Gunning Daily News

Five Easy Tips to Motivate Your Child to Read

February 27, 2013 5:02 pm

It’s almost here! Read Across America Day on March 1, 2013, is the largest celebration of reading in the country and a reminder that reading never goes out of style—even as books make a move from paper to tablet.

Reading is an important part of childhood development, and should extend beyond the classroom.
Not sure where to start, or how to get your child involved?

In celebration of the National Education Association's Read Across America program, Sylvan Learning is offering five simple tips to jump-start reading in your family and inspire children to develop a lifelong friendship with the written word.

Make it A Habit

Depending on your family's schedule, reading time might be in the morning, afternoon or before bed. Whatever time you choose, stick to it! Consistency is key to building good habits.

Don't Leave Home without It
Bring reading tools with you wherever you go. Having a book, e-book or tablet handy at all times will help your child fit in reading at every chance he gets.

Change Screen Time to Reading Time

Prioritize reading as a free-time activity on a tablet instead of playing a video game or watching TV. Download an audio book or a series of e-books for your child's leisure reading.

Share the Joy of Reading

Reading doesn't have to be a chore. It can be a fun activity. When children are pressured they may read only to please their parents. It is important to help your child find books at the appropriate reading level on subjects that interest them. Once you find books that can pique your child's interest, you may find her reading ahead on her own.

Spice It Up
Any subject, no matter how interested your child is in that subject, can begin to feel dry if you focus all of your attention upon it. Offering a variety of texts is especially helpful: read non-fiction, stories, fables, mysteries and also newspapers, e-books and magazines.

"Encouraging children to read helps transform reading from a chore to a treat. Then, this basic skill becomes a learned behavior and an intellectual habit. Among reading's benefits, many research studies have found that children who are read to or who read on their own at home do better in school," says Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., senior vice president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning.


Word of the Day

February 27, 2013 5:02 pm

Inspection.The act of physically examining and testing a piece of property to ascertain certain information.

Q: How Do I Get Help for Remodeling Following a Natural Disaster?

February 27, 2013 5:02 pm

A: The Small Business Administration (SBA) not only assists businesses after a natural disaster, civil disturbance, fires and other catastrophes, it also provides disaster loans to individuals – including homeowners and renters. The loans, which cover uninsured or underinsured losses – are issued after the President or SBA Administrator signs a disaster declaration. Homeowners can then apply for loans up to $200,000 to assist with the repair or replacement of their primary residences and receive loans up to $40,000 for personal property losses. The low-interest loans have terms up to 30 years. To begin the process, applicants must register first with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain a FEMA Registration ID number.

Word of the Day

February 26, 2013 5:52 pm

Improvement. Any form of land development or man-made addition, such as the erection of a building or fence, to enhance the value of private property; also an improvement to publicly owned structures, such as a sewer or road.

Q: Does the Government Offer Assistance with Home Improvements?

February 26, 2013 5:52 pm

A: Yes. Two very popular programs offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) include the Title 1 Home Improvement Loan and the Section 203(k) Program. In the first program, HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family house to cover alterations, repairs, and site improvements. The latter program, which also insures mortgage loans, is HUD’s primary program for the rehabilitation and repair of single-family homes. Loans are also available from the Department of Veteran Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans. The Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loan program, funded by the Agriculture Department, offers low-rate loans to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs. Funds are also available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards. The federal government isn’t alone in its efforts to provide assistance. Local and state governments offer special home improvement programs. Contact your governor or mayor’s office for more details.

For Californians, Homeowner Bill Of Rights Becomes a Reality

February 26, 2013 4:52 pm

Regional Spotlight—The California Homeowner Bill of Rights became law on January 1, so I - a former SoCal resident - thought it would be a good idea to take a look at this new legislation.

According to information from the California Attorney General's Office, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights will ensure fair lending and borrowing practices for California homeowners; is designed to guarantee basic fairness and transparency for homeowners in foreclosure; and could perhaps serve as a model for other states.

Key provisions of the new bill include:

Restriction on dual track foreclosure: Mortgage servicers are restricted from advancing the foreclosure process if the homeowner is working on securing a loan modification.

Guaranteed single point of contact:
Homeowners are guaranteed a single point of contact as they navigate the system and try to keep their homes – a person or team at the bank who knows the facts of their case.

Verification of documents: Lenders that record and file multiple unverified documents will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $7,500 per loan in an action brought by a civil prosecutor. Lenders who are in violation are also subject to enforcement by licensing agencies.

