Teaching a Love for Reading!

I always try to teach my kiddos a love for reading. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re reading. If they are sitting down with their eyes glued to a book, magazine, comic book, or whatever, my day is made. My heart is warmed. Reading was a big part of my childhood.  The 7 year old I work with loves reading, but I’ve been finding it challenging to find books that will hold his interest enough to motivate him to pick up the book on his own.  Last summer, we read Matilda (by Roald Dahl) together, alternating chapters, and he loved it.  He also read aloud really fluently, so I knew his reading level was pretty high.  About a month ago, I introduced him to “The Indian in the Cupboard” by Lynne Reid Banks. To “bait” him, I read the first chapter aloud to him.  He put the book down for a bit, then after about a week, he picked it back up and couldn’t put it back down!  He’ll be on vacation this coming week, so last week he hurried to finish the book so that I’d have time to get the next book, “Return of the Indian,” from the library to take with him.  “Indian in the Cupboard” has a reading level of 5.9, and he’s in 2nd grade. Now I have a better idea of what reading level I can look at for future books for him.

Want to get your early reading loving to read too? Here are some quick tips and tricks!

1)  Don’t worry about what he/she is reading. There’s no such thing as “wasteful reading”. Go to the library and find a variety of types of books- picture books, chapter books, comic books, magazines, non-fiction, Ripley’s Believe or Not, etc.  Then ask your kiddo what he/she enjoyed the most!

2) If you suspect that your child is intimidated by harder books, try chapter books with audio books!  Following along with the words while someone else is reading them can be really beneficial when you’re helping a kid to improve their vocabulary and push them into a slightly higher reading level without any fear of failure.  Just remember- if your child’s at a 1st grade reading level, look for something just a little higher, like 1.5 or 2. If there’s too many words that he/she can’t recognize, they’ll end up lost in the book and just listening.  Listening isn’t horrible on its own- they’re still enjoying stories and using their imagination and listening skills, but the most benefit comes from seeing and hearing the words together.

3) Read together to get a better idea about what their reading strengths and weaknesses are.  You read a page, they read a page is a good start, and alternating chapters can be good for stronger readers.  This can be a fun experience for both of you, and highly beneficial. You get to see how well he reads, what his comprehension is like when he reads, and how he flows as a reader, and he gets to take a break and enjoy listening sometimes, which makes the book less intimidating.  Bonus!  You can model voice changes, pace changes, and expression- all the things that take a good story to a great one!

4)  Peak your kid’s interest in a book by reading the first few pages or the first chapter of the book to him/her. Or you can talk about how much you enjoyed the book as a kid and give a brief, exciting synopsis of the book.  You can also try reading positive reviews of the book.

5) Never “require” that any specific book be read. It’s ok to set aside 30 minutes a day as “quiet reading time” (less time for younger readers or readers who just can’t focus that long or don’t enjoy it), but don’t put any requirements on what is read. If he/she wants to read the instruction manual for the new toy they got, go with it!  Seeing reading books as a chore will quickly snuff out their interest in them.

Non-fiction for kids!

Miss 4 is a very curious kid. I LOVE that about her. I’m the same way!  I want to know everything about everything!  I always ask her what kind of books she wants me to get for her at the library (I go while she’s in school), and there’s always something non-fiction on her list.  She has asked for books about plants, gardens, skin, gorillas, seals, cats, tons of other animals, how the inside of our body works, how snow is made, our skin… the list goes on and on!  I’ve become quite familiar with the non-fiction section of our local library.  And my new favorite non-fiction children’s book author (and she illustrates, too!) is Gail Gibbons!  There’s probably some of you out there who already love this lady, but I’m only just starting to get to know her.

Last week, when Miss 4 wanted a book on how snow is made, I wondered if I’d be able to find one that was age-appropriate. Gail Gibbons delivered with “It’s Snowing!”.  It has lovely, fun illustrations and great, basic information.  Some of it might go right over a 4 year old’s head, but that’s ok. You can discuss it further, or just focus on the more basic concepts.  I loved that there’s a main story line, plus additional captions that you can read and discuss if you have time.  Miss 4 loved it!

