0-2, 2-5, 3-6, Books, Children, Musings

Best Bedtime Picturebooks

As someone who has the joy and the challenge of a two and a half year old I will be the first to tell you that nap time and bed time are two of the most stressful times of the day … despite being necessary reprieves.

If you, like me, need some help with the bed time routine it might be a good idea to grab one of these books and make it part of the routine.  It might be boring for you to read the same story over and over but it helps with relaxation, pattern creation, and eventually will help lead to reading as memorization allows for word recognition allows for a continued understanding of letters, sounds, and grammar patterns… but we were talking about bed time.


This one is my personal favorite and it is a newer one.  I do also have a young boy who is fascinated with trucks and construction vehicles so it may just be a personal thing.  I feel like the particular cadence of this one lends itself to a good wind down activity.  It just seems to slowly loose steam, which in a bed time story is a good thing.  You want it to help bring the energy down a little bit.  If your kid falls in love with it.  A sequel has come out that is all about sharing and asking for help and that is really great as well.

6557873This next one is great to read alongside or just before the bed time routine.  It follows Little Pookie (a beloved character of mine from childhood, how about you?) while he goes through his bedtime routine.  There is a little bit of open interaction in it so I would definitely recommend this one earlier rather than latter because it stimulates the brain a bit too much to lull a child to sleep, but it definitely has its own benefits.  Helps create routines which again… important for young children.


Goodnight Moon is maybe the quintessential bedtime story.  I think we all remember it from childhood and there is a reason.  Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If you haven’t tried incorporating this one into your nightly routine it might be a time to revisit it.  There are board book and picture book versions so it can grow with your child.  Margaret Wise Brown is one of the staples of picture books and all of her books are worth adding to your child’s library.  She has a similar quality to Goodnight-Goodnight Construction site in that the cadence of the story helps wind down after a long day, so it would be good in bed.

122125Jane Yolen is one of the upcoming names in children’s books.  Her series about Dinosaurs is well worth the read and this one is great for parents of kids who try and talk their way out of bed time, or throw tantrums.  It shows several ways one should not act at bedtime, and discusses the proper way.  No shouting, no tantrums, no bargaining just a kiss and a sigh and a great rest.  I know lots of kids who are obsessed with Dinos and this one is great to stimulate their imagination because the parents in the story are human, and the child becomes the dinosaur.  One typically would think the Dino’s would be very rambunctious when in fact they go straight to sleep calmly.  It doesn’t rile kids up and has a great teaching element.  Well worth the read.
835495I’m ending this list on another classic and this one is one that worked well for my mother getting me to sleep when I was a baby.  I really loved animals and this one teaches baby animal names as well as winds down for the night.  Its just a sweet book that rhymes and uses repetition to lull a sense of calm into the child.  If you haven’t read it, I would recommend grabbing a copy.  It definitely helps wind down at the end of the day.


So whether you needed some suggestions of books that slowly bring a kid into bed time or books to teach the bedtime routine here are a few to try and add to your library both new and old, tried and true.

What are your favorite bedtime stories?  I would love to hear in the comments section below and maybe I will make another list like this one in the future.

2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

January 2018 Book Releases for Children

I’ve been working on a way to share the books that are coming out each month for kids with you guys and it has been hard to find a system that I like, I am going to keep playing around with it but for me, browsing the cover art is helpful since they tell you a lot about a book and also lets you know whether your kids will be interested in it.

This month I tried making a Pinterest Board that would allow you to scroll through the covers and click on something interesting.  The link brings you right to the Goodreads pages for the titles which include the release dates, reviews, genre denominations and links to buy the books.  Let me know if this works for you guys because aesthetically I do think that it is a great idea.

As far as new releases go, there were significantly fewer this month.  Which makes sense as most people don’t want to spend money after Christmas, they did all their shopping the last few months and are backing up, but there are a few books coming out that are worth looking at.

Again, let me know how you feel about this format of release round up and any other commentary, suggestions, or critiques are welcome as well.

Happy New Year!


3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

5 Halloween Craft and STEM Books for Kids!

I really want to talk about some great books that include all sorts of crafts, activities, and science experiments and what better time than just before Halloween.  If I could get my hands on all of these and had all the time in the world, you know that I would be making all sorts of crazy crafts, interesting meals, and just all out fun science.

