Book Review Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Did I create a monster?

About a month ago I was working at my school’s Scholastic Book Fair and had some time to peruse the cases (honestly, for like the 100th time, I have an addiction). Somehow, for only the first time I ran across this book–

And a $5 price tag?–Win/win!

So, here’s my thought–sure, some of it may be over her head (I’m sure she doesn’t know 1/2 the people on the cover) or some stuff she may not be interested in, but for 5 bucks? There’s got to be something in this book that my 7-year-old will like. So, I sent a picture of the book to my husband, he seconded my idea, so I bought the book.

When I gave it to her that afternoon, I told her it could be a “car book” (Yeah, I had just made it up). It was a book that would stay in the car so she would have something to look at on short and/or long trips. From my perspective, it would also give her something to focus on in the car so I could listen to my music instead of Kids Place Live.  She was excited and went straight to reading it, and I went straight to listening to some 90s R&B. When we got home and pulled into the garage she said, “So mom, I can’t bring this book in the house?…Then can I stay in the car?” Put one in the win column for mama! Don’t worry, I didn’t leave her in the car.

So, here’s where the monster part comes in. Since she’s getting all this new information, the focus has become sharing all this information with me or her father, completely backfiring my plan for me to reconnect music like in the car while she enjoys her book in silence.

“Mom look, did you know this book has sign language?”

“Dad, did you know the state bird for Illinois is the Cardinal?”

Our latest conversation has been about Presidents. Since my husband is a Social Studies teacher, my child has decided she needs to quiz him on his knowledge of American Presidents.

“Dad, did you know Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President?” “Dad, who was the 21st President?”  I could go on and on, because she goes on and on…Now for the most part, he’s been a good sport about it all and will play along with her.

Even this morning, over a month after she first got her “car book”, she’s still getting new information from it. Although I focus my attempts at #raisingreaders at nighttime, I’ve discovered that reading in the car actually works too!  You have to get it in wherever you can. So, did my “car book” purchase give me the time to enjoy the music I enjoy? Not as much as I wanted. But was it worth the $5 spent? Definitely.

Did you know Hellen Keller was born on June 27th? Thanks to her, I do!



Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Raising Readers AND Kind people

Initially, in the aftermath of the election, my plan was to write a post that would take readers’ minds off the election and would have nothing to do with that current event. However, in my failed efforts to NOT read things election-related, I had a realization. Regardless who you voted for, one thing I like to think all parents want is to raise children who are kind. And there are a couple of things that I read that caused me to refocus my energy in that direction.

One of the many advantages of raising readers is that there are times you can let books help you do the talking you cannot or don’t know how to do. There are conversations that I didn’t (and probably still don’t) think I was ready to have with my 7 year old; however, current situations will require them sooner rather than later. So I came across this blog post from the wonderful website, where the author suggests using books to navigate difficult topics. Well duh, why hadn’t I thought of that before? Maybe I had, maybe when I happened to read Llama Llama and the Bully Goat, we happened to have those conversations about bullying. The difference here is that she was intentional, and that was something I hadn’t done. The author even gave some title suggestions, and even though most of them were not books appropriate for my 5 and 7 year old, it did spark my curiosity to find books that were.

So luckily, teacher and author Pernille Ripp writes a blog. And in that blog there’s a post about picture books that teach kids empathy–perfect! You can look at these great titles yourself here, but one of my favorites by one of my favorite authors (Jacqueline Woodson) is on there, so if you’re looking for a place to start, here’s a good one:


So, I’ve decided I’m going start this tedious journey with my daughter, and I’m sure it’ll be a bumpy one, but I’ll let you guys know how it goes. And by all means, if you have ideas or suggestions on how you’ve used books to teach difficult topics with your children, feel free to comment below and let me know. In the meantime–


Book Review Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Quote and guest blogging

I saw this quote on Twitter the other day and it resonated with me and particularly my journey with my son, who is just learning to read. You can read more about my journey raising readers at my guest blog post here with Book Review Mama.


Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Ok, don’t turn the TV off…but maybe turn the channel

As a first time parent back in 2009, I of course tried to not allow my infant daughter to sit in front of the TV. I remember my mother laughing at me because I would turn my 2 month old around every time her barely stable head would turn toward the television, convinced that even a few seconds of her staring at the screen would cause serious damage. Now eventually, after a few years and a second child, I came to realize that if I wanted a few minutes to myself (don’t judge me), I actually could get them if I turned on one of their favorite shows.

Now, I do try my best to monitor what they watch, and there are some shows they don’t watch, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, mostly because I once read an article that basically said watching that show made preschoolers lose brain cells. That I can’t have. So like many other kids their age, they spend much of their TV time watching the Sprout and Disney Jr, with a little PBS thrown in as well.

