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Book Review: The Problem with Problems

Title: The Problem with Problems

Author: Rachel Rooney

Publisher: Rodale Kids, New York

Copyright date: 2020

Age range: 2-5 years…but really, anyone on the struggle bus

Lexile reading level: suggested 4-7 on Kirkus Reviews years, no Lexile found

Anxiety? Worries? Butterflies? Nerves? Problems? No matter what these big feelings are called in your house, there’s no doubt that teaching your child how to handle them can be tough. We get it. We’ve been there. Talking from experience, we burned through a LOT of books about anxiety at different points with our children. With each read, we hoped one would be the perfect combination or text and visual support that our kids could latch onto. In short, we think this is the book that would have done it. 

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Book Review of Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet

Title: Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet

Author: April Pulley Sayre

Publisher: HarperCollins

Copyright date: 2020

Age range: 4 to 8, but could be used for STEAM-related lessons for any age

How has living in a pandemic changed your family? 

For mine, it has been that we’ve become more observant. My daughter said, while on a walk the other day, that she thinks she’s a “noticer.” I asked more about this and she said, “You used to ask me to get the mail and I’d do it as fast as possible. Now, I feel like I walk more slowly and look around more.” 

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Book Review: Nesting by Henry Cole

Title: Nesting
Author: Henry Cole
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books: An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Copyright date: 2020
Age range: 4-8 (but really…anyone!)

Thanks to the talented artist/author Henry Cole, you’ll never hear the sound of a robin again in the spring without thinking of his latest book, Nesting. From the simple telling of the robin’s yearly cycle through accurate and concise word choice to the stunning illustrations, Nesting tells a complete story that leaves the reader with a sense of admiration for the devotion the male and female robins have for their offspring. 

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Introducing Your Favorite Books from Childhood to Your Kids

I won’t lie, when I became pregnant my favorite thing to daydream about was reading books with my kids snuggled on my lap. I had been a teacher and children’s book lover for years and selfishly wanted to create a home environment where reading was a beloved activity. Truthfully, that daydream didn’t include my husband as he doesn’t often read for entertainment. 

Last summer, when my children were 9 and 11, my husband came home with a boxed edition of the first five Hardy Boys books, announcing his intent to read them to the kids, starting with number one, The Tower Treasure. He shared with us his memories of reading these books as a child and how they probably contributed to his future love of CSI, Law & Order, and MacGuyver (the 80’s version, of course). 

My kids viewed the retro look of the book with suspicion. If this book were anything like the first four episodes of MacGuyver we had watched to my husband’s enthusiastic requests, we were all concerned this wouldn’t end well. 

Old books and new puppies.

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My kids viewed the retro look of the book with suspicion. If this book were anything like the first four episodes of MacGuyver we had watched to my husband’s enthusiastic requests, we were all concerned this wouldn’t end well. 

Old books and new puppies.

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Using Books to Teach Children About Microaggressions

Back in 1990, I was starting 7th grade in a new school in a new town after my family had relocated earlier that summer. I was an avid reader, but I never saw a book on the shelf that would help me understand this scenario: 

Boy: “Where’s your towel?” 

Me: “What?”

Boy: “Yeah, where’s your towel?” Cue lots of snickers.

Later, as I was getting off of the bus, another boy quietly said, “They think you’re Muslim.” 

I am white and was raised Catholic. I do have olive skin tones and tan very easily. The town I had moved to is home to a large mosque, which means a handful of students at my school were Muslim. Being new to town and admittedly unexposed to other faith traditions, I didn’t even know what being Muslim meant. My parents had to explain that asking about my towel was in reference to the hijab worn by some Muslim women. 

While I may have lacked the knowledge to understand the substance of this interaction (and that boy lacked the knowledge to realize skin tone is not an accurate way of determining someone’s religious faith), I knew without a doubt that this line of questioning was meant to cause pain. While I could shrug it off as a misunderstanding, you can imagine the pain comments like this cause Muslims; to have their faith traditions be likened to a bathroom accessory. This is a microaggression.

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Easy and Affordable Rewards that Encourage More Reading

For many parents now working from home, or struggling with safe childcare options, or just dealing with the aftermath of kids who have already been stuck at home for months before summer even started, this time period likely presents many new challenges that most of us have never faced. Encouraging your child to keep reading can feel like one more daunting task on the never-ending to do list. We get it. We feel that way, too, sometimes. Honestly.

Some libraries are stepping up to the plate with fantastic virtual or socially distant summer reading programs. If you haven’t yet checked that out, please do so. My library has done incredible work moving their program online, and it has actually made my work-parenting balance easier this summer. Uninterrupted time to respond to emails while they happily read or do simple activities? Yes, please.

But if your library has not, or it is structured in a way that doesn’t work for your family, there are still simple rewards you can offer your child to keep them reading this summer (and into the fall and winter!)

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Where to Access Free Books for Kids During Covid-19

Depending on where you live, you and your family are likely well over a month into quarantine. Even the most prepared parent or caregiver is probably running low on new, fun books to read. Libraries and schools across the country are closed, most bookstores are closed (although many are offering curbside pickup or delivery, so do try to support them if you are financially able), and even Amazon deliveries are delayed understandably in order to focus on essential shipping needs. 

With many families facing very tight and sometimes dire financial circumstances right now, creative ways to get free books into the hands of children have never been more needed. 

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Reading During the COVID-19 Quarantine: Now is the Time to Raise a Real Reader

With schools (and everything else) closed and lots (and lots and lots) of extra time at home, a golden opportunity has been presented to us parents and caregivers. We have time to read. So do our children. Research has shown us that students are far more likely to read independently and successfully if given time and choice. That’s pretty much all we have right now, right?

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Books and Series To Read When Children Need An Escape

I had just finished reading Erin Entrada Kelly’s beautifully written book Lalani of the Distant Sea when I got a text from my sister about an assignment her fifth grader had just completed: 

He has to write an argumentative essay that names a word of the year, and then defend it. He chose “altercation.” And then wrote paragraphs about mass shootings, everyone fighting about global warming, the potential war with Iran, and immigration. Imagine at 10 years old, the word you think best describes the world is altercation. 

My dreamy thoughts from Lalani quickly came to a halt as I considered this. My sensitive nephew’s world view is just so different from what I remember mine being at age 10. While I could name the current president (Ronald Reagan), my primary troubles were saving enough money for more stickers for my sticker album or wondering if Friday’s episode of Full House would be a rerun. 

It’s not always feasible to offer our children opportunities to escape the current events of both their immediate world and the larger, global world.

But books can be that temporary vacation from reality and offer us (adults and children alike) a much needed respite from the constant barrage of pain and suffering.

Whole worlds are awaiting us between the covers of books. As a long-time advocate of realistic fiction as a tool to develop empathy and understanding, I’ve recently found myself drawn more to fantasy. It’s like my brain and my heart simply need to disconnect from our reality from time to time. 

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