So Harry Potter in itself is not necessarily very spooky.  It may contain witches and wizards but unless your fear is existential (which tbh everyone’s is from time to time) then it isn’t your first thought for Halloween … or maybe it is.  In any case, this guy is a great cookbook if you want to cook up some witchey treats for a Halloween party, or just to pack into lunch boxes throughout the upcoming week.  Plus, its fun to do with the kids themselves.  They can get dressed up and pretend they are playing with some sort of gross experiment foods.  All around good time for everyone involved.  If you love HP then you should check out some of the other books with crafts or some hard core science based on the HP world.

As a quick transition, I want to put out a good kit if you have a science oriented kid without wasting all of the ingredients.  Science experiments you can eat is a great book for a parent who wants to let their kids explore scientific theories but doesn’t want to throw out half of their pantry every other day.  Dress up as a zombie chef who wants to elevate the flavor profile of the zombie hordes and throw some chemistry knowledge down.  You might learn a thing or two as well (like how to make mayonnaise from scratch).

Along the same lines here is a great book with every day science experiments that are easy and fun to do.  Rather than being food oriented these are more of your traditional learning experiences.  Make some goop, learn about electricity, or throw together some chemical reactions while having fun and making a mess.  This is a great book for some mad scientist parties.  I remember doing experiments like this in elementary school and even in high school the flashiest chemistry experiments were the best.  You learn the most when you are having fun, mad fun.

If your kid is less interested in science but you still want to make things together this is a great option for crafting.  Help them decorate the house with spooky ghosts, or make gifts for their friends to bring to school!  I was definitely a crafty, artsy kid and I would have loved making these cute little nick-knacks.  Plus, it is free.  If you really like what is in here then pinterest is a great resource where parents and teachers alike bring you some of their favorite spooky crafts.

Now I admit that the last one is not as Halloween themed as the rest.  I just really recommend this book.  The autumn is a time to enjoy the last remaining bits of temperate weather before playing outside becomes miserable.  This book has a lot of really great learning tips and fun ideas for parents who want to take advantage of that.  It has tips for all seasons and while some seem pretty straight forward, sometimes just having a list of the options in front of you is a great way to jump start some fun.  Go on a ghost hunt outside and learn about hibernation, the leaves changing colors, migration and countless other natural phenomena specific to this time of year.  Then read up on great experiences that you yourself might want to take part in before you grow up.

2-5, 3-6, Books, Children

5 Monster Picture Books for a Fun Halloween

For this week leading up to Halloween week I wanted to throw out some great spooky recommendations for kids.

I’m starting with the youngest and as they are meant for little kids these stories are not so scary, but star some of our favorite Halloween Horrors.


This one in particular is one of my favorites.  Monsters of all shapes and sizes are staples this time of year and many kids can relate to the fear of the monster under the bed.  This is a story of a young boy whose Monster is going to spend a week on vacation and he just can’t get to sleep without his monster’s usual slurps and groans.  He spends the week testing different Monsters but in the end, there is only one Monster for him.  If your kid is a Monster’s Inc fan, or is a little bit picky this story will definitely resonate with them.  We all know what it is like to feel like something isn’t right, we just might not realize that the thing that the knowledge of the thing that scares us is the thing  that makes us feel safest.


Some of you might recognize this author as  none other than the chronicler of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Known for his melancholic nature it is surprising to read such an adorable story… even if it is about a dead fish.  Goldfish Ghost is the story of … well a goldfish ghost trying to find the right place for him.  He was lonely on the boys dresser and nobody seems to pay him much attention in the real world.  You follow along on his journey to find a friend and get to see our world from an incredibly unique perspective.  Definitely worth a read.

Zombies are a personal favorite this time of year.  I think I was a zombie of a ghoul at least three Halloweens in a row (but then again I was a fan of scary things at Halloween rather than Princesses, Witches, or Dolls.  I find this one super cute in general, but  if you have a kid who feels a little unique or left out.  When one little zombie wants a peanut butter & jelly sandwich … rather than brains. It shows how sticking to your opinions and being yourself is worth while.  Even old … zombies … can learn new tricks.


My little sister dressed as a black cat one year, and my family has always raised black cats so this one is a favorite just for that.  This is a story about fear, about overcoming fears and facing the world unafraid.  This is the story about someone who thinks he is brave, even when he isn’t and is brave even when he thinks he isn’t.  Cat owners will especially love this one, and the art style is very evocative and cute.  Always a plus.

