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Posts tagged ‘reading’

Encourage Reading & Avoid “Summer Slump”

Why is reading so important during summer break?

Reading opens so many doors for children and is helpful in so many aspects of a child’s growth. Reading is something that stays with you through your life. Storytelling is magical and kids love storytelling because it allows their minds to expand and create new experiences.

As a parent, you are an important educator in your child’s life, just as important as his or her teacher. A child is never too young to start reading and looking at books. Give them the gift of gaining invaluable literacy skills through reading.

You can boost their potential to learn just by making reading an integral part of their life. Reading is key for speech and communication development, and is also a fun way to work on concentration and discipline. It’s a great routine to start young, and I especially love cuddling up after a long day and reading together before bed. It really helps to calm them down and can trigger their brain to think, “OK, it’s almost time for me to sleep.”

Why should you make reading a priority?

  1. Parent-child bond
  2. Enhanced vocabulary
  3. Curiosity
  4. Academic excellence
  5. Learning through examples
  6. Creativity through storytelling


Are “summer slump” & “brain drain” really something to worry about?

Yes! The majority of kids need help structuring their time during summer break. Without educational activities, it’s harder for them to recover what they’ve learned when they go back to class.

There are tons of studies (dating back to over 100 years!) indicating that kids forget what they learned during the school year. Did you know that most kids lose about two months of math skills over the summer?

“Children who lack amenities such as summer travel with their families, tutors, summer camps and proper nutrition are significantly less likely to regain the lost skills; low-income kids lose out most when it comes to the “summer brain drain.” Another thing to keep in mind: most children gain weight more rapidly during the summer break – this is especially true for children inclined to obesity.” []

Take the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge and avoid “summer slump.” This will keep them engaged and using their minds to explore, while not being overwhelmed with schoolwork. Reading should be fun. Take trips to your local library and let them pick out some books of their choosing. Download the Reading Timer App on Scholastic’s site and make it exciting. Make a healthy competition between siblings to see who can read the most books. If they read X amount of minutes this month, you will buy them a book of their choosing at the bookstore and perhaps a frozen yogurt too! 🙂


Nanny Emma’s Picks: The Best Books for Kids, Part II (ages 6-10)

There’s something magical about going into a bookshop or library with a child who’s just learning to read by herself. The sense of wonder is infectious, and you can almost see new ideas popping up as children excitedly survey the shelves and reach out to the books that call to them.


Children this age have moved on from books on colors and numbers and are ready for books that tackle more abstract topics like friendship, loss and inner strength. When I buy or borrow a book for children this age, I look for work that properly examines or explains mature concepts in age-appropriate language. No one likes to be preached at, including children, and the best books include positive or thought-provoking messages that grow organically with the story, not ones that feel squished in.

That being said, I also look for books that are just plain fun. The enduring power of books by authors like E. Nesbit, Edward Eager and Roald Dahl are proof that sophisticated topics can happily coexist alongside fantasy and pure silliness.

A dad reads Bucket full of Dynasaurs see attached story from Booktime

The last post, on books for children ages 1-6, focused solely on new books. This time, I’ve added two older books that are popular in the UK, but aren’t household names in the U.S.. Some of the best children’s books are by British authors, and these really ought to have a place on American shelves, too.

Ages 6-8
Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea (Sandpiper, 1994) by Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard. In the warm, well-paced first book of this wonderful series, the elderly Mr. Putter finds a companion in Tabby, a cat at the animal shelter. The carefully chosen, simple language is easy for children to understand, but the story is rich and full, and complemented perfectly by Howard’s delightful illustrations. I recommend the entire series to early readers.

Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulson, 2012). With its detailed watercolors and message of inclusion, Each Kindness reminds me of the 1944 classic The Hundred Dresses. Wendy Lukehart, Youth Collections Coordinator for the DC Public Library, admires Woodson’s deft handling of the subtle bullying and exclusion all too common in elementary school. When Maya, a gregarious new girl with “old and ragged” clothes comes to school, Chloe and her friends all ignore her. After the new girl drops out and their teacher gives a hands-on lesson about the ripple effect of kindness, Chloe regrets missing an opportunity to befriend Maya.

Wendy also recommends Sarah Stewart and David Small’s The Quiet Place (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). Set in the 1950s, the book stars Isabel, a Mexican girl whose family moves to the Midwestern U.S.. Isabel practices her English by writing letters to her Aunt Lupita, and readers see her grow more comfortable in her new life. Her father and brother help her make and decorate a “quiet place” made from cardboard boxes, which gets less quiet — in the best possible ways — when she invites new friends inside. Wendy especially likes the way the book explores “the role that creativity and a supportive family play in helping” Isabel feel at home.

