Gross sea animals–a bedtime read we loved!

Gross sea animals–a bedtime read we loved!

Every so often I get to read to both of my kids together at night, and every so often I pick a great book for us to enjoy. Two nights ago was one of those times.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re going on a trip to the aquarium, so I wanted to read some books with my kids that prepared us for that experience. They had been looking at books about ocean animals here and there, but here was our most recent book:

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The lovely thing about this informational picture book by Brenda Guiberson is that she doesn’t tell you which creature is the most amazing, the reader gets to decide. And she doesn’t just mention your average whale or shark, no, she introduces you to animals you may have never heard of, like this one:

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And then the animal explains to you why they are the best. We read about everything from animals with blue blood to animals who are as big as a school bus. My kids were amazed by facts on each page, and after I read each one, we decided if it was the most amazing creature, so it created a lot of good conversations between us.

This book isn’t very long, there’s no more than 10 animals to learn about. But it was a hit in our house, and great preparation for our upcoming vacation, I’m just upset that I have to return the book to the library!

(Also, I’m not the only one who thinks preparing for vacation through books is a good idea, check out this post from BookReviewMama.)

#RaisingReaders

Summer’s coming–let’s set some goals! (Tip #1)

Summer’s coming–let’s set some goals! (Tip #1)

So, its that time of year! School is about to be out (if it isn’t already) and summer is upon is. That means time for BBQs, vacations, sleeping in, and if we’re not careful, the Summer Slide.

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This is NOT a slide you want your kids on…

Summer Slide is that little thing that happens if your child doesn’t do any learning over the summer. I know, I know, no learning, how does that even happen? One would imagine that it would be difficult to do, but trust me, its possible.  At any rate, summer is definitely time to make reading fun, and one of the ways to do this is to set some goals!

If your children are even slightly competitive, like my children are, then setting a goal with them may be a shortcut way to get them motivated to read during the summer.  As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter and I are reading the Whatever After series, a hilarious series of fractured fairy tales. We just started reading book 5, and there’s 10 in the series. Now we do really enjoy the books, but we’ve been pretty lax in reading them back to back, as I mentioned before. So, as we were enjoying the end of book 4, I said to her,

“Hey, how about we try to finish the series this summer?”

“Yeah, that’s a great idea!” she replied. And then she began plotting how we would get them all in before summer was over.  Now, do I really want to finish this series? Definitely. Do I think we can actually read all 5 books before school starts in August? Ehhh.  But the point is, it motivated my daughter to keep books on the brain over this long summer. It helps that she’s like an elephant and doesn’t forget anything, so I’m sure if I start to slack at all, she’ll remember our plan and get us back on track.

I haven’t come up with a goal with my son yet, and I need to get on it because we are still developing his love of books and reading, so he has a greater chance of getting on the dreaded slide.  I’m thinking that since he’s really into these leveled National Geographic Kids books, we might set a goal of him being able to read some Level 2 books himself by the end of the summer. The books have wonderful photos and illustrations, so he spends a lot of time analyzing and admiring those, which is fine, that’s what they’re there for, but I would like him to read a tad bit more.

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My son loves these books, they go from “Pre-reader” to level 3

The #RaisingReaders suggestion here is this: try to set some sort of reading goal with your children this summer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific number of minutes or number of books. It could be a goal to try something new, like starting chapter books, or starting a new series. Your goal could even be a parent/child goal, like increasing the amount of time you read together.  Whatever it may be, the intent is to make sure that the Summer Slide is one that your child does not go down.

I’ve got more ideas and suggestions for how to keep #RaisingReaders over the summer, so remember to tune back in or follow this blog to get regular updates.

Bedtime Book Recommendation– A Month of Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Book Recommendation– A Month of Bedtime Stories

Through the glorious website Bookbub, I get daily emails about deals on ebooks. And these are not just regular deals, but $5.99 or less deals. You can choose the categories/genres of books you would like to read, as well as your ebook provider, Amazon, Kindle, etc. One recent find of mine is our current bedtime read, A Month of Bedtime Stories, authored by Neil Roy McFarlane.

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This is an adorable book that, as the title suggests, is made for reading to your child at night. The interesting thing about this book is the point-of-view, because the author is talking directly to you (your children). We’ve read 3 stories so far, and each time I as the reader explain what adventures my children had during the day, which usually include a trip into the forest and some wacky talking animals.

For example, there’s one story that involves your child looking for potatoes, but ending up in a flying saucer with an alien. There’s usually some sort of potion or something that makes your child “forget” everything that just happened, which explains why you’re retelling them about their adventure that evening.

Here’s some reasons why I’m recommending this book:

1. The different point of view is a welcome change and changes the dynamic of our time together, they get to be the main character of the story, not someone else.

2. The stories are short. I’m reading them on my Nook, but they don’t appear to be more than 7-8 pages each, which is perfect timing to wind down at night.