I know monsters can feel like a boys club, I certainly felt that way as a child, even as a tom boy I was frustrated that the things I liked seemed to be marketed exclusively at boys.  Well, vampires have certainly become a beloved thing for young girls and this cute little one is no exception.  It is hard to be a ballerina when you are also a vampire.  Not all aspects of it match up with the vampire life style.  Following your dreams is important and so she pushes through.  Definitely a good choice for a little dancer or for a little darkling like myself.

Hopefully these guys sounded interesting.  There are scores more great spooky picture books out there.  Head to your local library and I’m sure the librarians will have some favorites for you to choose from.  There are always interesting new ones coming out as well so its worth a trip to the book store to see what  was released in that department as well.

2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

New Releases in Children’s Literature October 2017

I wanted to bring together a bunch of the releases for the month, I slightly underestimated just how many books come out in one month for kids.  I don’t know if October is just a heavy month for book releases, gearing up toward Christmas and all that or if this is the sheer volume of new releases in the section every month.  I suppose if I do continue with this section I will get an idea.

There was a lot of work put into a post which is little more than a glorified list, but because I had to work so hard to compile all of these new releases I figured there would be some value in making a nice easy to parse format for others.

I wanted to do a visual version with the covers, but this post is long enough with the titles, series and authors.  If you are interested in looking at all of the beautiful covers I highly recommend clicking the links through to their Goodreads pages because the art is always great.

Without further ado, the new releases, a.ka. publishers, take my money:


October 3


The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase #3) by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated Edition by J. K. Rowling
The War I Finally Won (War that Saved My Life #2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Black Moon Rising (The Library #2) by D. J. Machale
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
Red Moon Rising (Survivors: The Gathering Darkness #4) by Erin Hunter
Robots & Repeats (Secret Coders #4) by Gene Luen Yang
Predator vs Prey (Going Wild #2) by Lisa McMann
Who Gives a Hoot? (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet #3) by Jacqueline Kelly
The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea
Ghosts of Greenglass House (Greenglass House #2) by Kate Milford
Touchdown Kid by Tim Green
The Serpent’s Shadow: The Graphic Novel (Kane Chronicles #3) by Rick Riordan
Sting (Loot #2) by Jude Watson
The Unlikely  Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall
Timeless:Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic (Timeless #1) by Armand Baltazar
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Max Tilt: Fire the Depths (Max Tilt #1) by Peter Lerangis
The Doldrums (Doldrums #1) by Nicholas Gannon
How to Catch a Dino Thief (Dino Riders #4) by Will Dare
Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy (Charlie & Mouse #2) by Laurel Snyder
Once Was a Time by Leila Sales
A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke
Voyage to Avalon (Mice of the Round Table #2) by Julie Leung

Picture Books

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful by Nancy Tillman
I am Gandhi by Brad Meltzer
I am Sacagawea by Bran Meltzer
La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo
I’m Not a Scaredy-Cat: A Prayer for When You Wish You Were Brave by Max Lucado
The Bad Mood and the Stick by Lemony Snicket
Remembering Vera by Patricia Polacco
Pup and Bear by Kate Banks
Odd Dog by Fabien Ockto Lambert
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina
ABCs of Mathematics by Chris Ferrie
ABCs of Physics by Chris Ferrie
ABCs of Science by Chris Ferrie
Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman
Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro
Love, Triangle by Marcie Colleen
Pierre The Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower by Hiro Kamigaki
Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim
The Great Puppy Invasion by Alastair Heim
Willa and the Bear by Philomena O’Neill

October 10

Middle Grade

Making Mistakes on Purpose (Ms. Rapscott’s Girls #2) by Elise Primavera
Spy School Secret Service (Spy School #5) by Stuart Gibbs
The Silver Mask (Magisterium #4) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race (Mr. Lemoncello’s Library #3) by Chris Grabenstein
Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar
Monster Notebook: A Branches Special Edition (The Notebook of Doom #13) by Troy Cummings
The Wildcat’s Claw (Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts #6) by Varian Johnson
Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package (Tales from Deckawoo Drive #4) by Kate Dicamillo
The Land of Flowers (Thea Stilton: Special Edition #6) by Thea Stilton
Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Tentacle and Wing by Sarah Porter
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie
Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
The Chocopocalypse by Chris Callaghan
The Downward Spiral (Lock and Key #2) by Ridley Pearson
The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
Laura Ingalls is Ruining my Life by Shelley Tougas
Watchdog by Will McIntosh
The Gnome Exchange Program: North Pole Rescue by Matt Caliri
Peter Powers and the Sinister Snowman Showdown! by Kent Clark
Saturdays with Hitchcock by Ellen Wittlinger

