On Reading

How to Use Books to Spark Important Conversations With Your Kids

I recently read an article in Parents magazine that reiterated one of the things I love about reading and sharing books with my kids. The short article focused on the actress Kristen Bell and the importance she places on reading with her kids. One part of the article in particular stuck with me.

Bell says…

"Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, 'Don't you think it's weird that Snow White didn't ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?' I say, 'I would never take food from a stranger, would you?' And my kids are like, 'No!' And I'm like, 'Okay, I'm doing something right.'"

I love this. It is such a good reminder to me of what an amazing tool books can be to have important conversations with ours kids. This is true when they are little and we are reading Snow White and, it is true when they are teens reading about more complex issues.

5 Simple Ways to Encourage a Culture of Reading in Your Home

I have always been a bookworm. Books have played an important role in my life and from the moment I became a mom, my hope was to raise kids with a similar appreciation.

I know their love of reading will look different than mine, but my hope has always been that my kids would enjoy the simple pleasure of getting lost in a good book.

If you have a similar goal, I’m excited to share a few ideas. The ideas are simple. You probably already do several of them intuitively. They are also easy to implement, BUT they do take time and intentionality. In other words, they involve a little work. If you are up for the challenge, below are five simple ways to encourage a culture of reading in your home.

Exercising Veto Power at the Library

I love reading books out loud to my kids. I always have. Given the choice between playing games, crafting together or reading a book I choose book every time. No question. For me, time together reading trumps every other option.

However, we all know that books are NOT all created equal. It pains me to say there have been books my kids have asked me to read that made me cringe inside. You know what I’m talking about. Those picture books that are heavy, even dripping with words, with not a story in sight. Or, books that feel like they take an eternity to finish even though you technically reach the end in less than ten minutes. And let’s face it, there are only so many Dora the Explorer, Ninjago and Batman books one person can be expected to handle in one read aloud session.

Literary Links and a Guest Post

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It's been a little quiet here this month. Our family has been traveling and busy with the things of summer, including, of course, summer reading. And, let me tell you, I have a few books I can't wait to share. This blog might be quiet on the front page, but behind the scenes my mind is churning with ideas for future posts. Stay tuned! 

A bit of fun news: I was super excited to put together a guest post with five of my favorite middle grade fiction recommendations for a fellow literary blogger this week. If you are looking for book recommendations for yourself and/or your kids, head on over to the blog Top Shelf Text. You will find loads of book ideas, and if you are interested you can find my post here.

I discovered Top Shelf Text though the podcast What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel which just happens to be another great place to discover new books to try. My personal TBR list has grown exponentially since I started listening. 

I hope you are soaking in these summer days even as the start of school feels alarmingly close on the horizon. I still have a list of books to read that I will probably not make it through, but as the saying goes, "Between the pages of a book is a lovely place to be."

What have your favorite summer reads been this year? My TBR list always has room to grow. 

Summer Boredom Busters Courtesy of Mr. Dewey's Decimals

“Mom, I’m bored.” These dreaded words tend to echo around our house more and more as summer lengthens into July and August. Often followed with a request to play video games, no matter how many times I have told them no. My resolve to help my kids embrace boredom tends to be at it’s strongest in June. But my kids are persistent and by mid-July and August, their resolve for playdates with Mario begins to make me seriously question my resistance. 

I will often prescribe a list of ideas to cure their boredom woes. Read a book. Go play outside. Would you like a chore? Rarely are my suggestions met with enthusiasm. And when it’s the 304th time I’ve suggested the same tired ideas, we all sigh at my lack of creativity.  

Recently I had an epiphany. I don’t know that it will chase the boredom from their lives permanently, but it definitely provides more options with the potential to push them away from Mario towards more creative endeavors and strengthen my resolve against video games closer to the end of July. 


A Summer Reading Challenge

Summer reading programs are not just for kids.

Every year my local library hosts a special kind of program for its’ adult patrons. They call it ARKS which stands for Adults Reading Kids Stuff. It is something I look forward to every summer. 

The basic idea is obvious from the title. The program challenges participants to read a variety of genres all found in the children’s section of the library.  And even better, they give out prizes when you do. 