Sally Young, staff manager of Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, CA, likes Rabbityness (Child’s Play, 2012). “It’s a beautiful book — the illustrations are stunning,” says Sally, and the visual style is “really different” than other books on the shelf. Rabbityness tells the story of a colorful, creative rabbit who suddenly disappears, leaving the woods sad and grey. But when Rabbit’s friends discover the paints and instruments he left behind, they celebrate Rabbit by using his gifts to make their own joyful art. The book celebrates creativity and approaches loss with sensitivity and grace.

Ages 8-10

Ballet Shoes (Yearling, 1993) by Noel Streatfeild. The first in the classic Shoes series, the story of adopted sisters Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil has been an inspiration to generations of aspiring dancers and actors (and for Petrova fans, engineers) since it was first published in 1937. It’s more popular in the UK than it is in the U.S., and it’s high time American readers rediscovered it.

Elizabeth Bennhoff, Early Childhood Librarian Fellow at the University of Denver, recommends John Grisham’s series for middle grade readers. In the latest,Theodore Boone: The Accused (Penguin, 2012), the precocious protagonist (and justice-minded child of two lawyer parents), has to defend himself after being framed for robbery. In a preteen market saturated by supernatural romance for girls and gross-out humor for boys, Elizabeth likes that the series “features a boy with some ambition and in a real-world setting. Theodore Boone isn’t slaying dragons or making fart jokes — he wants to be a trial lawyer.”

Diane Garrett of Diane’s Books in Greenwich, CT, recommends Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart, by Children’s Poet Laureate emerita Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley (Little, Brown, 2012). Hoberman carefully selected over 100 poems that are both “easy to remember” and “worth remembering.” At the end, she includes tips for learning poetry gathered over a lifetime as a poet for children. The book is a wonderful way to introduce children to the fading practice of poetry memorization, for as UK Education Secretary Michael Gove put it, “to know a poem by heart is to own a great work of art forever.”

Lauren from The Reading Bug bookstore in San Carlos, CA, says: “One of the most important books written this year for ages 8-12 is Wonder by RJ Pallacio. There is an entire campaign surrounding this book called ‘choose kind’ that I hope will circulate through schools to teach our children to be kind to one another no matter what we look like.” Lauren is not alone —Wonder (Knopf, 2012) was a #1 New York Times bestseller last year.

Gallery Bookshop’s Sally Young also likes Newberry Award-winning author Rebecca Stead’s Liar & Spy. “This book is just different. It’s almost like a puzzle — and you would not guess what the ending is!” After his father loses his job, funny, self-aware 11-year-old Georges moves into a new apartment building and joins a new neighbor boy’s top-secret spy club. Together, they investigate the mysterious Mr. X upstairs, and like Georges’ namesake, impressionist Georges Seurat, the boys discover unexpected relationships between the dots they observe and the whole, complete picture of Mr. X. “It’s very mysterious,” says Sally, “and you get hooked!”

Donating Books:
In my post on books for younger children, I included links to a few charities that are looking for children’s books to continue with the great work they do. All those U.S.-based organizations still need books, but I’d also like to suggest giving to three international charities:

Darien BookAid sends books to Peace Corps volunteer teachers, and KKOOM, a charity founded by a Fulbright fellow and Korean adoptee, sends English and Korean picture books to volunteers in orphanages across South Korea. The International Book Project, founded by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Harriet Van Meter, stocks the shelves of village libraries and classrooms in developing nations in developing nations as well as underfunded schools in the U.S.. Donations to all three are tax-deductible for Americans.

Thank Yous:
My thanks to all the passionate and fantastically knowledgeable children’s librarians and independent bookstore staff who contributed suggestions. Buying books is especially lovely with help from enthusiastic experts, and talking with these people was a delight. Thanks again to Lauren from The Reading Bug, Diane of Diane’s Books, Lizzie Preston of Hatchards, Ronna of Good Reads with Ronna, Elizabeth Bennhoff of the University of Denver, Wendy Lukehart of the DC Public Library, and Sally Young of Gallery Bookshop.

Book Review: Tale of A Baseball Dream

Jerry Pearlman’s young adult book, “Tale of a Baseball Dream,” is an American story of a baseball legend and an adolescent boy, who dreams that one day he will follow in his hero’s footsteps and become a major league star.


It’s difficult to find a book that drags your sports-loving “tween” away from video games and Sports Center to read. Every boy has dreamt about becoming a world-class athlete at some point, and this book will let them live that dream.