Picture Books

Everything is Mama by Jimmy Fallon
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
Grandpa’s Ghost Stories by James Flora (Reprint)
Bizzy Mizz Lizzie by David Shannon
Rory the Dinosaur needs a Christmas Tree by Liz Climo
Superheroes Club by Madeleine Sherak
Larry Gets Lost in San Diego by John Skewes and Eric Ode

October 17

Middle Grade

Phoebe and Her Univorn in the Magic Storm (Heavenly Nostrils #6) by Dana Simpson
Miss Tracy is Spacey! (My Weirdest School #9) by Dan Gutman
Tales from a Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe (Dork Diaries #12) by Rachel Renee Russell
Frank Einstein and the Bio-Action Gizmo (Frank Einstein #5) by Jon Scieszka
Wallace the Brave by Will Henry
The Player King by Avi
The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott
Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny (Bunjitsu Bunny #4) by John Himmelman
Miriam’s Secret by Debby Waldman
The Girl Who Knew Even More (Munchem Academy #2) by Commander S.T. Bolivar III
Applewhites Coast to Coast (Applewhites #3) by Steaphanie S. Tolan and R.J. Tolan
Harper and the Circus of Dreams (Harper #2) by Cerrie Burnell

Picture Books

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, Kerascoet
Through Your Eyes: My Child’s Gift to Me by Ainsley Earhardt
Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha (Reprint)
My Journey to the Stars by Scott Kelly
Windows by Julia Denos
The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie
Book or Bell? by Chris Barton
What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? by Virginie Morgand
Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood

October 24

Middle Grade

Revenge of the Space Pirates (Galactic Hot Dogs #3) by Max Brallier
Lawn of Doom (Plants vs. Zombies #8) by Paul Tobin
Journey to the Crystal Cave (The Adventures of Sophie Mouse #11) by Poppy Green
Death and Douglas by J.W. Ocker
Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library (Fairday Morrow #2) by Stephanie Robinson
The Piper’s Apprentice (The Secrets of the Pied Piper #3) by Matthew Cody
The Whiz Mob and the Frenadine Kid by Colin Meloy
Wings for Wyatt (Tales of Sasha #6) by Alexa Pearl
Reign of Outlaws (Robyn Hoodlum #3) by Kekla Magoon
Ruby and Olivia by Rachel Hawkins

Picture Books

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero
Fergus and the Greener Grass by Jean Abernethy
I Am Life by Elisabeth Helland Larsen
Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty

October 31

Middle Grade

The Wildwood Bakery (Owl Diaries #7) by Rebecca Elliott
Team BFF: Race to the Finish! (Girls Who Code #2) by Stacia Deutsch
Super Rabbit Racers! (Press Start! #3) by Thomas Flintham
Curse of the Harvester (Dream Jumper #2) by Greg Grunberg
Jacky Ha-Ha: My Life is a Joke  (Jacky Ha-Ha #2) by James Patterson
CatStronauts: Space Station Situation (Catstronauts #3) by Drew Brockington
The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Little Bigfoot, Big City (The Littlest Bigfoot #2) by Jennifer Weiner
The Audition (Audition #1) by Maddie Ziegler
The Fourth Ruby (Section 13 #2) by James R. Hannibal
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange
Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Picture Books

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey
Give Thank You a Try by Bill O’Reilly and James Patterson
This is Not a Normal Animal Book by Julie Segal Walters

3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

Graphic Novel Recommendations for Kids: Fantasy

One of the biggest booming industries in the middle grade genre at the moment is that of the graphic novel.  Now of course,  comic books have always been a beloved pastime of the young nerd in training but the cultural ideas around comics and graphic novels has been shifting and with that has come a whole new genre of books available to kids both avid readers and those who require something a little easier.

My younger brother was never a big reader like most of the women in my family (I still believe part of that has something to do with cultural gender norms) but most of it had to do with his struggle to read and his preference to other ways of passing the time.  I was a kid who would read for hours with no issue, or play video games, or all manners of arts and crafts.  He was a bit more focused in the things he liked to do and was adamant against any other suggestions.

However, he did follow my love of super heroes and so comics were a good way to get him reading when he wouldn’t be interested in a regular book.  Now I don’t think that kids should read graphic novels alone, but getting them to read a story is a win in my book and here are some action packed adventure suggestions for anyone who should want them.