3.  Also, the book has no illustrations, so the fact that the stories are short works out well for my 5 year old, who is a visual reader and learner. I feel like if they were any longer, I would lose him.

4. The stories are funny. So far we’ve encountered a cow sleeping in a tree, a bee in a submarine and an alien who looks a lot like a dog, and I’m only 3 stories in! Both kids find the stories giggle-worthy.

5. The stories seem to have a pattern. There’s always a part about going into the forest in the beginning, and each story ends with three cheers for your child and “hip hip…”. This is a great clue for my son to know that the story has come to an end.

The only caveat I’ve had with the book so far is that the author is from the UK, so in one story he talked about pounds instead of dollars, so I had to explain to my children what pounds were. Otherwise, we’ve had a great time with our bedtime reads, and I can’t wait to read the next 27 stories!

Always read it yourself first–Earth Day edition

Always read it yourself first–Earth Day edition

So, not long ago one of our bedtime reads was The House That Jane Built, and I felt really good about starting a conversation with my children about how they could possibly help the less fortunate, so I thought I’d try to continue that with a similar book a few days later.

To help celebrate Earth Day, classes in the school I work at will be reading this book:

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The Water Princess is based on a true story about a young African girl who has to walk miles with her mother each day, just to get the water her family will use to do the most basic things, i.e. clean clothes, cook food. I wanted to give my babies some perspective about things that are expectations to us are luxuries to others.

And as usual, I brought it home first to read it to my kids beforehand. Standard protocol, I read through it at some point, just to make sure everything’s kosher and my reading of the book will be of thespian quality. (ha!)

The kids were excited about reading it, so I was all set to impart some more wisdom and continue my quest to mold multi-dimensional people (ha! again). We were about halfway in, when we came to this page:

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This book is beautifully poetic, but because of its setting in Africa, it also has a couple of French words, including “maman”, which means “mom”. But when I got to that page, I stuttered.

“My ma-man?”

“My mama-n?”

As I’m trying to figure how to say the word, my children are cracking up laughing. Granted, it is kinda funny, but hey, I was trying to help these people learn about another culture, and I’ve completely lost them. Ugh.

Eventually I was able to finish the book, and it has a nice little “About this story” type page at the end of the book, so I started to explain to them how it was based on a true story, and Gie Gie, the main character, had to walk 4 miles one way each day just to get water. My giggling son was already out of the room, but I got to have a brief conversation with my daughter about how this is a big deal. Of course her solution, after being excited to not have to go to school, was to have me teach her on the walk to get the water, once she realized that not going to school at all was vastly different than missing a day occasionally to have to get water.

So I did get a little teaching in, but the moral of this story is, at least glance at, if not read through a picture book (chapter books are more difficult to read through) before you share it with your children. It makes for a smoother read on your part, as well as increases your chances of maintaining their interest in the story.

(Also, this book is great for Earth Day, plus I love Peter H. Reynolds’ illustrations!)

#RaisingReaders

One of the good things about a graphic novel…

One of the good things about a graphic novel…

A couple of weeks ago, we went to my daughter’s school to their Scholastic Spring Book Fair. Because of my own addiction to books, as well as my children’s odd understanding that money grows on trees, I had warned both of them ahead of time that they were to “pick out one book, and if I feel like I like you, you might get two”.  I tell them this because in my head if they select the one book that is $20 (which they are likely to do, because they don’t even look at the prices), then they won’t be getting another, but, if they decide on one of the 50 books that are only $2.99 (which they are least likely to do), then they can get another.

‘Cause I’m a sucker, they both ended up with two books (as did I, and even Dad got one!). One of the books that my daughter got was the second book in The Babysitters Club series, The Truth About Stacey.  It’s a great series, one that I also loved as a child, but now, the books are in graphic novel format, so they look completely different.

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The good thing about this is, as with most graphic novels, they are more visually appealing, but in this case, still telling the same classic stories. The bad thing about this is, there’s a lot less text, so she was done with the book by the time she woke up in the morning! Now, we already know I was concerned about them trying to deplete my bank account, so the fact that she was done with a chapter book within 24 hours of getting it had to have me on the verge of a heart attack, right?

Actually no. Here’s the thing, although my child finished the book rather quickly, I know that’s not the last time she’ll read it. She actually picked it up again the next day. And this is not the first time she’s done this, she rereads books all the time. Weird hunh?  I mean, although graphic novels didn’t exist when I was her age, when it comes to chapter books, I was in graduate school before I read a book a second time through, and it was only because the professor made me. Now once I did it, I absolutely found the value in it and promote it all the time…at work. There are SO many benefits of rereading, too many to share, many of them you can find here. But I can’t take the credit for it at home, or can I?

