How to Get Kids Motivated To Read (with pre-K Teacher Lorena Castillo and BCBA Jandy Flores)

getting kids motivated to read featured image

Featuring Jandy Flores, a BCBA and Lorena Castillo, pre-K classroom teacher, this conversation is about getting young kids motived to read. Jandy is known as The Reading Behaviorist on social media and describes her business and charity in this conversation. Jandy and Lorena discuss their professional collaborative relationship and the behavioral-based strategies they use to increase motivation in young children to want to learn to read. Jandy is in a very niche area using behavior analysis to set kids up for reading success by setting up the motivating operations (MO) to do so. This conversation is great for preschool or JK teachers as well as BCBAs working with young children.

Interview Highlights: Getting Kids Motivated to Read

  • Lorena moved to Houston and decided to become a teacher. She started teaching at a private school for 3 years and she was a social studies teacher there. [0:52]
  • Lorena decided to make a change and she moved to public school. She’s been a teacher in the public school for about 13 years and she taught kindergarten and pre-K students. [1:16]
  • Jandy has a bachelor’s degree in business and that’s how she started her professional life. When she changed careers,, she went into a classroom and she started feeling like that’s where she belonged. [1:44]
  • Jandy became an early childhood teacher for children with special needs for about 10 years. It was during those years where she became passionate about the science of behavior and she fell in love with children’s books. [2:11]
  • Lorena recently published a short story about chocolate. [3:18]
  • During Jandy’s teaching years, every teacher realizes how important reading is in a person’s life. Especially when you are in elementary, every subject is based on your reading abilities. [4:32]

“Every subject is based on reading and it’s one of the most important things that kids have to be able to conquer.” — Jandy Flores

  • Lorena is teaching 4 year old kids, whose first language is Spanish. So eventually, as they go from pre-K to kindergarten to first grade to second grade, the expectation is that they transition from being in a bilingual classroom to being in an English only classroom. [6:35]
  • Jandy talks about pairing books with comforting experiences. [9:15]
  • Lorena shares some strategies or activities that she saw the most fruit from in terms of her students really starting to love books, and one of them is pairing books with art. [12:22]
  • Lorena mentioned a book called Antonia. She used the book to model to her students on how to use the clay, how to create the character, the background and all the scenes. It had a great impact on them because as they were working individually trying to make the character with clay, they were talking about the story. [12:52]
  • Lorena also recommends Eric Carle’s books like The Very Busy Spider. [14:00]
  • Lorena also likes to involve the five senses in her strategy. She involves fun activities and experiences that just created an explosion of positive feelings towards the book. [15:53]
  • Lorena also teaches her students about Vincent van Gogh. That helped with their vocabulary, like a four year old whose first language is Spanish, talking about Vincent van Gogh and The Starry Night. [16:40]
  • Another book that Lorena pairs with art is Camille and the Sunflowers. [17:01]
  • Jandy talks about turning books into rewards. [18:09]
  • Jandy’s business, Book Joy Club, is all based on ABA strategies. She recommends bringing books to life by pairing them with things or experiences that are related to the book characters, to the book story or to the book theme. [19:17]
  • Another advice from Jandy is to prepare the child’s environment, make books available to them and talk about books as being important. Have them see you reading, because we are their models and they have to see us reading too, so they can copy those behaviors. Whenever you’re reading aloud, take away anything that could be a distraction to them. [20:55]

“Try new things, new strategies, because really, it’s not about me, it’s not about my style, it’s about how this is going to benefit my students.” — Lorena Castillo

  • Behavior analytic strategies works for everybody. It doesn’t matter the age, the strategies will be effective if you implement them even for older kids. The only thing that you have to change is the reading level. [28:24]
  • Jandy started a literacy charity project called Books for Gambia, in which they sent children books to The Gambia in Africa. They started it back in 2020 and so far they have sent a little over 5,000 books. [34:49]
  • Jandy started the Book Joy Club as a financial support for the Books for Gambia project. It’s a box that children get every month and inside the box there is a book and then there are objects and items that bring that book to life. Those objects are related to the book theme, to the book characters, to the book story. [36:23]
  • The other books that Lorena recommends are Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales and Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle. [40:53]

Meet Our Guests

Jandy is a Professional Development specialist for Early Childhood, Bilingual, Early literacy, Special Education and Cultural Awareness. She is passionate about behavior analysis and in love with children’s books.

photo of jandy flores

“As a behavior analyst, I need to understand that not all rewards work for everybody.” — Jandy Flores

Lorena’s been a teacher in the public school for about 13 years. She’s teaching kindergarten and pre-K.

photo of lorena castillo

“Always connect reading to real life because that really has great results.” — Lorena Castillo

Resources from this episode:

Read the Transcript: Getting Kids Motivated to Read

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Erika Ng

Welcome to the Behavioral Health Collective podcast. A community of behavioral health professionals who are passionate about working together across disciplines to improve client outcomes by valuing collaboration, connection, humility, and evidence-based practices in a variety of behavioral health fields.