One of my kids’ favorite shows is Disney’s The Lion Guard, a TV show series that is an extension of the classic movie The Lion King, with cameos from many of the characters in the original movie. So, when my son got his new book in the mail from National Geographic Little KIDS, he instantly made this connection to my husband:


“Dad, it’s like Timon from The Lion Guard!”  Yep, that’s the Timon of “Hakuna Matata” fame.

So as I’ve shared before , I’m all about the connections my kids can make with books, especially when I don’t force the connection. So this made me really happy, but just as exciting was when they read the book before bed that evening…

Daughter: “I wonder what meerkats eat?”

Son: “I know what they eat, ’cause on The Lion Guard Timon eats bugs!”

Dad turns the page of the book and guess what? Meerkats eat insects! Who knew?

Now if that doesn’t make me say “Hakuna Matata”!

As an educator, I’ve known for a while that what happens at home can greatly help or hurt a child’s progress at school and that the better a child’s background knowledge and vocabulary the better head start they have. Once I became a parent though, I realized just how easy it could be to help kids get that head start by doing things like talking to them about the different vegetables in the grocery store or reading to them each night. But, as I said earlier, I also understand how difficult it can be to get things done with a crying infant or a preschooler begging for your attention.

So what I’m suggesting from my attempt at raising readers is that if you really want to do laundry solo or read a magazine uninterrupted, just make sure to turn the TV channel to Wild Kratts or Doc McStuffins, or apparently even The Lion Guard before you start.  Just think, you will be helping your child make connections and grow as a reader in ways you don’t even realize and getting the dishes washed at the same time!

*Side note: recently, a student was reading a book about an aquarium to me at work and we were working on the word tentacles and then discussed how they were attached to jellyfish and they sting. He then said to me, “Yeah, ’cause on Spongebob the jellyfish can sting…”. Maybe its not so bad? Mmmm…




Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers

Tried and true tactics?…Not so tried and true

One tactic I use to try to get my children into books is giving them books that coincide with their favorite movies and/or television shows. Now I’ll be honest, these usually aren’t the most interesting or original storylines, they are often just the original script regurgitated, nothing they haven’t seen before. But again, I’ll do just about anything to get them excited about books.

Now that I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter who is a pretty good reader, I also occasionally try the tactic of having her read to her 5-year-old brother. First of all, its cute, like Facebook-post worthy cute.


(See aren’t they adorable? And yes, it was Facebook worthy a couple of years ago.)

Secondly, because I want him to witness her as a reader and want him to want the same for himself. And third, because its good practice for her.

So, I thought I was a genius and tried to combine those two tactics (book from movie and partner reading) together…nope, nada, bad idea.

Thanks to my day job, I am obsessed with Scholastic Reading Club, so I ordered a 2-in-1 book based on the movie The Secret Life of Pets. After I looked through it, I figured it was short enough that she could read it to him. (Also, in all honesty, I also realized I hadn’t bought a book for her, so I had to figure out how to prevent sibling drama.)

Here’s my proud mama purchase

When I picked up my son after school, he saw the book in the front seat right away and immediately asked to see it (yay!). On our way to pick up his sister, I let him know that I thought it would be a book his sister could read to him, and he was on board (yay again!).

So when she got in the car, I told her about the book and what her role was going to be. Right away she says, “I want to read it to myself first”. Ok. I really can’t be mad at that, its good practice. At the very least, I personally like to at least look over a book before I read it to students or my own kids, so I decided to be patient. My son, not so much. At least twice on the way home I heard, “You’re supposed to be reading to me!”, and it wasn’t a super long drive.

By the time we got home, my patience was disintegrating, so when we got in the house my directions were “Both of you sit on the couch and you read to him!” (Sounds real inviting, right? Surely that would make you want read, wouldn’t it?)  So they begin, and it’s cute, but not quite Facebook cute, like, I won’t even post my picture of it on here. That should’ve been my first sign…

‘Cause then I get a phone call, and I make the rookie mistake of thinking I could answer it and hold an uninterrupted conversation with an adult….and this is what the book looks like now…

Yeah, that’s the inside of the book now on the outside. And like key pages too, from right smack in the middle of the book.

So, the book has been demolished within 90 minutes of it being in their little hands. But, the two of them are having a ball doing whatever they are doing now, screeching and running around the living room.

My learnings from this? Stop being so forceful in trying to create these idyllic situations between the two kids. That picture from a few years ago? I didn’t make them go outside to read, it just happened. My tactics? Still valid and still effective…just maybe not together.