Today during our 30 minute drive home from Gymnastics, I handed Miss 4 Gail Gibbons’ “Frogs”- a book with a CD. I had to keep pausing the CD because she had more questions about things in the books, or just wanted to discuss something she found interesting (“Amy, there’s a frog that eats 100 mosquitoes in one night! Don’t you love that frog?” Yes. Yes I do.). By the end, she was saying how much she loved frogs, even though she hadn’t really thought much about them before.  It was wonderful. The narration with page turns took about 20 minutes to get through, which is a little longer than what she usually listens to, but she didn’t lose interest at all.

I can’t wait to discover all her other books!  And there are a LOT. Check out her website to discover them all and learn more about this great author and illustrator!

I’ll be posting Valentine’s Day Craft ideas next, so stay tuned!

The North Star, by Peter H. Reynolds

When I take the kiddos on long car trips to places (more than 15 minutes or so), I like to play audio books that I get from the library. There are so many great ones!  I’ve been reading Miss 4 early chapter books before her nap, but in the car, she loves picture books with CDs that have page turns, so that she can keep up with the illustrations and be involved.  I’m always looking for new audio books that she’d enjoy.  Today I found a great book!  Apparently, it’s a classic from a well-known award winning author that I somehow had just not heard of-  The North Star, by Peter H. Reynolds.  If you know and love this book already, I can hear your voice saying, “Oh my gosh, Amy, I can’t believe you didn’t know that book!”.  If you don’t know it, let me introduce you!

“The North Star” is a lovely picture book about a boy on a journey- metaphorically, his journey through life. Along the way, he discovers that everyone has their own journey (which everyone must choose for themselves), their own path, their own signs to lead them the way they should go.  He finds that you have to travel at your own pace, and that you should slow down and appreciate things along the way.  The message is wonderful, and told in a relaxing, poetic way.  The illustrations are small and simple, but pretty ink and watercolor drawings that flow nicely with the storyline.  The audio CD was lovely as well, with a tranquil narrator who voices characters wonderfully, and some pretty music as well!

Miss 4 listened to the CD four times total on our way to and from a class, which was 30 minutes away.  The first time, she followed along with the pictures using the page turns. The other three times, she asked to just listen to the story without the page turns. She says that there are too many pages to turn! The book is 64 pages long, and sometimes there’s just a few words before you turn the page again, so I see what she means. That’s the first time she’s ever asked to listen to a book without following along with page turns.  That’s the only negative I can think of, though.

This book is recommended for children 3-7 years old, according to Amazon, but I think it’d make a lovely graduation gift, too.  I’m looking forward to reading (and listening to) more books by Peter H. Reynolds!  I already have the book and CD of “Ish” on reserve at the library for Miss 4 and I to enjoy on the way to her class next week.

Library Adventures

I planned to go to the library this morning to get books for Mr. 7 and Miss 4, so on my way to taking them to school, I asked them what kind of books they’d like.

Mr. 7 was easy. He said to just pick out whatever I think he’d like, because he always like what I choose.

Miss 7 was pretty simple as well: “Do you think they’ll have Dora? And Lego Friends? And oh! Look for Wallykazam books too!” I told her I’d check for all of those things. Anything else? She thought and thought about it, then said “I’d like a book about plants. And nature. With lots of pictures. And make sure it’s really big, not a little book!” I told her that I loved that request and would definitely be able to find a really big nature and plant picture book.

So I went to the library and looked around for a while, and found the perfect thing…  Chihuly Garden Installations, a 400 page book filled with large photographs of Chihuly glass work in garden settings, including a section featuring Franklin Park Conservatory, where we like to go!  And this book is HEAVY.  And BEAUTIFUL. And she LOVES it.  She took it to bed with her for her nap this afternoon.  I feel like Super Nanny.  🙂


Chapter Books for Lower Elementary Kiddos- Part 1

After enjoying reading “Matilda” by Roald Dahl with Mr. 7, I started thinking about all the other books I’d love to read with him or have him read.  These books are great for kids who are at least 7 with great reading skills (and probably some help along the way) all the way up to 12 or so, when they’re able to read it all on their own.  If you’re looking to read aloud to a child without them helping, most of these books would be good for 5-7 crowd as well.