The goal of the Behavioral Health Collective is to highlight stories of collaboration between practitioners, the work that they’re doing together, and how thoughtful and ethical collaboration between fields can lead to better client outcomes. 

Thanks for joining me today to dive deeper into stories of professional collaboration.

Great. I’m glad we made it here. Thank you so much, Lorena and Jandy, for joining me today. Again, this is so wonderful. And I’m just so excited to hear more about your professional work and how, first of all, let’s just start with maybe how you got into your respective field. So, Lorena, do you wanna tell me about how you got into teaching and to where you are today?

Lorena Castillo

Of course. Yes. When I recently moved here to Houston, I decided to become a teacher cuz I, my degree is different. I have a degree in communication from Mexico. So when I moved here, I had the opportunity to become a, to become a teacher. I started teaching at a private school for three years. And I was a social studies teacher there.

After that, I decided to make a change and I moved to the, to public school. And I’ve been a teacher in the public school for about 13 years. So I have taught kindergarten and pre-K, and that’s the grade I currently teach. 

Erika Ng

Okay. So the little, the little ones. And Jandy, you were also a teacher, but now you’re a behavior analyst. Just tell me a little bit about your professional career path. 

Jandy Flores

Yes, thank you. Thank you Erika, for having us here. So I have a bachelor’s degree in business and that’s how I started my professional life. But I always felt that there was something missing. And so, when I changed careers at age 30, like it was a little scary changing career at that age, but I did and went into a classroom and I started feeling that’s, that’s where I belonged.

So I was a teacher, our early childhood teacher for children with special needs for about 10 years. And then I went and did a year for older kids, too. And, and it was during those years where I became passionate about the science of behavior and I fell in love with children books. So that’s where it all started.

Erika Ng

Wow. That’s amazing. So a few different I guess both of you have done different things in your professional background, which is pretty, pretty cool. Now how did you first get connected and yeah, where, I guess in what capacity are you working together now? 

Jandy Flores

Well, we met through a common, a common friend, Patty, a friend that we both have.

She introduced us and I guess because we have so much things in common, Lorena and I, we, we became friends. And this has been like about 10 years ago. Right, Lorena? 

Lorena Castillo

Correct. Yeah. 

Erika Ng

Oh, okay. So you’ve known each other for quite a while. That’s awesome. 

And just before we started recording, you mentioned that you were together yesterday celebrating Lorena’s, having your short story published.

So congratulations!

Lorena Castillo

Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, this is, this is a short story I wrote about chocolate cuz my creative writing teacher, she she wanted to put together a book about chocolate, not chocolate. And and she decided to ask different people to write a short story. That’s what I did.

So she’s gonna, she’s gonna publish this book and is gonna have a presentation in Mexico City. 

Erika Ng

Amazing. Which you, you’re going to, right?

Jandy Flores

At the chocolate museum.

Lorena Castillo

There is a chocolate museum in Mexico City and that’s where it’s gonna be presented and that’s where people will be able to find it.

Erika Ng

That is amazing. Okay. I didn’t know that part that was about chocolate and that it’ll be at a museum. That’s incredible. It sounds like a delicious trip you’re gonna have. 

That’s great. So that’s a little bit about both of you and kind of where you’re coming from. I’m curious, Jandy. I guess you’ve kind of touched on this, but how did you get specifically into this niche?

Like obviously reading and books is related to teaching but really into this niche within behavior analysis of wanting young children to get excited about books and increasing their motivation to learn to read. 

Jandy Flores

Well, during my teaching years, I, I guess, you know, every teacher realizes how important reading is in in a person’s life.

You know, especially when you are in elementary, every, every subject is based on your reading abilities. Like if, if you don’t like to read, you’re not gonna do well in Science, you’re not gonna do well in social studies. Because everything, even Math, you have to read a problem to solve it. So every subject is based in reading and it’s like, the, one of the most important things that kids have to be able to conquer, you know. 

So once I realized that and then I started falling in love with picture books cause they’re just great. And then I became passionate about behavior and that’s where everything started coming together. How can I use ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis to help children increase those behaviors that result in the desire of reading that result in children eventually loving books.

And so after I passed my test, the beast, like as I studied, everything started to become more clear as the strategies that we can use in these context of helping children, you know, acquired that desire for reading. 