I mean, do you know how many times I’ve read The LoraxBringing the Rain to Kapati Plain, or whatever that book was about Dora becoming a princess? Maybe reading the same book repeatedly had some effect? Maybe. Sorta. Hopefully.

I think it is more likely due to the fact that in this case, a graphic novel is much like a picture book, so it doesn’t feel as labor intensive when she decides to pick it up again. Either way, my hope is that she still has that habit when she’s in her graduate program and her professor makes her do it.

I’m sure, just like I’ve read the same books OVER and OVER, you’ve done the same in your quest to raise children who enjoy books. So, next time you want to roll your eyes when they pull out that book for you to read for the 100th time, go ahead and roll them, but remember, it just may establish a good reading behavior, help them out AND stretch your dollar in the long run.

Read Aloud #4–The House That Jane Built

Read Aloud #4–The House That Jane Built

As March comes to a close, my last read aloud to recommend for Read Aloud month is an Informational story–The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Kathryn Brown.

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I stumbled upon this book during our most recent trip to the library, and although I had heard of Jane Addams, I can’t say that I know a whole lot about her, so I decided to pick it up.  As usual, I read the book to myself before I shared it with the kids (just in case it ends up a dud), and after finishing, I knew I had to read it to my babies.

After the election, I wrote a post about trying to raising kind children (read post here), and I was reminded of that after reading this book. Jane Addams started her work with the less fortunate because she knew she had the means to do so, something she realized as early as age 6. So I figured this would be a great read aloud to start the conversation with my children about how they can help make the world a better place.

As I read the book, I had their undivided attention the whole time, which I was honestly surprised about, and then after the last sentence, “With all that she did, both inside and outside the house that Jane built, her childhood wish to help fix the world came true”, I asked them what they would do to help fix the world. Silence. A long silence. So I followed up: “You know you guys are more fortunate than some other people, so what would you do to help those people?”

5 year old response: “If someone didn’t have a penny, or a nickel, or a dime, or a quarter, or a dollar (yeah he went through them all), then I could give them some of my money.”

Ok, I’ll take that.

8 year old response: “You know those things for people who don’t have enough food? I could send them $10 so then they can eat.”

Ok…so clearly our next conversation needs to be about ways to help others that isn’t monetary, but tonight was a start.

So, if you need to have that starter conversation about helping others with your own children, or if you’ve already done that and need more examples, or if you just need a good informational book to share with your children….this may be the one for you.

#RaisingReaders

 

Read Aloud #3–Dear Dragon

Read Aloud #3–Dear Dragon

This is the third in read aloud book reviews to celebrate and promote March as Read Aloud month. You can read the first two selections here and here.

It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but there are times when both my 8 year old daughter and my 5 year old son actually want to hear the same book at the same time. Most times their interests are different enough that the books they want to read are different, especially once my daughter gained an interest in chapter books. However, there are occasions where I can have them both in the same room at the same time to do our bedtime reading. Usually those occasions are when I bring home a new book, and Dear Dragon by Josh Funk, was one of those books.

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Of course, you know a read aloud has been a hit in your house when it gets requested multiple nights in a row, and Dear Dragon earned that honor for at least 3 consecutive nights.  This book is about two pen pals, one a human, the other a dragon and their letters to each other.  There are many many things we loved about this book, so I’ll just list them here:

  1. Its in letter format, so it’s a different look instead of the typical text across the top of the page.
  2. It rhymes! You can’t go wrong with a book that rhymes. Plus, as the one reading aloud, it gives you a certain cadence that makes the book more entertaining for the listeners.
  3. The main character is a little brown boy! Much like I mention in my Nerdy Book Club post, one of the reasons this is important is because there’s no mention of his color, he’s just a little kid named George who happens to be a pen pal with a dragon. #weneeddiversebooks
  4. The illustrations are wonderful, and also essential to the story. It did take some explaining to my son, but George and Blaise have some misinterpretations of each other’s letters. So the illustrations show what the pen pal is thinking AND what was actually going on.
  5. Its a funny book, and who doesn’t enjoy a funny book? Once your child catches on with the illustrations, they will find the humor in story, hence the multiple requests for the book many nights in a row.

I had actually won Dear Dragon through a Twitter contest from Mr. Schu (BTW, if you don’t know Mr. Schu, you should. He may actually love kidlit more than I do.). So, after I told Mr. Schu and Josh Funk that my kids loved the book and were going to be disappointed when I had to take it school the next day, this happened:

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Yes! There’s all kinds of coloring sheets and activity pages to go along with the book, including a page where my children each wrote their own Dear Dragon letters. (And they forgave me for taking the book away from them to school.)

So, if your children like rhyming, wonderful illustrations, diverse characters, or just good books, then you should add Dear Dragon to your library/bookstore list!

