Books, Children, Musings

Reading Together: A Lifetime of Stories

One of the, I guess, tenets when it comes to reading (in general not simply when it comes to children) is that it is important to read with others.

In my adult life this takes the form of book clubs, where we all read individually then come together to talk about what we liked, disliked, felt worked, felt was horrendously done, felt was pushing boundaries, or too stuck in the tropes.  In this way, the solitary act of reading becomes communal.  Ideas that never occurred to me are brought up by people I care for and trust.  I am forced to read outside of my comfort zone consistently, to varying results, and in general have way more fun.  In fact writing or filming reviews and responding to the comments is also an aspect of this.  There is less structure involved, but it is definitely me reaching out into the void and seeing if anyone is reaching back.

So, what does this have to do with kids?

Well, I am of a firm belief that just because a child has crossed the hurdles and is reading on their own, doesn’t mean that bed time stories or story time should disappear.  I wish that more parents would continue reading books to their kids as they grow.  Here is why:

  1. It allows the parents to bring up difficult topics in a safe environment (that of you living room) in a way that distances the topic from the child.
    • The example I often give for this is that I would get parents coming in asking if there were any books for kids who were just going into middle school that would give them examples of peer pressure and bullying.  There are, and if you read those books together, it allows your child to ask you questions about the story, as well as allowing you to give your own input.  “Wasn’t the way that Suzy just stood there and let her best friend say means things about that boy a little mean?  Don’t you think she should have said something to her friend.  It made her uncomfortable and it made the other boy sad so why not tell her to stop that?”  Then you can have complex discussions about what it means to be a bystander, or how hard it is to stand up to friends, without it being about their own friends yet.
  2. It allows parents to curate books for their kids that they loved.
    • I don’t know how many parents came up to me an explained how sad they were that their kids’ weren’t reading one of their favorite books from childhood.  I suggested reading together in these instances as well.  It means that your kid will participate in the story with you, and you can talk about what it was like reading certain sections as they come up in the story.  It helps bridge the gap.  They might not be interested in reading it on their own because the covers don’t look as flashy as newer books, but they love you and I’m sure that more than 1 or 2 of you have watched a kid who was adamant against listening to a story slowly get sucked in when it is read aloud.  Give it a try, you might be surprised.
  3. It is a great reason to turn the t.v. off and stay in touch with your kids
    • I was definitely a child who wanted more than anything to sit at my computer playing video games all hours of the day and night, but books would sing their siren song and pull me away to other worlds as well.  If you make story time a family event, in the same way that television is a structured event in their lives, they will likely love it as well.  One of the things that makes T.V. so enticing is its dependable nature.  Every Thursday at 3 they know they can watch favorite characters interact and enjoy themselves.  As they grow older they may be more inclined to doing things with friends, but if you have a routine of reading on a particular night during the week, it becomes scheduled and they will log off to join you, or miss crucial aspects of the story.
  4. It improves reading comprehension and fluency.
    • Yes, reading silently will do this as well, but not all kids will sit with a dictionary at their side.  They might treat you like a living one if you read a book that is slightly more challenging for them.  You can instill good habits in this way by looking up the words, or teaching about context clues.  It will build skills that they will use for the rest of their life, not to mention build their vocabularies instantly.  Take the time, learn together.
  5. It gives you a reason to engage with your kids.
    • In the same way that you might want to share favorite books with them, they might want to share favorite books with you.  Yes, they may love something that you can’t stand, but if you read together and they tell you about everything love, excitement is infectious.  You will stop feeling like they are speaking a different language.  You will gain insight into the characters they take as role models.  You can even blow their mind with your great trivia about the books they love.  Kids want to feel appreciated and this is a very simple  way to do that.

Those are just a handful of reasons to give it a try.  I still read aloud to my friends.  I still listen to audio books.  There is something about listening to stories that is extremely basic to us as humans.  I hope that you incorporate it into your lives.  Stories are meant to be shared and I hope you enjoy sharing them.

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz Review

Making our way through the backlist reviews, slowly but surely.  I promise that I will be posting the reviews for books I have read recently as well.  I just wanted to make sure this content was here for you all to find.

Title: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy  Dog
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Illuminator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Page #: 384
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

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)

Books, YA (Young Adult)

Almost Adulting by Arden Rose Review

Here is a post for all of those parents of teens.  I admit that my focus on here and in life is very focused at the younger (tween) market than it as teens but I am going to try and at the very least throw something out there for you.

Title: Almost Adulting
Author: Arden Rose
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page#: 208
Genre: Self-Help, Tell All, Humor


Hope you enjoyed our take on this one.

As always, if you have any questions, recommendations, comments, etc. you can find me all over the interwebs or right down below in the comment section.

Books, Children, Musings

The “Types” of Kids Books Explained by a Bookseller

This is technically a backlist video that I made way back at the beginning of the year, but I felt it might be helpful to post it here as well.  The room I was filming in was sweltering  despite it being  the middle of winter and I broke out an old camisole to wear and it wasn’t until I was editing that I realized it looked as if I wasn’t wearing  a shirt.  Oops.  Nothing R rated, just a bit too risque for my liking.  Apologies for that.


Hopefully this was at least a little bit helpful and I can help you guys with any more questions you may have in the comments, through email, or on any of the social medias.

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud Review

Another of the backlist reviews, this time a book that I read out loud to my best friend.  We both happen to be adults, and we both happened to really enjoy this book.  We had many a giggle and fell a little bit in love with the banter found within.

Series Title: Lockwood & Co.
Book Title and #: The Screaming Staircase #1
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Page #: 381
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Middle-Grade, Ghost Story