Erika Ng

That’s awesome. I love that you have found some, such a unique niche that you know, in that early childhood, cuz that will make it so much easier for teachers when students, like when it’s time to actually teach reading, that there is that motivation already there, if they’ve been in classrooms that are employing these strategies. 

Jandy Flores

Exactly. Basically we are creating the MO, motivation. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. That’s so awesome. 

Lorena, tell me a little bit about your classroom and, you know, you mentioned it’s pre-K, so like, how old are your students and what kind of like profile do you have in your class? And then what made you want to use some of Jandy’s strategies? 

Lorena Castillo

Yes. Well, I I’m teaching four-year-old kids and, whose first language is Spanish. So there is a big challenge here, because first they need to learn their own language. You know, these are four-year-old kids who don’t know or don’t have a lot of vocabularies, but Spanish.

That’s, that’s very, I mean, that’s normal. But then, they start at school and I have to start acquiring vocabulary in English and Spanish. So eventually, as they go from pre-K to kinder to first grade to second grade, the expectation is that they transition from being in a bilingual classroom to being in an English only classroom.

And this could be very challenging when students don’t develop reading habits. So I saw, yes, I realized because I had conversations with other teachers in second grade, third grade, and their students, the bilingual students were really struggling. They struggle because of the reading skills.

So I noticed, well, first I thought, what can I do in my classroom when the kids just get, you know, from home to my classroom, what can I do to help these teachers? So I started implementing some strategies to, you know, help them fall in love with books, but nothing really worked as I wished it would’ve. They like books, but they were not in love with books. 

So that’s when I had conversations with Jandy she told me about strategies that she was working on, and she gave me several ideas about how to connect books to the five senses. She gave me ideas about different activities or different books that I could connect with the five senses, hoping that this will help the kids fall in love with books. 

And yes, so I’ve been implementing some strategies and everything is, is working. So maybe we can talk a little bit more about that. 

Erika Ng

Yeah, definitely. 

I mean, that’s so cool that you, I, I love that five senses component, cuz especially for young kids, that’s probably so powerful to be experiencing a book, but in so many different ways. That’s very cool. 

So, I definitely wanna come back to that. First, I just wanna ask though, Jandy, so can you tell me about some maybe starter tips? So even if we back it up a bit further for babies or toddlers, so not even in school yet, I mean maybe in daycare. So this would be applicable to either parents who are at home with their kids or daycare staff.

Any tips for kind of really laying the foundation? 

Jandy Flores

And we’re talking about babies, you know, is first thing we have to do is pair books with comfort. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s the association they’re gonna start creating, kind of like the reward that you don’t have to learn.

It’s already their comfort and food. So you start pairing books with those kind of things and babies are gonna start growing, associating books with, with positive things like the comfort of being on your mom’s arms and her reading a book, listening to your mom’s voice while reading a book, by looking at the book, by smelling the book.

Those all kind of, those kind of associations that we can do with really small kids, like, like starting from infancy. And also I mentioned like pairing it with food, which is one of our I guess we’re born with that kind of reward, you know, is not learned. So yeah, when you’re feeding your baby, read a book to your baby. When they’re eating on their own, have books around. It doesn’t matter if they get them dirty, they, let them interact with the books while they’re eating.

So they’re creating that association from a very, very early age. 

Erika Ng

I love that idea. I had not thought about that and I’m gonna start that today with my baby. So, thank you. That is a great idea. 

And actually, just while we’re on this, I’m curious, hopefully I’m doing the right thing, but what is your opinion if a baby is, you know, you sit down to start reading a book and they close it.

And you know, sometimes, like I’m thinking about my own daughter, she will, she actually does quite enjoy books. Like she’s already shown that she has a few favorites. But sometimes she just closes it and it shows to me like maybe she’s just not into that. And so my thinking is I shouldn’t force that right now, because I don’t want to become an aversive thing.

Would you say that and just like, try again later, like at another time? 

Jandy Flores

And even closing the book is an interaction with book. It’s even better than not even having books around that they don’t have to close to, to say, I’m, I’m choosing not to read right now. So now you are already making books a part of their lives, whether they say, Okay, not now.

They’re already part of their lives. And something that you mentioned, and this applies to all child, children ages is like never force them. We want books to become rewards, right? We never want to punish them by saying, Okay, now you’re gonna go to your room and read a book. You know, it’s like, it has to be, you know, manage the completely opposite way to where we can at some point say, Okay, if you pick up your room, you, you get to read your book.

You know, you put that value in books as rewards.

Erika Ng

So it’s kind of shifting yeah, the motivation there and the, yeah, the value that, of the book. Interesting. Okay. 