Besides taking me back to my childhood days of summer reading, I have benefited from this program in two main ways:

20 Ways to Keep your Kids Reading All Summer Long

In exactly one week my kids will be getting off the bus for the last time this school year. Summer break is almost here. I can't wait for the slower pace and extra reading time summer brings. 

Not all my kids agree, about the extra reading time I mean. The summer slide is a real thing, and no I’m not talking about your local park’s playground equipment. I’m talking about the tendency for young readers (especially the more reluctant ones) to fall off the reading bandwagon over the summer months. Several articles I’ve read suggest that by reading six books over the summer, you can keep your kids from losing ground on their reading skills. I don’t know about you, but that feels doable. 

If, however, getting your child to read one book, let alone six, feels like an unreachable goal, or if you are simply looking for more ways to maintain a reading culture in your house this summer, I’ve got you covered. Below is a list of 20 ways you can help your kids keep reading all summer long. 

An Ode to the Novel in Verse

April is National Poetry month, and I plan to pay homage to this distinction on the blog over the next few weeks. There will be at least one poetry book list, and several novel in verse recommendations.

Novel in Verse has become one of my favorite genres over the past few years. When done well, and there are many that nail it, I am always amazed at how the author can drive the story with a few perfectly chosen words.

I am really excited to share a few of my favorites, but for now I thought I'd have a little fun and try a bit of poetry myself. Below then, is my very own Ode to the Novel in Verse. 

A Book is NEVER too Young, When You are Reading for Fun!

“I used to read these all the time when I was little,” she said as she handed me a “Who Was” book to check out. She said it as if she was a little embarrassed to be checking out a book she'd read as a 3rd grader now that she was coming to the end of her 5th grade year. 

“I thought it would be fun to read it again," she added with a shrug.

“Absolutely!” I said as I handed back the book, and I meant it from the bottom of my book-loving heart.

Tips for Picking Age Appropriate Books - part 2

The older your child gets and the more experience they gain as a reader, the question of whether a book is appropriate changes. Instead of wondering if our child has the ability to read a book (see last week’s post for tips on this), we wonder if what they are reading is appropriate from a content perspective. And if they are an extra sensitive reader, this can be especially challenging. The older they get, the more books become available that contain more mature content. How can we help them navigate this challenge?

Below are a few tips that might help.

Tips for Picking Age Appropriate Books - part 1

Finding books that are appropriate for our kids is a challenge. When they are younger and first learning to read it can be hard to know what books are a good fit for their abilities. When they are older, the challenge can be avoiding books with content and themes they just aren't ready for. Most publishers give recommended reading ages for the books they publish, but, as we all know, every child is different. They read at their own pace and some are affected more dramatically by what they read than others. 

How do you know if a book is a good fit for your child’s reading ability and is an appropriate pick for them? Below are three tips that should help. (Next week look for tips to help you find content that is appropriate.)

3 Simple Ways to Help Your Kids Discover Great Books

I recently listened to a podcast where the host made the point that our goal should not necessarily be to help our kids fall in love with the act of reading, but instead to help them fall in love with the power of stories. It is a small shift in perspective, but it is an important one. 

With that in mind, how do we help our kids find (or even try) stories that they can fall in love with? Whether they are a reluctant reader or a verified bookworm, discovering the good ones can sometimes be a challenge.  To help you get started, below are three simple ways I have had success in encouraging a love of stories with my kids:

3 Tips to Survive Reading Homework with a Reluctant Reader

My son's homework for the year consisted of reading for 20 minutes every day after school. He was a second grader at the time, but was really more at a first grade reading level. High enough that he was able to attempt (with help) the more challenging easy readers, or even beginning chapter books, but low enough that he wasn’t able to stay focused and make it through longer books on his own. I knew he could complete this homework assignment, he had the ability, BUT, he made it clear that this was hard and, mostly, he didn’t want to do it. 

And so began our daily after-school struggle/tradition; after a snack he would grab a book and join me in the purple chair by the window where we would begin to read. Some days he would be ready to go, others (aka: most) he made it clear he did not want to. My goal was to do what I could to make it as painless as possible for the both of us.