Monthly Archives

July 2015

    children's literacy

    Sydney’s Book Club Partnership!

    I’m excited to announce that I’ve partnered with Sydney’s Book Club!  Sydney’s Book Club is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that introduces reading and literacy related learning both in and outside the home, on a consistent basis.

    sydney's book club

    Their mission is to promote early reading and literacy skills in children.  They do this by planting a seed within children and nurturing them to learn and LOVE to read.  Sydney’s Book Club also has an online community and a physical book club.  They also host an early reader summer literacy camp for children.

    With my partnership I’ll be writing book reviews and hosting various contest and giveaways to motivate little readers and their parents to keep reading.  Stay tuned!

    For more information about Sydney’s Book Club visit:

    Your turn:  Have you ever heard of Sydney’s Book Club before?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, giveaways

    Resumes for Children: A Book Review & A Giveaway!

    Resumes for Children 17 Years Old and Under by Donna Kristine Manley


    Do you have a resume for your child?  At what age do you think it’s appropriate for young people to start creating resumes? Eighteen? Sixteen?  How about thirteen or eight?  Think that’s too young?  Well, think again.

    It’s no secret the job market is fast-paced and highly competitive.  I remember a few years ago the social media website LinkedIn decided to allow kids as young as 13 to create profiles on its career-minded networking site.  (Imagine being in competition for a job with a 13 year-old!)  Aside from LinkedIn, there are a number of new ways teenagers and pre-teens can start preparing for their careers and building life skills — even if they’re unsure what, exactly, they want to do when they grow up.  That’s where creating a resume for your child can come in handy.

    Book Summary
    Resumes for Children 17 – Years Old Under is a detailed guide of sample resumes that show how children’s talents, skills, abilities, and challenges can propel them to success. Inside the book you’ll meet a student pilot with a 3rd Class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Medical Certificate, a child book reviewer, a Junior Open Water Diver and more. The sample cover letters are guides to show parents how to obtain other peoples’ money to assist in the growth and development of their children.  Resumes for Children 17 Years Old and Under was awarded a Best Parenting Book badge by and is a Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Recipient.

    I don’t quite remember my first resume, but I do recall listing every hobby I’d ever had to make my part-time job at the library look more substantial.  Where were books like Resumes for Children when I was growing up?

    I think this book does a good job providing several samples to use for creating a child’s resume and cover letter.  There are sample resumes for entrepreneurs, volunteers, babysitters/pet care, hobbies, inventors, aspiring medical professionals and more!  I also like the space in the back of the book for recording your reflections, ideas and resources.  These will be useful for writing down your child’s interests, hobbies, volunteer opportunities, activities, or hands-on experiences as they evolve over time.

    The author also talks about some reasons why children need a resume and offers some pearls of wisdom at the end of the book which I found to be helpful.

    While I don’t plan on creating a resume for either of my children anytime soon, I think this book will definitely come in handy when I’m ready to take on this task.  I believe Resumes for Children is great tool to use to help you to chronicle your child’s academic and extracurricular history.

    Creating a resume is an important initial step in the process of obtaining employment, volunteer opportunities or applying to private schools. In addition, a resume can help a student in future academic pursuits. Teaching your child to identify his/her skills, talents and achievements is key to putting together a winning resume.

    Since this book was written almost ten years ago, one suggestion I would make for a potential book update would be to limit contact information on the resume samples.  Meaning do not list a physical address, phone number or school name.  Contact information for your child can always be sent directly the the hiring manager, volunteer coordinator, etc.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m overly cautious about sharing any information about my children, especially online.  Electronic or hard copies of resumes and cover letters can end up anywhere therefore as a parent, I believe you must be very thoughtful about what personal information is on them.

    Are you on the fence about creating a resume for your child or do you think this sounds absurd?  Think of it this way: the reality is that some scholarship, private, middle and high school applications give you spaces in which they expect you to write down your child’s extracurricular activities, community service and awards. It can be a painful process if you’ve got nothing to write about your child in those spaces.