So, and Lorena, over to you in terms of some of the strategies that you’ve used. So you mentioned that, you know, using the five senses, what are the top like one or two strategies or activities that you saw the most fruit from in terms of your students really starting to love books? 

Lorena Castillo

Okay, sure. I decided to start pairing books with art cuz that’s something, and you know, pre-k needs to use their five senses for everything, not to develop, find more skills and others. So I started teaching them different mediums to make art. For instance, I taught ’em how to use clay to create characters, clay, plate of paint, markers and other mediums.

So then what I did was I read a book to them and I asked them, Well, which is the scene that you like the most? And they bought it and said, We like this part. So this is a book about Antonia a dog who gets lost in the, in the forest. So they said, We like this. Okay, let’s recreate this scene using clay.

So I model to them how to use the clay, how to create the character and everything, the background and all, all the scene. And this was very, it, it had a great impact on them because as they were working individually trying to, to make to make the character with a clay, they were talking about the story.

They were recalling the scene, so what was said in the story as they were working with, with clay. And that association was powerful because even after we finished the project, they were talking about it. Oh, like you remember the story about Antonia? We made it. The story was about this. So that was the start.

Then we continue with books by Eric Carle. I taught on Eric Carle’s technique, like painting and cutting and everything. So, but first obviously came the book. This is a book about the very busy spider, for example. Now we’re gonna recreate The Very Busy Spider using his technique. And it was the same, I think with every project, they were more and more excited about the books of Eric Carle. 

I continue doing that with other authors and that’s how they were later having conversations about authors. Oh, yes. Remember what the dad with Eric Carle? And you know, just using the names of authors like four year olds. Eric Carle? I’m doing this because Eric Carle.

Oh, remember the story of the, yeah, so those are conversations that they were not having obviously in the beginning of the school year. And and that’s basically what I did this school year. I match, or I pair, I’m sorry, I pair books with art and that what made my students start falling in love with books.

Erika Ng

Interesting. Wow. 

Jandy Flores

So, so, what, so I, what Lorena applied in her classroom was the the concept of pairing something that doesn’t have value with something that does have value. In this case, children love to play with clay. Children love to paint. Children love to get messy. 

And at that point, because they’re emerging learners on loving books, they still don’t, books still don’t have any value for a lot of these kids. So what we do, we pair them with something they do value, and then eventually that book is acquiring the positive value of the painting, of the art, of those fun activities.

And Lorena was involving the five senses. He was, she was involving the the fun activities and, and experiences like real life experiences that just created an explosion of positive feelings towards the book.

Erika Ng

I love that. And I mean, that’s such a great concept that you just explained in such a straightforward way.

And for teachers and be ran, obviously to understand that concept of pairing, for parents to understand the concept of pairing can be so powerful. You know, cuz you can apply it in so many different, different ways. So Lorena, you’ve paired art with the books. Is there anything else that you found really useful?

Any other strategies that you found really helpful? 

Lorena Castillo

Well, it’s basically, just basically that. And I, I, I forgot, I wanted to mention as well that, I started teaching them a little bit about Vincent van Gogh. And you know, that also helped with a vocabulary, like a four year old whose first language is Spanish, talking about Vincent van Gogh and The Starry Night. 

It’s powerful. And that’s what happened when I pair Camille and the Sunflowers and uh, and art. Since they had already all this background about art, they were able to connect with the story with Camille and Vincent van Gogh and feel empathy towards both characters in the book.

And later on I showed them some paintings by Vincent van Gogh, and they actually were able to use the name Vincent van Gogh in that book, you know. And it’s, it’s just very rewarding when I heard them talk about books in that way, like little adults. We know this, we know about him. He did this, he painted The Starry Night, you know?

Yes. So everything, it helped them with that, with the vocabulary, to develop vocabulary, to develop the love for, for, for reading, and yes.

Erika Ng

They’re probably were so proud to like, be able to talk like that. I could just imagine little four year old, like, oh yeah, well let’s talk about artists.

Jandy Flores

And like in classroom, early childhood classroom, what we wanna see eventually, like Lorena she started those kind of projects at. If you can start those kind of projects at the beginning of the year, then later on you can reward children with those kind of activities and immediately turn books into rewards. 

Also what we wanna see in those classrooms is when they have centers or free time, we wanna see more kids choosing the classroom library as, as you know, instead of like maybe going to the iPad station or going to any other station.

Like, we want to see that increase of saying, Okay, I wanna go to the little classroom library to entertain myself, instead of like just being empty during their time.

Erika Ng

Yeah. Yeah. Or when they’re told to go there, you know, versus like choosing it. Yeah. That’s, that’s awesome that you, you know, see those changes happening.

