of the frustration parents of low readers face. I’ve been there. Trust me – I’m here to help. My son has a learning disability and trouble reading. He was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade.

First – check out the other posts I have listed under Struggling Readers. One in particular has tips on making reading sessions less painful.

Second - Bookmark my website. I have a lot of lists posted and will continue to add more.

Third - Stay positive. You can do this!! The best thing you can do to help your child or student with a reading difficulty is to encourage them, be there for them, and never give up.

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Here is a list of books for kids in lower grades that are at doable reading levels. I have given the Lexile score of each book. This is similar to a reading level. You can find out more about Lexile scores HERE.

I will suggest right off the bat to purchase a few books and allow your child to reread them many times over. This will build reading success. Checking books out from the library is fine, but I feel owning four or five books that the child can return to will do wonders for their confidence. Oh, you say your child’s teacher wants them to read different books? A variety of books? Talk to that teacher. He or she wants your child to succeed. That is the bottom line.

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Hi Fly Guy series by Tedd Arnold

Hi Fly Guy

My son really enjoyed these books and built on his skills by reading these over and over. They are exciting and fun. The Lexile measurements range from 170L to 450L. To over simplify things, the lower the Lexile score the easier a book is to read. There are nine books in this series.

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Tedd Arnold also wrote a series about a monster named Huggly. These are short, cute books that all fall under 290L. This range should work well with kids with reading difficulties.


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I Dare You by Kathleen Keeler

i dare you

Lexile measure = 90L

Not too scary stories for young readers.

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Silly Milly by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

silly milly

Lexile score = 90L

That one looks like fun.

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John Peterson has written a series titled – The Littles. My son enjoyed reading some of these as well. Unfortunately the reading levels are all over the map. Some go as high as 740L. (Let’s not frustrate our little readers, shall we?) Here are a few at lower Lexile ranges that will work well with first, second and third year students:

the littles

The Little Make a Friend - 180L

(Checked the used books section of Amazon or your local book store.)

The Little and the Summer Storm - 240L

The Littles and the Scary Halloween - 240L

The Littles Do Their Homework - 180L

The Littles Go Around the World - 240L

The Little Get Trapped - 160L

The Littles and the Big Blizzard - 170L

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Alien & Possum: Friends No Matter What

alien and possum

Lexile score = 160L

** Remember, do not assume books in the same series or by the same author will be at a similar reading level. You can always look up the Lexile measure of books HERE.

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Phonics Comics: The Misfits

phonic comics

Lexile measure = GN160L

There are many books titled ‘Phonics Comics’. I have not tried these with my son. They are graphic novels. I feel the pictures give young, struggling readers additional clues and help when sounding out words. You can read more of my thoughts and experiences with Graphic novels HERE.

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Alison’s Wings

alison's wings

How about a chapter book? No? Well if the Lexile score is 190L your little reader can handle it – with your help. Just think of the confidence boost he or she will get from reading a longer book!

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Need more? Try these series and pick a few that your child finds interesting.

All Aboard Reading – Level 2 There are over 130 titles to pick from.

I Can Readthese come in levels 1 through 3. ** The search results state there are over 6000 books to pick from. Really? Wow.

Step Into Reading Level 2 – There are three levels and over one thousand titles to pick from.

Hello Reader – Many, many titles (600+) and levels to pick from.

Scholastic Reader – Level 2 – You can adjust the level as well. One example is Supertwins Meet the Dangerous Dino-Robots which has a reading level of 120L.

super twins


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Once your young reader has gained some confidence and skill you can try these books that are a step up:

Nate the Great Series

nate the great

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Girls will enjoy the Junie B. Jones books. These range from 250L up into the 400s. So best to wait until the reader has mastered some skills. OR – read them together.

junie b jones

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That should be enough to get you by. Buy a small pile of them, get the rest from the library. I bet you’ll find the ones you own will soon be favorites of your child. Once he or she knows the story you can build on reading skills involving voice inflection, pausing for punctuation, and speed.

If I find more good ones I will add them.

~ Jenna

I hope you find this blog post helpful. Please consider supporting my blogging time and effort by doing any of your regular Amazon shopping through one of my links.

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