Connecting with Our Kids through Literature

My 8-year old son loves Minecraft and other video/computer games. He also enjoys science and math. I like science, not really math, and my idea of a fun computer game is the old Carmen Sandiego game series from the ’90s (and seriously, why has no one made an awesome Carmen app?) or the Nancy Drew computer games that I have absolutely no time to play. I’m not counting on us growing more alike over time–probably the opposite.

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Here is how that thought makes me feel–the face in the middle

And that’s why I find our shared time over texts* to be so special and important. No matter what widely different interests we have, we like curling up in a chair and sharing a good book. I love that and will hold onto it as long as possible.

Connecting over a text can happen in many different ways. Here are some examples from our house. Continue reading

Best Books, Lately (Part 2)

it aint so awful

The very best book I read this summer was It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas. It’s a semi-autobiographical, but fictional story about a preteen Iranian girl in the late ’70s. Zomorod (her name) has moved with her family to Newport Beach, CA, from Iran, for her father’s work. They actually had lived in the US briefly once before, and this time Zomorod has decided she will make friends and be “normal”–as normal as she can be with whom she thinks are two of the strangest people for parents (everyone can relate to that, right??). Zomorod goes through normal growing up and friendship difficulties, but eventually lands with a group of sweet, intelligent friends. Things are good! But how long will it last, as Iran starts popping up all over the news with protests, revolution and then the taking of American hostages? This books is so relevant in our world today, and I loved the message Dumas allows to shine through: that a few kind people can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially when times get tough. For this book, Amazon says grades 5-7. I really think this is one of those books that reads so smart, it would still hold appeal through high school (and adults!). Continue reading

Books We Enjoyed This Summer

I have read quite a bit this summer and will share my favorites in a couple posts, along with age groups they are intended for. Picture books and easier chapter books in this first post.

cinders

So, I am a little behind on this one, but maybe others are too. I like Jan Brett a lot–Gingerbread Baby, The Mitten, The Three Snow Bears, Annie and the Wild Animals, many others–all cute. But when I met Cinders, I was completely and totally charmed. If I was crazy and kept chickens in my backyard like some of my friends, I would be even more crazy over this one than I am. Seriously, y’all. Cinderella with chicken characters. Enough said. My new favorite Jan Brett book. Continue reading

Being a Miss Agnes: Writing for Our Kids

There’s a sweet little book called The Year of Miss Agnes, by Kirkpatrick Hill, about a teacher who moves to a remote part of Alaska to teach in a one-room schoolhouse (back in the late 1940’s). The families in the area rely on the fishing industry, and previous teachers were annoyed by the constant smell of fish on the children and their inability to relate to simple American reading primers like Dick and Jane. The children are far behind in their academic skills and have little hope that a new teacher will be different.

miss agnes

But Miss Agnes is different. She embraces the culture and the children from the get-go, hanging their artwork on the walls, reading them stories they’ve never heard before like Robin Hood, and best of all, she writes them stories they can relate to–stories about the children themselves and their families! Continue reading

A Free & Easy Christmas Book Countdown Idea

Hello friends! You may remember the last time I posted was Halloween, but this time I have the best excuse ever.

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Yes, we have a sweet new baby boy, born November 5. Joseph is the best baby ever, and we are all in love!

I want to share a great idea from a friend here. I’ve never done a Christmas countdown because I can’t stand the thought of adding more little trinkets, toys or books to our ever-growing supply (now all three of my children have birthdays from Nov.-Jan. too, so this time of year they “get” plenty). My friend had the brilliant idea to wrap Christmas books and other favorites that her child ALREADY OWNS.

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Part 3: Halloween Chapter Books, Excerpts and Short Stories

There are so many possibilities here that we’re just going to scratch the surface. I want to share a few of my family’s favorites to read at Halloween. Books listed here can stretch from elementary school up through adult.

Often reading aloud a great excerpt from a chapter book can help interest the child in reading the entire book. Several of the Ramona books make great read-alouds in their entirety (like the two I list below); some, I think are better read independently because they move more slowly. If you’re not familiar with Ramona, she is the original Junie B. Jones; check her out! (And by the way, she appeals to both boys and girls, in my experience, like Junie B.)

ramona the pest

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Halloween Poems (and How They Can Inspire Your Child’s Creativity)

Certain Halloween poetry takes me right back to childhood.

 Three little ghostesses,                                                                                                              

Sitting on postesses,                                                                                                                

Eating buttered toastesses.                                                                                                  

Greasing their fistesses,                                                                                                                  

Up to their wristesses,                                                                                                                        

Oh! What beastesses,                                                                                                                      

To make such feastesses! 

I always preferred fun rhythmic, rhyming poetry, and throwing in a little nonsense made it even better. I still prefer this style of poetry above all others, as do most of our children.

If children read poetry they truly enjoy, it will inspire many of them to create their own poetry.

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A Few Favorites for Halloween: Picture Books

I’m back to the blog for my favorite time of year–fall. Halloween and Christmas probably tie for my favorite holiday, and since Halloween is nearer, it’s my current favorite. My memories of Halloween involve costumes specially made by my mom, the excitement of my dad taking me trick-or-treating round the neighborhood, and of course, the deliciously spooky Halloween books we would check out from the library.

Here I am in my homemade bunny costume. Thanks, Mom!
Here I am in my homemade bunny costume. Thanks, Mom!

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Graphic Novels, Continued

While we wait on my talented and brilliant teacher husband to post about some of his favorite graphic novels for upper elementary/middle school and his passion for introducing children to this genre, I found a few more worth sharing this morning at the library.

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First up, I rediscovered this nonfiction graphic novel series about different animals. We had checked out Do You Know Crocodiles? previously, so this time, we got the …Rats? one. They are by Alain Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar; look up all the animals available at your library or on Amazon to see the full collection.

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Let Them Read Comics!

I have actually not forgotten I have this blog, believe it or not! Would you believe if I said I was just trying to give you TONS of time to explore nonfiction with your kids?! (Really, I just got very busy with the end of the school year/semester and the start of another semester of teaching for me.)

We could keep going with nonfiction to kick off summer. I’ve already made the case that nonfiction can be great high-interest material for kids to get involved with, plus it can require less concentration because of the way nonfiction texts are often organized (how kids can skip around and read the parts they’re most interested in). And don’t forget, kid-appropriate magazines, which are often a mix of light fiction and nonfiction, are fantastic for summer, trips, pool/lake/beach-side reading! I could keep going with nonfiction, but I’m ready to switch over to something new.

This is the first thing that pops in my head when I think of motivating our kids to read over the summer AND enjoy it: comic books and graphic novels. Continue reading