I’m curious, Jandy, do you have any advice for parents or caregivers daycare staff, if there’s kids that are age, you know, two or three that are not really at all showing an interest in, in books? 

Jandy Flores

Yes. Join my Book Joy Club. Well, yeah, because it’s all based on ABA strategies and, and this is what I, I recommend is basically that bring books to life by pairing them with things or experiences that are related to the book characters, to the book story, to the book theme.

And there’s so many, many ways to do this. Like, for example Lorena chose to pair them with art. But if you are going out to the zoo with your kids, bring a book about the zoo, like pair with a real life experience because that book will become it’s very important for the kids because once they grab that zoo book, they will bring back all those memories that happened.

So that is the very first thing I would recommend to parents that bring all books to life in any way. There’s, there’s other books that you can bring them to life by cooking what you see in the book. So there’s many ways, and I actually have professional development presentation about all the ways that you can bring books to life because you can even bring them to life by being an activist.

Like my daughter has a book about composting. So we actually started a compost. So I pair that book to the real compost in the there, and that is like, teach them, you know, this is a way to to not throw that much waste out there in the world, you know, to recylce and all that. So there’s many ways, and that will be like the very first one.

But also prepare their environment, make books available, make, talk about books as they are important. Have them see you as mom or as a teacher. Talk about books. Have them see you reading, because we are their models and, and they have to see us reading too, so they can copy those behaviors. Take away, whenever you’re reading aloud, take away anything that could be distracting.

Like if you’re reading aloud, don’t compete with, I don’t know, your husband making something in the kitchen and you know, like clicking on all the pods or find that quiet place where there’s not gonna be distractions. So prepare. Prepare so they can just focus on your read aloud. So there are like a lot of variables that we can do during that time and, and don’t, let’s also don’t forget about the Premack principle.

I just love it when I use books as as a reward. Like I said before, once you see that your kids are starting to love books and you say, you can say, Okay, first, buckle your seatbelt, then I’ll give you the book, you know? Or things like that where they, where you can start giving the value of a reward to books.

Erika Ng

Awesome. Is that pro-D available like on your website or something, or is that something you deliver live? Your workshop. Oh, sorry. Is your workshop live? 

Jandy Flores

I, I made it available to Region 4 here in Houston. But it’s, it’s also available to my website if you want to like, you know, hear more about it. We can, I can set up like a webinar.

Erika Ng

Okay. Awesome. So that would be something that you might deliver, like you would publish and put out? 

Jandy Flores


Erika Ng

Okay. That’s great. I love those practical strategies and just how, you know, really simple, like it can be, when you think about the principles of behavior and, and getting those in there.

For Lorena, I’m wondering, as classroom teachers, we want to, we have autonomy in our classroom and we have a teaching style. Every teacher’s different in terms of how we want to teach. So was there anything, you know, understanding these principles of behavior that you wanted to apply to reading, what was really important for you to maintain as your teaching style?

Like, I’m kind of trying to hit on the collaboration component here of, you know, here’s this idea you wanna implement in your classroom that Jandy is suggesting. But it’s also important, like if it’s not part of your style, really, you know, it’s important for teachers to maintain that as well. So was there anything that you really felt you needed to do your way or feedback you gave to Jandy and said like, This is not gonna work for this classroom.

I need to do it slightly different. 

Lorena Castillo

Well, the first thing is when, first, having a conversation with Jandy and about in, in her suggestions and strategies. I could I told her, This might not work. They’re too young. What do you recommend? And she will adapt that. Okay, so to for, for my classroom specifically.

Then, I think even some, at a time, maybe I didn’t agree with something, but I was willing to try it. Because even if it was not my style, maybe there’s something different that could, that could have enriched my classroom. Right? So I tried, cuz we talk about using different books through the school year. And one book was about pairing a book with with a sense of smell, et cetera.

And I realized in the middle of, of all that, that that wasn’t working. So I will have to talk to Jandy and say, Oh, this is not really working. What do you recommend? And so, and she will give me new, you know, strategies and I will just bring them to the classroom and I will bring like feedback to her and she will give me new, new new advice, right?

And always considering that even though I thought it was not gonna work, I still had to give it a try because this is, this is what it, what it’s about, right? Try new things, new strategies, and it’s all like the focus, because really, it’s not about me, it’s not about my style, it’s about how this is gonna benefit my students.

So it’s all about the students, you know? Cause for example, I’m not a Science person. I’m not a Math person. But I know I have to implement things that help my students with Math and Science more. See? Because it’s about them. It’s not about me. I will say that, it’s just everything is about the students.

Even if you don’t go with my style, I have to try it cuz it’s about them.

Erika Ng

I love that. Like, that sounds like such a balanced, professional relationship that you had both coming in from a place of, it sounds like professional humility in that, you know, I think I might have something that might work you know, are you willing to try this?

And then you saying like, Okay, I think I’ll give it a try. Like, and then Jandy you also taking feedback like both ways, like that sounded like such a healthy collaboration. 

Jandy Flores

Yeah. And I, like me as a behavioral analyst, I need to understand that not all rewards work for everybody. So that’s something that we had to work on.

Like for example, if I gave her us just, okay, use this book and pair it to a craft. Well, turns out maybe this group kids were not really interested into crafts, so that was not going to work. So we had to find what they really like to use it as the pairing of the book because and, and that’s the feedback Lorena was giving me.

And so it’s like, okay, now try this other thing and try this other thing. Until we find what hits really value, and then we can work from there. And also, I, I remember she gave me really good feedback about sticking to one strategy because it was working. And I wouldn’t have known that if she wouldn’t tell me, because she’s the one in the classroom.

She’s the one implementing all this stuff. So she kept on going, pairing books with art and she would see how much progress her kids were doing. And it, she just said, you know what, I’m gonna stick to it because it’s working. And I was, Yes. You know, this, if it, if it gets, gets us closer to our goal, let’s not change the strategy.

Erika Ng

Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I think Jandy that’s so important for BCBA’s to hear when you’re going in, in a consultative model, to really have that in your mind that the teacher knows the students best. And you know, I’ve had to remind myself that too at times that I’ve been in classrooms that, okay, I might think I know what is best in this classroom, but truly, it’s a teacher that knows the students, knows their preferences, and we need to work together to achieve those goals. 

And like you said, Lorena, it’s really about the students and not about our knowledge or like our professional ego, like how do we help the kids where they’re at and with their preferences and what they find reinforcing. That’s very inspiring to hear that, that story of how you guys have worked together. 

I’m curious, Jandy if for older kids if you find, you know, kids that are into kindergarten or maybe even pre-K, but you know, I asked earlier about like age two or three, so like 4, 5, 6, and they’re still not that excited about books.

Do you have any other additional tips? 

Jandy Flores

Well, ABA works for everybody. You know, like, it doesn’t matter the age strategies will, will be effective if you implement them even for older kids. The only thing that you have to change is maybe the reading level. And just adapt to their interest because instead of like pairing it or I don’t know, grabbing a book about, you know, some kind of cartoons. You will maybe pair it to a comic strip or something like that.

So it’s basically adapting to the child’s age in preference and reading levels. But mostly it’s just the same, the same behavior strategies about pairing books to things that they love. And a lot of, lot of verbal praise or any kind of praise that the kid accepts as encouraging when they show any kind of reading behavior.

Erika Ng

That’s such a helpful tip actually, just about being really attuned to their interests, but the level as well. So you’re not getting older kids who feel like, Oh, I can’t read this, and it’s, but it’s at that grade level, but they can’t, they can’t do that. So making sure there’s a variety of levels of books.

Jandy Flores

And you know what? Let me correct myself on that. Maybe I shouldn’t say reading grade level or reading level is more like a personal reading level because they might be in fifth grade, but they’re reading at third grade reading level, so you’re not gonna give them a fifth grade even though they’re in fifth grade. Because that’s just going to create an adverse feeling towards book because they’re struggling. 

So you have to give them a book that they can easily read independently, so that feeling of accomplishment they can, they can relate to when it comes to books. 

Erika Ng

On that note, do either of you have suggestions for reading series or publishers that have good, like, I think they’re called high/low books, right? Where it’s like high interest, low reading level off the top of your head. Any suggestions? 

Jandy Flores

What do you, what do you mean, like?

Erika Ng

Where it’s like a grade one reading level, but maybe like a grade five or six interest topic?

Jandy Flores

Topics? Well, 

Erika Ng

like I, I, cuz I’ve heard that there’s books where it’s like a low reading level, but they write it for like a grade six male student.

Jandy Flores

Oh, okay. 

Erika Ng

Like it’s about hockey or something, or like, well, that’s Canadian, but I don’t know, whatever they’re, football or something. But it’s at like a grade one level. 

Jandy Flores

Yes, I’ve heard about them. I’ve mostly worked with early childhood most of my professional life, so I’m not very, and everything, like my social media is all about early childhood. But I have read about them and it’s so interested that you mention it because now parents know that there are those options out there.

