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

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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

Let Them Listen

When was the last time you chose to do something you’re not good at and that makes you feel dumb? (If you can’t think of anything that makes you feel dumb and crummy when you try it, maybe you haven’t tried anything new in awhile.)

It’s humbling to remember what that feels like, and then to connect that to how our children may feel in certain situations, whether it’s trying a new sport, starting a new school year with harder classes, or picking up a book to read.

I’ve talked with a lot of parents lately who are concerned about their children’s reading habits. The problem I hear most often is the child is struggling, maybe behind, and therefore doesn’t enjoy reading. It makes perfect sense when you think about that feeling. Do you ever choose to do something you stink at? Maybe grudgingly, maybe only when forced. Continue reading

Read Across America Day: Making It Fun AND Worthwhile

Here I am again! I have been reading middle grade and YA fiction like crazy and have some to share soon. But right now, my life is overtaken by my son’s school’s Read Across America event. This is my second year to help with it, and while it can be stressful to organize, I’m proud we put on an event that’s both fun and worthwhile for the kids.

Here are the touchstones of our celebration at Holcomb Elementary in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

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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.

sweet smile (2)

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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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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The Easiest Way to Encourage Your Child’s Reading (A Not-So-Secret Secret)

Still waiting on that hard-working husband to report on middle grade graphic novels. I would do it, but he knows so much more!

First a photo from our travels this summer–yes, both kids reading at the same time. Yay!

Both reading on a loooong car trip this summer. (This was right before we gave up the paci--solidarity, David Beckham and Posh Spice!)
Both reading on a loooong car trip this summer. (This was right before we gave up the paci. Solidarity, David Beckham and Posh Spice!)

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a lot for pleasure. Because my young adult literature class started last week, a lot of my summer reading was young adult fare. I would be happy to share my thoughts on any and all these (listed at the end), but really, what I kept coming back to was that I’VE BEEN READING. For pleasure. Sometimes to the neglect of feeding playing with my children. And I firmly believe that is okay–even good for them to see! 

There’s an anecdote I love in one of my favorite children’s literature texts, Children’s Literature, Briefly, by James S. Jacobs and Michael O. Tunnell. A preschool teacher had her children in circle time. Behind her sat two different bowls, each with a different type of candy in it. While teaching, the teacher casually put a piece of candy from Bowl 1 in her mouth, said, “Mm, this is good candy,” and then promptly spit it in the trashcan. A few minutes later, still teaching, she placed a piece of candy from Bowl 2 in her mouth, said, “This is not good candy; I don’t like it,” but kept the candy in her mouth until she finished it. After the lesson, she told the children they could get one piece of candy from either bowl. Don’t look below: which bowl would you predict most of them chose from?

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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

The 4 T’s: Tempting Our Children to Read More

These ideas are so simple, there’s almost no effort, except for number 4. They are really just places to intentionally put books into your child’s path. Access to books can make or break a child’s reading abilities and habits. The more good books we make easily available to them, the greater the chances they will pick them up and read them.

This photo was not manufactured for this post. It happened beautifully and spontaneously; this is the advantage of have books laying around everywhere (a nice way of saying the house was a mess!).
This photo was not manufactured for this post. It happened beautifully and spontaneously; this is the advantage of have books laying around everywhere (a nice way of saying the house was a mess!).

Jim Trelease, the read-aloud guru, has the 3 B’s to encourage more reading in your children. These stand for Books (giving kids ownership of their own books), Book basket (placing these in strategic places like the bathroom), and Bed lamp (so they can read at night if they choose to). Trelease’s website, Trelease on Reading, is a great place to find tips and ideas for reading with and to kids, and his The Read-Aloud Handbook is one of my most important resources when selecting great books to read aloud to my children. (I’ve mentioned it before here.)

jim trelease

We have some ways at our house that we increase our children’s opportunities for reading. I’ve organized them into the 4 T’s for Tempting Our Children to Read More. Continue reading