Enforceability: Borrowers will have authority to seek redress of “material” violations of the new foreclosure process protections. Injunctive relief will be available prior to a foreclosure sale and recovery of damages will be available following a sale.

Tenant rights: Purchasers of foreclosed homes are required to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. There are added provisions if a tenant signed a fixed-term lease before transfer of title at the foreclosure sale.

Tools to prosecute mortgage fraud: The statute of limitations to prosecute mortgage-related crimes is extended from one to three years. And the AG can use a statewide grand jury to investigate and indict perpetrators of financial crimes across multiple counties.

Tools to curb blight: Local governments and receivers have additional tools to fight blight caused by multiple vacant homes, from more time to allow homeowners to remedy code violations to a means to compel the owners of foreclosed property to pay for upkeep.

If you would like to learn more, visit

Decoding Cat Behavior

February 26, 2013 4:52 pm

(Family Features)—Cats are known as mysterious creatures. While some of the things they do can be puzzling at times, you don’t have to be a super sleuth to decode your pet’s behaviors.

Steve Dale, certified behaviorist, author and host of “Steve Dale’s Pet World” radio show, has answers for common questions about feline quirks.

What does it mean when my cat rubs her chin and body against me?
A lot of cat owners assume that rubbing is a sign of affection. What we do know is it might actually mean is that your cat is marking her territory. Cats don’t only rub their people in this way – they may rub up against doors, chair legs and the computer on your lap.

Cats have scent glands in their cheeks and sides. So when they rub on something, the cat is leaving its personal mark, depositing pheromones. This lets other cats know that they’ve staked a claim to a particular bit of territory – including you. So in a quirky feline way, it is a sign of affection.

When my cat sniffs something, sometimes her mouth is open and lips are pulled back – what is that about?

The feline sense of smell is much stronger than that of humans. While people have about five million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, cats have about 200 million. Cats also have an extra olfactory organ, called the Jacobson’s organ, located on the roof of the mouth and connected to the nasal cavity. So when your cat gets a whiff of something unusual or especially interesting, she will open her mouth and inhale the scent so it reaches the Jacobson’s organ. This intensifies the smell and gives your cat more information about whatever she is sniffing.

I’ve heard that spaying or neutering cats makes them lazier – is that true?

Spaying and neutering can help cats live longer lives, prevent unwanted litters and reduce territorial behaviors. However the hormonal changes that come with spaying and neutering can cause an up to 20 percent increase in appetite and an up to 30 percent decrease in metabolism. These changes mean that spayed or neutered cats are almost 3.5 times more likely to be overweight than other cats, putting them at an increased risk for obesity. Feline obesity is an epidemic and can eventually lead to other health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis and non-allergic skin conditions.

Financial Considerations beyond the 'Fiscal Cliff'

February 26, 2013 4:52 pm

(BPT) - With the agreement reached at the eleventh hour of 2012 to avert components of the so-called "fiscal cliff," nearly all taxpayers will be affected in some way.- With that in mind, there are still many things you can do this year to prepare for potential additional tax changes and to take control of your financial situation.-

Below are 10 options from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for you to consider as you prepare for your financial future in 2013 and beyond.

1. Consider an IRA-qualified charitable distribution.

People 70 1/2 and older, who are required to take minimum distributions from their traditional IRAs, may give up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs to qualified charities. This will satisfy the required minimum distribution, or RMD, requirements and no taxes will be due on the amount of the contribution.

2. Know your tax bracket.
Now that tax rates are higher at some levels, it's more important than ever to know which tax bracket you fall into. Ask your financial representative and accountant about strategies to keep your taxable income at a reasonable level.

3. Consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.
Given current historically low federal tax rates, you may want to consider locking in now and paying taxes while rates are low for most people. If you choose to convert later, you may be doing so at a higher rate.

4. Look closely at your 401(k) contributions.
You may want to consider making after-tax Roth 401(k) contributions, due to the low tax rates. Conversely, higher-income earners may want to focus on making pre-tax 401(k) contributions to decrease their taxable income.

5. Consider investing in municipal bonds.

The interest earned on municipal bonds is generally exempt of federal income tax and can help to diversify your overall portfolio.

6. Consider cash value life insurance.

In addition to protecting your family financially after you die, fixed cash value life insurance also can help you reach your broader financial goals while you're living by helping you to diversify your assets.