So like instead of like, if your kid is reading in a second, he’s in fifth grade, but he’s in a second grade reading level, he’s not gonna want to read about, you know, maybe Daniel the Tiger and things like that. But they can, like you said, maybe he’s interested in soccer and they will make books about fifth grade interest in a two second grade reading level.

Erika Ng

Interesting. Yeah, I was just wondering about that. Cause, but you’re right, I guess in early childhood the gap is not as great. Like if you have a four year old who’s not interested in reading, their peers aren’t either reading at a very high level, so.

Lorena, just back to you for a minute. So what would your advice be to other educators who might want to know more and start using some behavioral principles in their classroom to increase the joy of reading like other preschool or daycare educators?

Lorena Castillo

Yes. I will say, first find out what is your student’s interest.

Cause as Jandy said, we also need to, you know, investigate what, what is it that the majority of the kids like? Or if it’s not the majority, maybe we could provide for, for, for all of them through different activities. But I will say, first, find out what is your student’s interest and then start using the strategies. And something else that I, or I know all the teachers in the world face this and it’s how I implement this strategies if I have such a tight schedule.

Or I would say there is always time, because one of the priorities in my curriculum is obviously that the, the four year olds learn letters and sounds. And we did that. We absolutely did that. And then we complimented the activities by creating a book, an alphabet book using different art mediums. And that really connected the students to the letters.

You know, like I had one student, I remember first days of school crying, crying. Well, he adapted to school more, but towards the end of the school year, he will come every day in the classroom and say, Ms. Castillo, I’m so happy. And I’m like, Ooh, why are you so happy? Because we almost get to letter Z. So be, like for him was like, Okay, today we’re gonna do this letter.

I wonder what technique we’re gonna use for this letter. So that was a way to engage him, to make him, you know, feel like school was fun. And then, and he was also learning and just reinforcing the, the alphabet knowledge, you know. So there is always time. You can find a little bit of time here and there and just reinforce the curriculum with something else, with a strategy that will help them fall in love with the learning and obviously with the reading. 

That’s what I will say, and always, always, always connect reading to real life because that really has great results.

Jandy Flores


Erika Ng

That’s great. Yeah, that’s some really good advice as a starting point for, for students.

And I will also link like Jandy your website and stuff, so if there’s teachers that are interested in knowing more from your Instagram or your website also put that in there. 

On that note, could you tell me a little bit about your charity and your other business? 

Jandy Flores

Yeah. Yeah. So we started literacy charity project in which we sent children books to The Gambia in Africa, and we started it back in 2020 because I, unfortunately, had to resign my teaching job for personal reasons.

So I was at home and, and that’s where like, well, I do have all the resources. I know people over there. I know a lot of teachers who sometimes they just want to donate books or give away books. So yeah, let’s do it. So we started and so far we have sent 5,000, a little bit over 5,000 books, and we are about to send another shipment maybe in the next couple of months.

So I’m really happy. I really need, you know, it’s like you start something and, and it’s not, it’s something, it’s a reality where it start, you know, hitting that, wow, it’s, it’s, I’m actually taking action on something, you know? And then I started the Book Joy Club and it, it started for two reason.

I’m, I’m, I’m really a children literacy advocate, and I wanted to create something that would help children start getting involved with books at an early age. So I kind of combined everything because I also needed some kind of financial support for the Books for Gambia Project. And I was like, Okay, I’m gonna try this and a part of the profit, I will use it to pay for the ship, for shipping the books because it’s expensive.

So that was another reason why I started it, and it’s called the Book Joy Club. And it’s it’s a box that children get every month and inside the box there is a book and then there are objects and items that bring that book to life. Those objects are related to the book theme, to the book characters to the book story.

And there’s always some kind of like five senses involved in that box. So you will, children will always find some kind of, a snack or candy or something that is related to the book. So immediately they make that connection to the sense of taste. There’s also sometimes craft activities or things that they can like, play with it in and involve like the sensory part of it.

So it involves the five senses with the book and then related with things that they do like, and that are related to the book. And it offers repeated exposure to books because they get one every month. So now you know, six months into the membership, they already will have in their bookshelves six books that they have personal connections to it.

Parents get a challenge of the month because that way we can keep reminding parents of how important it is for them to promote literacy with their children. So every month they get a challenge, like, I think the June challenge was to take children to the public library at least one time during that month.

So things like that, you know, so we can keep parents involved. So it’s a really, a combination of who I am. It’s I’m, I’m in love with books. I love the behavior part and behavior strategies put into that box, and it’s helping me ship the books to The Gambia. 

Erika Ng

Cool. Wow, that’s very cool. I guess just quick follow up question on that.