For this portion, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite authors who have many, many books to read.

Books by Roald Dahl:

There are so many great books by Roald Dahl, and I think they’re great for younger kids because they deal with issues kids can relate to, but the specifics of the stories are so ridiculous that kids know they’re fantasy and enjoy delving into that silly, fun world.  I recommend Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG to get you started. I’ve heard great things about The Witches but haven’t read it yet.

Books by Judy Blume:

Judy Blume is an author your child can really grow with. She has great books for younger kids, then books that focus on puberty-age, teenage, and even some adult novels.  My favorite books of hers for the younger kids are the “Fudge” books. This is a series, but can be read as stand alone books or even out of order if needed.  They are (in order): Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania, and Double Fudge.  These books focus on Peter, who starts as a 9 year old and ends as a 12 year old, and his mischievous younger brother, Farley Drexel (aka Fudge), who starts as a toddler and ends in lower elementary school.  There are lots of “What’s Fudge going to do next???” moments, and readers can really relate to Peter, who is just trying to live his normal life without having his pet turtle get eaten (yes, it happens) and other horrific things.  The books are super funny and I haven’t met a kid who hasn’t enjoyed them.

Books by Beverly Cleary:


Nearly everyone has read books by Beverly Cleary.  Honestly, I haven’t read all of them.  Not even close.  But that won’t stop me from recommending some of the ones I have read and enjoyed.  My very favorite Beverly Cleary book is The Mouse and the Motorcycle; it’s fun, and it’s a great read aloud book because of Ralph (the mouse) who has a squeaky mouse voice and also a little attitude. 🙂  There’s two other Ralph books, Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse that are also fun, but not necessary to enjoy the first book. The other two famous series are about Henry Huggins (which is the name of the first of his books) and Beezus and Ramona (the first of their books).  These three characters all live in the same time and town and interact with eachother here and there, especially in the early books.  The stories started in the 1950s, so there is going to be a lot of things that are quite dated and may not make total sense to your kids until they’re explained, but that won’t stop them from enjoying the stories.  If you’re working with a child who’s slightly older, perhaps 8-9 or older, I highly recommend Dear Mr. Henshaw, a wonderful book about a kid writing letters back and forth with his favorite author, and through them, working through his parents’ divorce and problems at school. It’s perhaps the “unknown teasure” of Beverly Cleary’s books, as it often gets overlooked for her more famous series.

That’s all for now, but don’t worry!  I have sooooo many other books I want to tell you about!  I’m thinking that next time, I’ll talk about stand alone books. 🙂

Books for Lower Elementary Kids- Part 2

In Part 1, I listed a few of my very favorite authors and recommended books for each of them.  This time, I want to mention a few of my favorite stand alone books (which may or may not have other related books or other great books by that author). As a reminder, these are recommended for 7-12 year olds. For the younger ones, you may want to read them aloud together, while the older kids can read them independently (and if the younger ones can and want to read them alone, that’s great too!) Let’s get started!  If you aren’t familiar with these books, you may want to read them first to make sure you feel they are appropriate for your kiddo.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

Omri gets a cupboard for his birthday, and his great-grandmother’s key fits in it just right.  After locking a toy Indian in it, Omri discovers that the key has magical powers!  The toy comes to life, revealing his name and a whole life that he has been pulled away from.  This book is full of imagination and fun and is sure to get kids looking at their toys in a whole new way!