7. Understand the benefits of inherited IRAs.

They can help your beneficiary take distributions over the maximum period allowed by federal required minimum distribution (RMD) rules, and give your assets the potential to continue to grow tax-deferred for your heirs.

8. Consider harvesting long-term capital gains.

Sell eligible assets while top tax rates for most taxpayers on long-term capital gains is just 15 percent.

9. Consider using unneeded life insurance and annuity contracts to pay long-term care insurance premiums.

The exchange may be free of federal income taxes and help preserve your estate and way of life. This is especially important to households hit by the 3.8 percent Medicare surtax and higher income tax rates.

10. Review your financial and estate strategies
Based on history and our debt situation, it's likely federal (and state) income tax rates will increase sometime in the future. Review your financial and estate strategies and take appropriate actions now that estate law is permanent.

5 Ways to Update Your Bathroom for Less

February 25, 2013 6:14 pm

“These days,” says California bathroom designer Ted Reedy, “you can spend $15,000 or more to remodel an outdated bathroom. But while a trendy bath appeals to buyers and ultimately adds value to your home, you can achieve a fresh new look and improve functionality while spending whole lot less.”

Reedy suggests five ways to improve your old bathroom without spending any more than you need to:

Reface vanity/cabinets –
You can give bathroom cabinets and/or vanity a whole new look by refacing – not replacing – the old, tired-looking front surfaces. Refacing will cost just a third of the replacement cost and add new life to the room.
Add a stylish sink - Consider an integrated sink, which has no edges or hangovers from the countertop to the sink, or a bowl sink, which sits above the countertop, for between $150-$500. Even installing a shiny new chrome faucet and/or porcelain handles can be a smart and stylish small investment.
Change the lighting – Improve your bathroom’s look and feel by replacing those glaring overhead lights. Accent lighting, such as canister lights installed in the ceiling, or track lighting installed over the sink, will improve functionality and appearance at a very reasonable cost.
Update the flooring –Replacing vinyl tiles or linoleum with porcelain, ceramic or natural stone tiles is a cost-effective and savvy investment. Choose simple tile designs you can install yourself or have professionally installed.
Change the shower head - Turn your shower into an oasis you will enjoy by updating your shower head with a rain head. They can cost as little as $100 and the small investment can be a real turn-on to buyers when the time comes to sell.

Caring for Your Pets and the Home You Share with Them

February 25, 2013 6:14 pm

Since February is Responsible Pet Owner's Month, I will wrap up our series on taking the best care of your pet, while keeping your home free of all the damage pets may provide, along with all that wonderful companionship!

A recent post on takes a look at the damage a pet can render to your garden and landscaping. The feature, which is not sourced, offers these tips to protect your outdoor space from pet damage:

1. Install a Trellis - Perhaps you could use a trellis for plants that climb, such as peas? Installing a trellis immediately after crops have been planted in the soil can help to protect the plants. Essentially, a trellis works to keep animals out and away from an area, but can simultaneously look attractive in a garden.

2. Leave Mulch in Place
- It is a good idea to use small patches of soil to rake back mulch. Interestingly, bare soil is most attractive to animals, so if you cover soil with mulch, you are taking a positive step to protecting your garden from pet damage.

3. Layer Well-Branched Sticks on Garden Beds - The use of even a few well-branched sticks on your garden beds can help to deter dogs and cats. It is best to layer the branches so that they are overlapping and that the garden bed is lightly covered. Having said this, ensure that you don’t use so many sticks that it ends up preventing light from reaching the soil. When your crops are sufficiently large that they risk becoming tangled in the wood, it is likely that your pets will not be so interested in the garden beds. At this time, it is fairly safe to take the sticks away and perhaps even use them for firewood.

4. Work Out Why Your Pets Are Destroying Your Garden Beds
- It is not uncommon for cats to dig up plants and destroy garden beds, because they think the loose soil will make a perfect litter box. If this is relevant to the destruction happening in your garden, you could consider building your cat a sandpit so that they may freely scratch and dig!

5. Use a Natural Dog Repellent - Florists, horticulturalists and gardeners have long been aware and made use of natural repellents to protect plants from creatures causing damage. Natural dog repellents have the advantages of not causing harm to dogs or plants, as well as being inexpensive and easy to use. There are a number of different natural dog repellents that can be applied to deter a dog from damaging your garden.

When it comes to protecting your property, says taking a number of simple steps can help protect your garden from damage that is commonly caused by pets.