So, first of all, for helping the charity side of things, would teachers, cuz I think you mentioned that it kind of came out of teachers just having books that they were getting rid of at the end of the year, right? So do you, do teachers, if they wanna get involved, need to be in the Houston area to do that physically?

Or do you accept donations from elsewhere or like monetary donations? 

Jandy Flores

Yes. Monetary donations are very important because that’s our way to be able to get these books out of here. Right? So that is something that we, we really need support books. I actually have a lot of authors sending books. 

Erika Ng

Oh, awesome.

Jandy Flores

Yes, Yes. If, if you visit our, our Instagram for Books for Gambia, you’ll see a lot of authors sending their books. So they just ship them out to my house and then we’ll ship them out of here. 

Erika Ng

That’s awesome. 

Jandy Flores

Regular, regular people, sometimes it’s expensive if you’re not in Houston to donate books because the shipping, they’re shipping them to me and then. So they can, sometimes they just choose to do monetary contributions.

And at first I was requesting books like I, people that I would know, but like for this last shipment, I did not request one book. Everything just came in from what people are starting to get to know the project. 

Erika Ng

Wow, that’s awesome. Cool. And is there, my last like logistic book or small question would be for your Joy Book Club. What would you say is the age range for those books? 

Jandy Flores

I am putting an age range of three and up. I’m really not, you know, like if you are 15 and you want my books, you can get it. I am not putting a limit. Right? They’re usually picture books. They’re not, it’s not board books, but they are picture books with stories.

Age, maybe three to six years old. And, you know, if, if you have a child that is under three, you can still buy it. It’s just that you have to, sometimes it comes with little parts that could be a choking hazard. So moms just have to like, take those parts away or just really be careful with that.

But yes, that is my recommendation, 3 to 100. 

Erika Ng

Okay. That’s great. That’s so creative. I love that you’ve really just taken your passion and turned it into a business and a charity. It’s very cool. 

And Lorena, I just wanna finish with you. So what are some of your, you’ve mentioned two, what are some of your favorite books you’ve done with your students that they’ve really latched onto?

So you mentioned Antonia and then Camille and the Sunflower. Those were two. Are there any others that really stand out? 

Lorena Castillo

And I wanted to mention that Antonia is actually by a writer, an illustrator from Colombia who is not well known, but his books are amazing. And well, another one is, um, Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales.

That’s another one that we brought to life. And oh, actually, when we brought to life Antonia and Niño Wrestles the World, we, uh, we had a little exhibit in my school and I just put their work on the walls and on tables and parents came to visit the exhibition in the exhibit and I have the students.

Okay, now you explain your parents why we did this and tell them about those stories. So it was, it was a great experience because there you have them, right? Like feeling like little artists, this is my work. Everybody is looking at it. And I just made ’em feel that, you know, that what they did was amazing and they were artists being exhibited for the first time.

Right? So that was, that was an amazing experience that we did with that Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales. One of my favorites by Eric Carle, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me. That really touched their hearts, because it was the love of a father for her daughter, for his daughter. It was amazing.

And I think that’s pretty much it.

Erika Ng

That’s great. I like that. And that’s just, I’ll, I’ll link those as well in the show notes cuz I just think, you know, from one teacher to another, it’s helpful to hear, especially for that age range. You know, if there’s like an early childhood educator listening.

That, that would be great for four year olds. I can just imagine like four, so little, you know, like in the province that I live in, they’re not even in public school yet, like that’s still daycare age. So they’re just so little. So I can just imagine them standing there and like talking about Vincent van Gogh or like, here’s my art for Niño Wrestles the World. So it’s very, very sweet. 

Well thank you so much to both of you for sharing your experience with me and amazing work that you’re doing in your professional, respective professional areas. And also just talking a little bit about the work you’ve done together. So that’s a really key thing for Behavioral Health Collective is how behavioral analysis is being used in interesting ways, like what you folks are doing, but also how we work together across professions.

So I really appreciate you taking the time. 

Jandy Flores

Thank you Erika for having, you know, having us, because this is something that I really want everybody to know, that ABA can be applied in several areas of our lives to improve people’s lives. Reading, there is so much research on how, or on all the benefits that brings into an adult life, so why not use ABA to get to that point, you know? 

Yeah. Absolutely. 

Erika Ng

Well, thank you. And Lorena, congratulations again on your publishing. Looking forward to seeing the children’s book when that comes out too. So all the best at that as well. 

The comments and views expressed in this podcast do not constitute or replace contractual behavior, analytic consultation, or professional advice. Views expressed are solely the perspective of the speaker and do not represent the views or position of their colleagues, employer, or other associates. Please seek out a behavior analyst through BACB website if you’d like to receive further behavior consultation. 

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