#raisingreaders

Read Aloud #2-The Book With No Pictures

Read Aloud #2-The Book With No Pictures

March is Read Aloud Month, so to support that I am sharing some of the read alouds that my kiddos and I love.

My first read aloud review was a Dr. Seuss classic, so I decided to stay on the funny book train with my next selection– The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. This book was first introduced to my daughter early last year by her 1st grade teacher, and not long afterwards we saw it in Barnes and Noble and she just had to have it.  At the time, I had seen the book before, but I had never actually took the time to open it.

Once we got the book home, she pretended as if there was some big secret that I was about to be let in on and she actually could not wait until bedtime so we could read it. Me, being the unassuming adult who was convinced this could not be that big a deal, was not concerned at all (but secretly thrilled about my child being so excited about bedtime). I mean, this is the cover of the book– how bad could it be?

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Well, my girl was giggling as soon as I opened the book and laughed through the ENTIRE thing. Without giving the whole book away, author B.J. Novak (yes, the same actor that was on The Office) has decided that if there are no pictures, the reader (that would be you), has to read whatever words are on the page.  And trust me, there are some silly words, noises, phrases, everything but pictures, on the pages. Here’s a sneak preview of what will have to come out of your mouth while reading:

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Yep, really. Not even a real word.

 

One of the other reasons I selected this read aloud to highlight, was not only was it funny then, but its still funny now. It has been over a year since we purchased that book and she still cracks up whenever I read it. Every once in a while, when its bedtime and we’re not in the middle of a chapter book, she’ll slip this book behind her back and bust it out with a cheesy smile on her face. Now I’ll be honest, its not my favorite book by any means, but I’ll play up my fear/distaste of reading the book, mostly because it makes her want to hear me read it even more.  I’ll go to any lengths (almost) to make sure my children enjoy reading, even if that means making silly noises. A few weeks ago I even visited and read it to her 2nd grade class, and again, even though a good chunk of them had heard it before, they were nearly in hysterics.  I mean really, I don’t get it, but maybe I would if I was 8?

If you don’t mind looking silly and want a funny book for your child, I recommend this one. Also, side note, getting book recommendations from your child’s teacher or asking your child what the teacher has been reading in class can help if you’re stumped trying to find a new book to read. As for me, next time I’ll read the back before I buy:

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Walking the tightrope

Walking the tightrope

I wouldn’t necessarily say my son is a reluctant reader, but I would say that I have this fear that he will be. On the other hand, I also don’t want to be that parent that pushes reading so much that I’m the one that makes him not enjoy it. There’s a fine tightrope that I’m carefully teetering on here.

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So, as a result, you know how as a parent you do things with an ultimate goal in mind, but you don’t express that goal out loud for fear that your child will ruin your plans for no reason other than to turn your hair gray?  That’s my relationship with my son and reading.

As I’ve said before, I tend to pick most of his books from the library for him, just to make the trip a little smoother. On our last trip I picked out one of those easy reader books, this one titled, Trains. Since he didn’t pick it out and I didn’t even bother showing it to him before we left the library for his approval, he hadn’t been paying much attention to it. In fact, I don’t think he’d even opened the book in the week since we got it.

Well, one day this weekend he was spending some quality time in the bathroom, so I decided to hand him that book to help make time pass. As he grabs the book his response was,

“MOM, I don’t even know why you got me this book. I’ve read a book on trains already, remember? I had the CD and the book!”

“Yes, but this book may be different than that one, it may have different stuff in it.”

“No, that book had everything about trains in it, it told me everything.”

“Just read the book boy”, as I walk away exasperated from this conversation. This is what I mean when I say that he just wants to do the opposite just to try to make me crazy, there’s no other reason.

Anyway, moments later when I walk by, I see him actually reading the words on the page. He’s 5, so he’s not a real confident reader, but he’s sounding out words and is doing a good job. He gets to the second sentence on this page…”The cars on a p…pass…passenger”

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Wait what?! Did he just read the word passenger?! Yes! One point for mama! We did a high-five, I gave him his kudos for reading such a hard word, and he moved on to the rest of the page.

Now what I didn’t say to him, but really wanted to was, “You know why you were able to read the word passengers? Because you’ve already read/listened to a book about trains, and your mama was smart enough to get you another one, so you had the vocabulary ready and you used context clues to help you figure out the word. So there.”

At any rate, the takeaway from this incident is this: to support your efforts in #raisingreaders, I’m actually advocating being the sneaky, yet deliberate parent. You don’t want to end up being that adult that makes that child despise reading, but you don’t want to let opportunities pass either. Search for a balance on that tightrope. Also, if there’s a subject or topic they’re into, get them an informational book on it…and then get them another one. Despite what they may tell you, despite their resistance, they’ll get something different out of the each book, and it’ll make them smarter in the process.

#RaisingReaders

 

Raising Readers AND Kind people

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 readbrightly.com, 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:

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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–

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