We learn the story of two parallel lives: Bubba “The Brute” Brugosee and eight-year-old Dusty Hunter. Watching Dusty grow up is an inspirational story. Dusty and his father’s relationship is one-of-a-kind. The encouragement and love that one man alone gave to his child is inspirational to say the least. The two spent night and day practicing because his dad honestly believed in his son.


We watch Dusty lose his biggest fan and support system, his father. It is gut wrenching to watch such a young boy live through such loss. Even through Dusty’s struggles, he manages to overcome his loss and continue following his dream.

The book also proves an excellent point that all children must learn: even a great player has weaknesses and that’s OK. Major league star “The Brute” even faces adversity from his fans when he is traded and has to leave his beloved New Jersey team.

“Tale of a Baseball Dream” is a story filled with big dreams. I would recommend it particularly to boys in middle school and up. There is the element of death so they need to be mentally ready for this. There are many life lessons to be learned from this book, especially when it comes to the importance of family.

Life is not always easy and when things aren’t going your way, Pearlman says to keep trying! If your child takes anything away from his book it will be to believe in oneself. This is just as important as having someone else believe in you!

Find “Tale of a Baseball Dream” on Facebook.

Book Review: The Bug Barians

Marty Byk’s children’s book, “The Bug Barians,” is a witty, action-packed story that follows the adventures of five brave Viking bugs. Dressed in full medieval garb, these bugs work together as superheroes… of a different sort.

Byk’s characters are well developed and each has something distinct about them. Do not let the title fool you. Although it is about bugs, your daughter will even take an interest when she sees the strong and beautiful female characters. Pig-tailed and stylish, the girl bugs prove that they can be both feminine and strong. These girls can definitely keep up with the male bugs.

There really is a character for every child to relate to, and to pick a favorite. Even a Jamaican, dreadlocked bug. I love that the bugs show flaws but make up for lacking in something with other good qualities. It’s brilliant, and sends a great message to children.

The illustrations are excellent. Their vibrancy really makes them pop and helps to truly define each bug character. Not to mention, the clever names are sure to make your child giggle.

“The Bug Barians” adventures lie in escaping from different, larger animals that they seem to always cause trouble with. Their arch nemesis, the squirrel, makes for a hilarious encounter as you follow them through a chase scene. It’s just another “totally Bug Barian day” for the rowdy crew.

I would recommend this book to children 7 years and up because the writing is pretty detailed and has some longer paragraphs. The descriptive writing encourages your child to really imagine the setting and the surroundings of the bug characters. It’s the perfect choice for a child that loves adventure!

Stay tuned for our social media giveaway to win your very own copy of The Bug Barians!

“Big Feats” Children’s Book Review

Jeff Botch’s new book, “Big Feats,” does just that – shows children how to achieve their goals and discover their courage. Botch helps children explore their emotions in a positive way they will understand and presents messages using examples they will encounter.

Most parents would agree it is important to talk about feelings and show how to express oneself without bottling it up. “Big Feats” puts your child in a situation they very well may have or will experience themselves. The character, probably around age ten, goes through challenges and typical feelings that kids experience like losing at a sporting event or anger.

“Big Feats” even touches on some of the harder issues our kids face like being made fun of, getting laughed at, and wanting to give up. The book is highly relatable and I would recommend it to children seven years and up. This book can help your child recognize certain behaviors and manage various situations. The book is something a parent could read and adapt for younger children. There is a great parents question guide so you can make sure your child fully understands and reaps the benefits on this book.



“Big Feats” emphasizes the importance of family. My favorite part is when the main character writes down activities to do as a family and mom puts it on the fridge. That is a great idea to pull families together and for a child to get their needs and wants across to their parents.




‘“Big Feats” follows Botch’s ASAP model: Attitude, self-development, action and persistence, which I love. Botch is a sales professional who uses his ASAP model not only when working with children but to bring a sense of self and community to many working adults. The illustrations are excellent and the use of different sports can appeal to many kids.

Todd Parr – Go Green With Your Kids!

Educating our youth on the environment and the idea of “going green” is important and not to be overlooked. Extremely popular and talented children’s author Todd Parr has just the answer to introducing this idea to your kids. Not to mention his illustrations are absolutely adorable and adults will love his books too.

The EARTH Book by Todd Parr has received the 2011 Green Earth Book Award! It even includes your child’s own foldout GO GREEN checklist.

If you’re a technology junkie and your kids are constantly checking out your iPad, view Todd’s books in the new “Picture Book Format,” available through the iBooks app in the iBookstore. Todd’s books come to life right on the iPad and Nook Color and look amazing. The pages look like this: (Also released through Audio Book and eBook on iPod touch or iPhone).

Keep your eyes open for Todd Parr’s new release this August, The I’m NOT SCARED Book.

Enjoy quality time and read with your child every night!

Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT