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Celebrate National Family Literacy Day!

This Friday, Nov. 1, is National Family Literacy Day, and kicks of National Literacy Month. It was first designated in 1994 in order to raise awareness of the importance of family literacy. By encouraging and educating parents and caregivers, National Family Literacy Day aims to instill a lifelong habit of reading in children. 

Studies have found that the earlier parents become involved in their children’s literacy, the longer lasting its effects will be. Parental literacy participation is also a known predictor of a child’s achievements in his or her adolescence and adult life. 

If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate National Family Literacy Day, look no further. We’ve come up with a handy list your family will love.

1. Plan themed family reading nights.
Reading can be an incredibly engaging experience, so why not try making it more interactive? Build a “spaceship” fort in the living room while reading books about astronauts, or pitch a tent in the backyard when you read stories about nature. The entire family will get a kick out of immersing themselves in the story, and it will make your kids excited to read.

2. Have your older children read to their younger siblings.
This is a great opportunity for your more advanced readers to explain larger words or break down summaries to their siblings. They can take turns reading sentences or chapters so everyone has a chance to improve their reading skills. This not only helps your children’s minds grow, but it also is a great way for them to bond as siblings.

3. Read books “popcorn” style.
Choose a book for the family to read together, then start reading a few pages at a time. The reader then picks another family member at random to read the next pages. It keeps everyone engaged so they’re prepared to be called on to read. Pop a bowl of popcorn to enjoy a fun-themed snack.

4. Call in long-distance family.
If your kids have grandparents or other relatives out of town, consider calling them or video-chatting them to read to your kids. Your kids will get a kick out of hearing from their loved ones, and your relatives will likely be thrilled to be involved in your kids’ reading development. Simply call them beforehand, and agree on a book you can both pick up from your local library so your kiddos can read along.

5. Read a book, then watch the movie.
Most people tend to say that books are better than their movie adaptations, so test out this theory with your family. Read a book together, and later watch its movie version. Afterward, you can discuss the similarities and differences, and take a family vote on which version was better.

Reading as a family is one of the best ways to grow closer together. Both you and your kids will look forward to evenings spent engrossed in a story. It sets them on track to be lifelong readers, which is a skill that will help them in more ways than one.

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6 Health Benefits of Meditation

If you’re looking for an easy and inexpensive way to improve your everyday life, look no further than meditation. Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. For centuries, people have been preaching the benefits of meditation. Keep reading to learn about some of the best advantages you’ll receive from frequent meditation.

Meditation can reduce stress.
Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people meditate. It has been scientifically proven to decrease stress levels, especially in those with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research has also found that meditation can alleviate stress-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. 

Meditation can help your mental health.
Many types of meditation can promote a more positive self-image and an improved perspective on life. Studies have shown that meditation has the ability to decrease levels of depression in adults. It often reduces inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress and can cause feelings of depression.

Meditation can improve your attention span.
If you have trouble focusing at work or school, consider trying out focused-attention meditation. It’s been proven to increase the strength and endurance of your attention. Researchers have found that not only can mediation help with maintaining attention, but it can also help with recalling specific details such as assigned tasks.

Meditation can help you sleep.
Many people struggle with falling or staying asleep at night. If this sounds like you, meditation may be able to help. A study comparing two groups, one that meditated before bed and one that didn’t. Researchers were able to determine that participants who practiced meditation were able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than their non-meditating counterparts. Meditating before bed relaxes muscles and redirects thoughts that can keep you up at night.

Meditation can decrease blood pressure.
People who struggle with high blood pressure can benefit from frequent meditation. High blood pressure forces your heart to work overtime to pump blood, which can lead to its poor function. Many different kinds of meditation have been proven to improve blood pressure. It relaxes your nerve signals that coordinate your heart function, tension in your blood vessels and the “fight-or-flight” response that increases your body’s awareness of stressful circumstances.

Meditation can fight off memory loss.
Memories are the most precious things you carry with you. In order to keep them fresh, consider periodic meditation. There are forms of meditation specific to memory recall, such as Kirtan Kriya, which has shown improvement in people’s ability to perform memory-related tasks. Meditation can also aid older participants’ mental quickness, improving their memory long term.

There are so many benefits to be found through meditation. It can improve both your mental and physical health. Meditation is accessible to anyone and requires no financial commitment. Try out different forms to find which fits your preferences best, and be prepared to see an upgrade in your quality of life.

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Acts of Kindness You Can Do This Fall

The season of giving is quickly approaching, so why not get a head start? Performing kind deeds is a great way to help others and make yourself feel good. A random act of kindness can turn someone’s day around. Since the weather is cooling down, you can add a little sunshine and warmth to a stranger with these simple ideas. 

1. Rake someone’s leaves.
Consider any of your neighbors or relatives that aren’t as mobile as they used to be. They could probably use some help clearing their yards of fallen leaves. Do know someone with young kids they’re constantly running after? He or she would likely greatly appreciate you taking the time to rake the heaps of leaves in the front yard. Raking leaves helps others, and it also is a great way to get some exercise, making it a double-whammy activity.

2. Go on a clean-up nature walk.
Fall is a fantastic season in which to spend time outdoors. The air is crisp, the leaves have turned beautiful colors, and the temperatures are perfect. Consider taking advantage of the beautiful weather by going on a walk through nature. You could bring a trash bag and a picking tool to clean up garbage along the way. By doing so, you’d be keeping your community clean and getting to soak up the beauty that autumn has to offer. 

3. Write an encouraging note to a loved one.
If you know someone who’s been struggling with a dilemma lately, try sending them a thoughtful note. You telling them you care about them will go further than you might think. Consider writing it on fall-themed stationery for a fun touch. Words of affirmation are incredibly powerful, yet incredibly simple, ways to spread some kindness. Either write them down, or say them to you someone you care about, the next time you feel like brightening someone’s day.

4. Help out at your local community center.
Many community centers host fall activities like craft nights or storytimes. Think about offering a helping hand at its next event. You’ll meet new people from your area, and you’ll likely have a good time doing it. Your community center will greatly appreciate you taking time out of your day to help others around you. 

5. Drop off food at a food pantry.
If you have a backyard garden, consider taking some fresh produce to your local food bank. The pantry will be thankful for your gracious donation, and so will those who frequent it. You’ll feel good knowing the hard work you put into your garden is helping people in need.

6. Make a meal for your neighbor.
Few things show you care quite like a home-cooked meal. Try bringing a yummy fall dish to your neighbor next time you feel like doing something kind for others. You could also invite them over for a meal. It’s a great way to get to know a new neighbor or grow closer to friendly one.

Fall is a great time to show others you care. These simple acts of kindness can go a long way in the eyes of others, and they can make you feel good, too.

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Creative Halloween Fundraising Ideas

October has arrived, which means Halloween is right around the corner. It’s the time of year to get creative, whether that be with your costume, your decorations or your fundraisers. According to The Balance, “Halloween retail spending was estimated at $9 billion in 2018.” Therefore it’s a fantastic time to fundraise. People tend to be in the spirit, excited for a night of sweet treats and fun friends. 

Stumped on creative inspiration? We’ve got you covered. Check out our list of Halloween fundraising ideas for your favorite nonprofit.

1. Pumpkin Carving Contest
There isn’t a Halloween tradition quite like carving jack-o-lanterns. It’s an activity that’s fun for all ages, and it can be as simple or intricate as you’d like. You’ll need to supply the pumpkins, carving tools and patterns. Try asking a local pumpkin patch if they’d like to be a sponsor and donate some pumpkins. Charge guests an entry fee that gets them one pumpkin per person, as well as refreshments, and you’ll be set for a successful event.

2. Halloween Facebook Auction
If you don’t have little ones to take trick-or-treating, spend your Halloween evening hosting a Facebook auction. People can bid on items like decorated gift baskets or event tickets while they wait for trick-or-treaters. Ask employees of your chosen nonprofit, as well as friends and family, for item donations. 

Facebook auctions are simple to set up. As the coordinator, all you need to do is post items with their minimum bid amounts, and set a time for it to begin and end. Then, spread the word! Bidders will send you a Facebook message of the item they’re interested and their maximum bid. Once it’s finished, you’ll let the winners know their prizes. 

3. Costume Contest
A costume contest is a great way to let others’ creativity shine. You can choose to make yours adults only or all ages. Designate prize categories like Best Couple’s Costume or Most Accurate to a Character. You can find sponsors from local businesses to donate prizes for each category. To raise more than just entrance fees, consider adding an activity like a dance competition or a silent auction. 

4. Jar Guessing Game
Start by filling jars with items like candy corn or spooky bouncy balls, and place them inside your nonprofit or another local business. Charge people per their guesses of how many are in each jar. Winners can receive the jar’s contents or another prize of your choosing. Just make sure you get their contact information to notify them if they win!

Halloween is a wonderful time to raise money for a worthy cause. By choosing any of the above options, you can bring people together to celebrate the holiday and keep helping the cause you support.