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

This is a sad, but beautiful story that nearly everyone has read.  And those who haven’t, should.  A young girl named Fern saves a piglet from being killed for being the runt of his litter.  She names him Wilbur and cares for him.  But Wilbur is still in danger of being eaten one day, like most pigs are.  A kind spider named Charlotte befriends Wilbur and hopes to save him by weaving messages about how wonderful Wilbur is in her web.  This causes quite a stir, and Wilbur becomes a star.  But will it be enough? And what happens to Charlotte?

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

As a child, I was captivated by this unique story, which is based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Native American girl who was left alone on an island for 18 years.  In the story, Karana’s tribe lives on an island together until the tribe is threatened and leaves by boat… except for Karana, who gets accidentally left behind.  On the island, year after year, she must learn to survive and thrive on her own.  This is a book about survival and learning about who you are and what you’re capable of.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

This is a book for kids who want something completely different.  It’s silly, goofy, outrageous, and just plain weird!  I was a big fan of this book as a kid. It’s about a school that was supposed to be built with 30 classrooms side by side, but was instead built with 30 classrooms going up 30 floors!  And the strangeness only begins there.  The chapters are short and fun, filled with hilarious characters and clever ideas.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

I read this with Mr. 7 this past summer.  We took turns reading chapters to each other, and he loved every bit of it!  It isn’t a short book (which is part of the reason why we read it together), but it is filled with fun!  It’s about a very, very smart  and kind little girl named Matilda whose family is not as smart and not nearly as kind.  When she goes to school, her teacher is wonderful, but her principal is horrible!  Matilda finds creative ways to get back at the grown-ups who don’t treat her well, and meets some lovely new friends along the way.  The story is super funny, and there are a lot of “oh my goodness!  She’s actually going to do that???” moments. Roald Dahl is a British author, so be prepared to explain what a telly, mummy, knicker and other common British words mean.


I know lots of other great books for this age range, so I’m sure you’ll get another of these posts soon!  This should get you and your kiddos started until then. 🙂  Enjoy!




Great Book Series for a 3 year old

I LOVE to read, and there’s so many great books for kids out there!  I plan to have many posts with book recommendations for kids.  Head to your local library and look for these!  Reading a series of books can be super exciting for kids of all ages.  They get attached to the characters and always look forward to seeing what those characters will be doing next!  Here’s a small sampling of books I love for the 3-4 year old age group:

Little Critter (Mercer Mayer): I love these books for so many reasons.  Little Critter is open with his emotions (and he has many emotions), which makes them seem somewhat realistic to me. Little Critter is never perfect, but he always tries his best!  Also, the illustrations are fun.  Look for the spider and the mouse in every picture!  You never know what they’ll be up to!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie… (Laura Joff Numeroff): There’s only one “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” book, but there’s a whole series of “If you give a ____ a ______” like “If You Give a Pig a Cupcake”.  They’re all fun, silly books.  They don’t teach any life values, but if you want books that are full of imagination, this is it.  After you’ve read some, try to make up your own version with your little one!

Fancy Nancy (Jane O’Connor):  I know what you’re thinking.  “But Amy, I thought you didn’t like things that were so focused on gender!”  I can’t help it. I love Fancy Nancy.  But I don’t think they have to be just for girls.  Boys can like them too!  Nancy is a sweet girl who just happens to have a huuuuge, fabulous personality.  She likes everything to be fancy, from her clothes to her crafts to her vocabulary!  The books introduce lots of “big” words and makes them fun to use!  Nancy is another character who’s not perfect. She makes mistakes, and that’s ok.  Her down-to-earth mom and dad are always there to help her figure things out.  And her little sister, Jo Jo, is a bit of a tomboy, which I think is spectacular (that’s fancy for super great)!

Pigeon Series (Mo Willems): Pretty much anything by Mo Willems is great.  The pigeon series is funny and interactive, and kids love them!  They’re just so much fun!  Mo Willems does a great job expressing emotion in his characters. They are written in a “comic book” type format, so I always point to the character who’s speaking as they say what’s in their speech bubble, just to help the kiddos out.  If you like the books, try the silly games on Mo Willem’s website!

That’s it for now!