For anyone who has never seen one of my recommendation posts, clicking the cover photo will open the goodreads page for that book so you can read more.

I have a full review of this guy on the blog already if you missed it but the tl;dr version of it is: This is a great action story set in a steam punk world where most folks live on giant flying ships separated from those on the ground by giant dangerous storm clouds.  Our rambunctious female protagonist is more than ready to come of age to inherit her father’s ship as she has been a constant troublemaker on the ship, unable to really find her own niche.  The world is rich and varied, the characters are incredible bright and well fleshed out both visually and through their characterization.  This might be worth the look for any young girls (or boys) who are interested in mechanical engineering or robotics.

Now I can’t completely vouch for the graphic version of this book because it is an adaptation of a Newbery Award winning book by the same title.  The reason I am throwing it in here as an option is to show how there are graphic novel versions of a lot of really well written and complex stories.  For kids who have a hard time parsing through language the graphic version may be a good option for them (even classic children’s books like A Wrinkle in Time have graphic versions)  This story is an adorable one about a child who lives in a graveyard and raised by the spirits who reside there.  Neil Gaiman is a master of fantastic fiction for both children and adults and will appeal to folks who enjoy a little bit of creepiness in their books as well as a lot of heart and humor.  Worth the read for adults as well in my opinion.

This one is great for slightly older kids (7th grade and older)  It discusses what it is like to go through puberty, to begin to feel a bit out of place in your school and your family, and what it is like to be an outcast.  Anya needs a new friend, she just didn’t realize that she would find one … at the bottom of a well.  This is a cute little story and the art is simplistic for kids who don’t care about the massive color spreads.  It is an original graphic novel (created to be a graphic novel specifically) and is also highly recommended for adults in my opinion.  It captures the feeling of young children (especially girls) very well.  The younger kids may not fully relate with Anya and most of the beauty in this one comes through how relateable of a story it is.

Doug TenNapel has several graphic novels made for kids and I would recommend all of them.  I was a kid who loved interesting weird stories (maybe a little scary) so I was most drawn to Ghostopolis.  A young boy is accidentally transported to the realm of the undead and this is the story of his misadventures attempting to leave … while also fighting the evil ruler of Ghostopolis.  It also has a really cute story involving the ghost of the protagonists grandfather and I really appreciated the way that generations and familial ties are used in this story and it would definitely be loved by an child who is worried about the afterlife or how their family members who have passed away are after death.  (Even if their city is ruled by an evil dictator)

This may be the most well known title on this list but I figured I would throw it out there for anyone who hasn’t stepped into the world of middle grade graphic novels.  This was the series that my brother loved and really got him interested into the genre.  This is a more traditional fantasy story about some kids who are on a quest to save their mother from the demons who lured her into a mysterious world on the other side of an out of place door in their basement.  It calls upon so many stories of children falling into fantastic worlds, as well as the idea that they are gaining self sufficiency from their parents while still needing them.  It has great monsters, interesting allies, and is all around fun to read.  This is a must read in the genre, if you aren’t at all interested, I would still highly recommend getting it as an example of everything graphic novels can do.

I want to make this into a series where I discuss different subgenres within the graphic novel arch.  There are great graphic novels on many different subjects and while I am limited to those that have piqued my interest any good bookseller can show you the best way to find graphic novels for kids.  If you have more specific questions about the books that I discussed here or want to hear my thoughts on a different title please let me know down below and I will do my best to compensate you.

3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Getting a Reluctant Reader into a Book

Most folks have sent their kids back to school now that we are a decent way into September. They should be getting an idea about their homework levels.  This also means the return of struggling with their weaknesses and for some folks that’s reading.

While I understand this is completely overwhelming for parents, dealing with struggling readers was actually the favorite part of my job when I worked at the bookstore.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good challenge to recommend books and have a child say they had already read it, but when there was a kid that was being dragged into the section to pick an outside reading book part of me got a little bit excited.

I have already made a post where I discussed some of the things to avoid when it comes to reluctant readers or struggling readers but this post is going to be the exact opposite.  This is a post for folks who are tired of the nightly battle because they outright do not want to read.

My first tip is to try audio books.  This is a really great way to meet those time limits.  My younger brother had a hard time focusing on a book for a half hour straight and then it was a struggle because he needed to spend way more time than necessary reading to compensate for the time he spent distracted.  Most audio book apps (like audible or overdrive) have a built in timer feature.  Generally it is marked as a snooze feature (thinking if you listen before bed you wouldn’t want the book to continue once you are asleep) however this is a great way to keep kids focused for their set amount of time.

The other benefit of audio books is for those kids who are actually struggling to read.  It may take them much longer to get through the book than their peers which can be frustrating and embarrassing.  It is important that they have the physical book in front of them as well so that they can associate the words they hear with the words on the page, increasing their recognition of words as a whole rather than needing to sound them out.  Audio books are purposely read very slowly and enunciated so that they are comprehensible. Kids are used to hearing the words and when sounded out they may not associate the letters they see on the page with the sounds they hear.  Over time hopefully they can read better on their own as well.  Don’t think of it as a crutch, think of it as training wheels that help boost confidence so that when they fall away, you don’t even notice that you were doing the work the whole time.

This may be a harder version of the last one, but you as a parent can also be a great assistant in reading.  You can be the narrator or you can take turns with your kids.  I made a whole post about how I love reading together even for kids who have learned to read on their own because it is a great bonding moment and your kids will be excited not only to spend time with you but to read together.

The key with this suggestion is that you need to be patient.  I realize that this is asking a lot of a parent.  You work all day, you have to worry about dinner, and housework, and bills.  The last thing you want is to spend half an hour struggling through a book that is boring.  You don’t want to do it, your kids doesn’t want to do it, so this just leads to more fighting.  In that case, spending money on an audio version might be the better option because your own reluctance to spend the time reading is going to rub off on your kid.  If you are excited about it, or if you can act excited about it then that is going to have an impact on your kids (especially the young ones who have yet to really cement the idea of what is cool or uncool).

The next option is to offer a choice.  One of the things that can be part of the struggle is the content of the book.  When a kid isn’t interested in the content of the story they will be less willing to struggle through the reading process.  This may mean that you abandon a book and get a new one.  If book reports are a necessary part of the homework assignment, realistically there is a time limit on the number of books you can abandon, but if the goal is just to get your kids reading consistently, the books themselves are less of an issue.

While it may not always be interesting to you as a parent, if there is a particular subject, character, or series that your child is interested in, there is more than likely a book featuring that.  Giving them those stories or stories similar to them will be an easy way to hook the child on the content.  It is easier to read when you want to find out what happens next.  This will facilitate learning and foster curiosity.  This may seem obvious, but many of us (especially after years of education where the choice was taken away from us) become so fixed on finishing a book that the idea of abandoning it part of the way through isn’t even on our minds any more.  Remember that this is a marathon not a sprint, the point is to help them read not to help them finish books.

Some of you may have seen my post where I talked about summer reading challenges but they apply year round.  I personally use them to help me diversify my reading.  Kids like to feel like they are progressing or spending their time in a worthwhile way.  They would rather be playing than working.  If you turn the work, into play, they will learn without even realizing it.  You don’t need to come up with your own challenges and rewards, there are plenty out there (see this pinterest board for instance).  However, you know your kids the best and will be able to tailor any challenge or game into something they will want to participate in.

This is especially helpful when there are multiple siblings.  There is nothing better than some healthy competition to get kids focused on a task.  They may not care about reading in general but if they see a sibling is earning rewards they will want some too and that will spark them to do well (even if it is a bit like reverse psychology).  This could be considered a simple reward system, but the idea is that they are willingly doing something they would normally fight over and with as little effort as necessary on your part.

This last suggestion is perhaps the easiest one and you can combine it with any of the others in a way that seems to fit your lifestyle.  The idea is simply to multitask, find a way to work the reading into your schedule so that it isn’t an additional task, but just part of something they prefer doing. If you are a parent on the go then perhaps playing on audio book in the car as you travel between oboe lessons and dance class will meet the requirements of reading without taking additional time.  Perhaps your kids have a hard time sitting still for that long, break out the coloring books and read aloud to them while the visual parts of their brain are occupied.  Perhaps, you make reading part of your nightly routine and each of you take up a part of the story, Dad reads while everyone else brushes their teeth, Mom reads while the dishes are being washed and the table cleared, the kid reads the last bit once they are tucked in and they know that once they are done they can go to bed and most of the work has already been done for them.

There are endless possibilities here, but if the reading is part of the routine, or part of another obligatory task then it stops being its own struggle and becomes an enjoyable way to pass the time.

These are just a handful of suggestions and I am sure that there are parents out there who can attest to or add their own tips and tricks in the comments below if they so choose.  I would love to hear from teachers or librarians as well for their go to methods of promoting reading!  If you have any questions or have a suggestion for another post that I can do on this topic do let me know as well.  I am planning to create lists of books that are great to read for both parents and kids (that way you are excited to read with them rather than dreading the endless stories about pony girls who turned into real girls and are going to have a slumber party… unless you are into that).

0-2, 2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Reading Levels Explained by a Children’s Bookseller

I want to start this post out by saying, if you have never encountered me or this site before (Welcome!) you can learn a bit about me and why I am doing this in the tab at the top of the page, otherwise I hope this is helpful!

Reading levels were one of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around when I first started in the kid’s section.  There were so many different systems.  A parent would come in and say that their  kid was reading L books so what did I recommend.  I stood their in a stupor (what the heck does an L book look like, is it shaped like an L, is L a character I haven’t heard of).  Then even more parents would ask about level 17 books and I would stammer something about how my beginning readers only went up to 5 and have to ask them more questions about the age, size of books, reading ability etc.

Let me pour the knowledge I have collected here for you.

I am going to link a few resources I think will be really helpful throughout this post (they will be embedded links in the text and set to automatically open new pages if you want to finish the post and read them after).  This isn’t just some divine knowledge I gained by looking at the kids books long enough.  I had to spend time outside of my job to understand this.  I needed to be a resource to my customers and if I didn’t know what I was talking about, then I was a pretty shoddy one, I didn’t want to be shoddy.

Not every parent will be given a reading level.  Let’s start here.  Some parents just ask about books recommended for 12 year old boys who like video games.  This is fine, in fact this was great because there are whole sections of book stores directed directly at 12 year old boys who like video games.  Those attributes are very easy to use, any bookseller who has spent a few days in the kids section can help in this case.  I made a video a few months ago where I discussed the “types” of kids books (that is the age bracket recommended for the different physical looking books you will find in any given kids section) if you want a brief over view. I explained the down and dirty basics of a kid’s section and why this particular question would be easy to answer.

However, knowing which books are appropriate for your child and which books are too challenging without reading all of the books yourself (which I’m not against, in fact I am of the mind that reading all of the books myself is just good fun) is daunting.  In that case you go to the professionals (or the internet, hey there folks who found this post through google, I assure you, I am at least semi-professional).  Teachers and librarians use certain systems created by psychologists and publishers in the field of children’s literature to rate, or gauge the “reading level” of books.  They will often have your kid do a simple reading test and say ah yes, this child is reading at the F level.  This is of little or no use to you as a parent, but its better than nothing.  You walk into the book store, tell the lady standing behind the counter that your kid reads F level books and she looks at you blankly then proceeds to ask you a barrage of questions rather than just showing you to the section you need.  We came full circle here.

Here is what you need to know and in fact would be far more helpful to tell a bookseller than “F Level” because not everyone is as dedicated as I am to finding the right book for your child, but they will have recommendations in some form or another.

I posted a link in the previous paragraph giving a chart that compared several different ranking systems to each other.  One of them was the Fountas-Pinnell Guided Reading Text Levels.  This one was my personal favorite because each level had defined characteristics.  As a book seller I could pull out my reference, read the short description, and find a book that matched it.  There are other similar methods which will do the same, so when you are given the reading level by the teacher, librarian, whomever, ask what the system is called and search to see if there is a comprehensive list explaining what each level means.  If the bookseller is completely lost you can say, “At K level she is starting to read chapter books, she is less reliant on pictures, and it would be good to add in some larger more complicated words that she has to either decode through context or through her growing knowledge of basic English grammar., but make sure it doesn’t go over 150 pages.”  To which the bookseller will reply, Oh, chapter books, right this way.

The second thing I suggest is to read both this article on Popular Psychology by Paula J Schwanenflugel P.H.D. (Oh my god this last name, I’m so sorry) and Nancy Flanagan Knapp P.H.D. is my post from early this week where I discussed how your language regarding books and their reading level will shape the way your kids approach books for the rest of their life, not only because it gives you some tips on how to tell if a book is too hard for your kid but also for some help in how to choose books with your child in the book store.  Which can be a difficult thing, I know, I worked there.

There are resources available to you.  Whether it is someone like me who is passionate about reading, about kids reading, about the books that kids are reading and about helping parents, teachers, and librarians navigate the rapidly expanding kids book market, or through your local librarians, your kids teachers, whomever.  You are not alone.  This wasn’t something they taught me in college, it wasn’t even part of my training in the book store to be honest.  I just knew the correct internet channels and was fortunate enough to converse with very knowledgeable folks in their field.

For any specific questions, or recommendations you can always ask me below in the comments or anywhere through my socials, and of course follow the blog because I post reviews as well as helpful chatty posts like this one.  At least I hope it was helpful, if it wasn’t please give me some constructive criticism down below as well so that I can do better moving forward.  I want to do well.  I want to help.

I hope you are having a lovely week and I will talk to you again soon.

3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

The Harm of “Too Hard” for Reluctant Readers

I want to talk about this but I figure I should give a disclaimer:

This is my personal opinion.  It is the opinion of someone who worked in the children’s section of a book store and heard time and time again, “Oh no, you can’t have that one, it’s too hard for you.” In various tones, from disgruntled exasperation to affectionate concern.  

I want this to stop.

Why? I hear you ask, it is just our way of getting our kids to put down a book that they aren’t ready for and pick something closer to their own reading level.

When you use words like “that is too hard”, or “that is not for you”, you are telling the child that a book they are interested in (even if it is only on an aesthetic level) is wrong, or that they are wrong for wanting it.  The English language is a remarkably versatile and malleable language.  There are ways to explain your concern so that the kid doesn’t feel shut down, discouraged, or in some cases indignant.

I had a teacher tell me that the easiest way to tell if a book is the proper reading level for a child is to use what she called “the five finger rule”.  You open to a random page, it could be the first page, the last, but I would suggest somewhere in the middle, and have them read.  For every word they can’t figure out (meaning they are allowed to take their time and sound it out, with your help if you wish) but if they give up they have to put up a finger.  [note: this excludes made up words or names as the child will likely not have heard them before] If all five fingers are up then the book is too challenging for them.  So rather than looking at the size of the book, the recommended age bracket, or any of that, sit down with them and take a minute.  See if they can read a page.  If they can’t then you ask, “is this a book that you still want to read?”

A lot of the time if it was too hard for them they will say themselves that it was too hard and put it down.  If they do still want to read it then ask if they want to read it together (I am going to make a post where I talk about reading aloud and how it shouldn’t stop when kids can read for themselves).  Sometimes they will agree and other times they want to struggle through.  In this case, I find it best to say, okay this is a book that we will get to challenge you, but let’s also find a book that is a little easier so you can give your brain a rest.  This way you are not saying the book is wrong for them, or they are wrong for the book, you are encouraging them to work hard and if they are truly interested in the subject matter they will be more willing to muddle through.  Often times when they find an easier book that they are also interested in they are willing to let go of the harder one because they realize that it was too hard but didn’t want to walk away empty handed.

I completely understand when parents tell me they don’t want their reluctant readers to become completely despondent.  They know that the kid will  have to write reports for years to come and if they make the wrong move it will become a never ending struggle to get their kid to complete simple assignments.

Kids aren’t born hating books.  In my experience all children love being told stories, they like flipping through books, they like being asked questions and having opportunities to show their knowledge.  The thing that discourages them from books is either feeling humiliated (how many people remember popcorn reading and how there would sometimes be that one kid who would hate reading aloud and they somehow were asked to read the most) or through deciding that books aren’t for them.  The latter is generally a result of people they either love or respect using discouraging language: Books are too hard, you aren’t good enough, that is for kids like your sister (who is two years older and therefor a stronger reader in general, you would be surprised how kids take this as meaning that they need to find something else to do when reading is their sibling’s “thing”).

If you make reading a family affair. (Think of reading aloud to the family as the new family game night, although I’m all for family game night as well).  Try and pick books that are interesting to you, your spouse, your child or children.

I am going to try and create a tag where I label stories I think are great read aloud books for older kids as I continue on this journey so that you have a resource.  If you ever have any questions regarding that please ask me as well on any of my socials.

This post, wasn’t meant to be a reprimand, or really to discourage parents at all.  It was simply to say that the words that we use have an effect.  They are internalized.  Books are important.  Stories are a great way to learn lessons in a safe environment.  They allow kids to ask questions.  They let parents introduce new topics with a predefined structure.  Don’t lose them over something so trivial as “too hard”.

I hope this helped.

If it didn’t, please feel free to tell me why in the comments down below, I might make another posts on this topic in the future when the little one in my life is older (he’s two and really just likes pointing to farm animals and saying their sounds, not so picky)