    Your turn:  Do you have a resume for your child already?  Are you thinking about creating one or not?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    Want to win a FREE copy of this book?

    I’m super excited to host my very first giveaway!  That’s right, I’m giving away 5 copies of the book Resumes for Children 17 Years Old and Under.  You can enter to win your very own copy by clicking the link below.  Five random winners will be chosen on Friday, July 31st.  All winners will be notified via e-mail and all books will be shipped in August.  Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    7/30/2015 Update: This giveaway has ended and all winners have been notified.  Thanks for participating!

    book reviews, read aloud

    Painting for Peace in Ferguson: A Book Review

    There is a new children’s book, available nationwide August 1st, that describes how artists and volunteers worked to transform boarded up windows into messages of peace, hope and light.  Painting for Peace in Ferguson was written by Ferguson, Missouri native, Carol Swartout Klein.

    Painting for peace in ferguson

    I had the pleasure of speaking with Carol during a telephone interview last week.

    “This book was a labor of love for me and I had no idea how it was going to be received.  I wanted to put out a positive message for kids.  I wanted to show them what a community looks like when we’re all working together.  I wanted to send the message that Ferguson can come out of this stronger,” said Klein.

    Written in child-friendly verse, the book focuses on the way the community came together to begin the healing process through the art of the Paint for Peace effort. Using illustration and photographs of the art and the artists and volunteers–black and white, young and old–the book is a tool for beginning the conversation with children about how we all have something to contribute to healing our communities. As the last line in the book says, “The work is not finished, there’s much more to be done. But this art shows the spirit of a new Ferguson.”

    Painting for Peace in Ferguson is being used in schools, around dinner tables, and around the globe.  The book opens doors and starts positive conversation about all of the issues around race in America, not only in Ferguson, but in Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, South Carolina, and across the country.

    The first thing that caught my eye about this book is the cover.  It’s so bright and vibrant!  Also, you notice right away the book has been recognized as the 2015 IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year from the gold sticker located at the bottom right corner.

    Next, when you open up the book you then see one of my favorite quotes from Fred Rogers:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'”.  I repeat this quote to my own children whenever there is an unfortunate event that takes place.

    The first time I read this book aloud to the kids they didn’t seem too interested.  I think this was because I took too long to read it as I was really focusing on looking at the art instead of the words.  I noticed the kids started to get antsy after about 10 minutes into story time and started doing other things.  I should have read it on my own first to admire the art before reading it to the kids – lesson learned.

    The next time I read the book to the kids I read it a lot faster only pausing briefly between each page to look at the pictures.  Now whenever I read it aloud the kids are attentive.  They really seem to like the rhyming text and can even recite a few lines of the poem from memory.

    What I like most about this book is the simple, yet powerful message that reminds us we all have something we can do to help.  Everyone is equipped with a different set of skills…we all have our own “paint brush”.  In good times and in bad, people of all races, ages and genders can come together to make a difference.  This message is expressed in a language that many toddlers and preschoolers can understand.

    Another thing I liked about the book is that it doesn’t go into the specifics of what caused the unrest in Ferguson, but rather focuses on the way the community came together to begin the healing process through the art of the Paint for Peace initiative.

    I will be honest and say I didn’t follow the events that led to the unrest that took place in Ferguson last year.  I was aware it was happening, but whenever I hear about racial tensions or devastating tragedies I am overcome with emotions and feel a sense of sadness.  Therefore, I choose not to follow stories like this in the media too closely.

    Overall, I think this book would make a great addition to a children’s home library, school library and public library.  From its beautiful illustrations to the engaging and rhyming verse, I see the value of it being used as a conversation starter to talk to children about different tragedies and events that take place around the world.  Other topics that can be touched upon with this book are: art, community, hope, friendship, healing, racial harmony, inspiration and volunteering.

    Your turn: Have you read this book yet? How do you talk to your children about tragic events? Do you use books like Painting for Peace in Ferguson to help start conversations with your kids? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    For more information about the Painting for Peace in Ferguson book please visit:

    Painting for Peace in Ferguson Website:
    Painting for Peace in Ferguson Facebook Page:

    adult books

    Sneak Peek: My August Book of the Month

    Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God by Kelly O’Dell Stanley

    praying upside down

    Here is a sneak peek of one of the books I’ll be reading next month.  When I came across this book on display at the book store last week I just had to purchase it!  The title of the book caught my eye right away for two reasons: 1) I’ve been wanting to deepen and strengthen my prayer experience and time with God. 2) I wondered what the heck does praying upside down mean?  I’ve never heard this term before so I’m intrigued to learn more.

    I am a firm believer in prayer and talking to God, but I know I don’t pray nearly as much as I should.  I tend to pray more and have conversations with God whenever I’m in a bind, a rut, or when things aren’t going so well.  I know I should pray and talk to God in good times as well as bad times, so I’m hoping this book will provide some great tips to help me transform my prayer life and actually stick to it.

    I’ll be reviewing this book in the coming weeks when I finish it so stay tuned!

    Your turn:  Have you read this book before?  If so, what do you think of it (without giving too much away)?  Do you also want to strengthen your prayer life and time with God?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    book reviews, read aloud

    The Name Jar: A Book Review

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

    Summary:  Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hey) is leaving all that she knows in Korea to move to the United States.  Before she leaves, her grandmother gives her a red satin pouch with her name engraved on a stamp written in Korean.  When Unhei comes to the United States she is very anxious about starting school.  Her first interaction with the other children on the bus isn’t a good one as none of them can pronounce her name.  They start making fun of her name which makes Unhei feel terrible.

    When Unhei arrives in her classroom she decides that she wants to give herself an American name.  So she tells everyone in the class she hasn’t picked a name yet so the class starts a name jar.  The jar is filled with American names that the other children in the class have suggested.  She reads many of the names, but can’t decide which name to choose.

    During this time, a young boy, Joey, befriends Unhei and helps her to appreciate her name.  In the end, Unhei finally decides that she likes her name (which means grace) best of all and teaches the class about her name and how to pronounce it.  Joey truly shows great friendship throughout the story by accepting Unhei’s name and wanting a Korean name and stamp for himself.

    Reflection: I really enjoyed this book and the kids did too.  I could relate to little Unhei especially since growing up my first name was almost always butchered on the first day of school by the teachers and students when trying to pronounce it.  I don’t recall anyone ever making fun of my name, they just couldn’t say it until they got used to it.

    I think this is a beautifully poignant story that all children can relate to.  I found Unhei’s strength and courage at the end of this story to be very inspirational.  In addition, Yangsook Choi’s illustrations are colorful, soft, and illuminate the story.

    I believe this book will help children understand how Unhei felt and could even teach them about self love and acceptance of others.  This book also introduces topics like having respect for other cultures and friendship.  Overall, I think The Name Jar is a delightful story for preschoolers and young elementary students.  Definitely a great read aloud book to read to children during the first few days/weeks of school.

    Your turn:  Have you ever read this book to your little ones?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    book reviews, read aloud

    Last Stop on Market Street: A Book Review

    Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena


    We received a free copy of this book back in February of this year.  I remember hearing about it from an interview on NPR radio so I was excited when there was a book reading taking place in my area.  Free copies of the book were given to all attendees so that’s how we snagged our copy of this awesome book.

    Even though we received this book months ago, it wasn’t until recently that I really started reading it aloud to the kids.  Now it’s in our rotation of books we read often.  I truly love this book as it reminds me of a lot of my childhood and my Nana.

    Every Sunday, CJ and his grandmother (Nana) ride the bus together, but CJ wishes they had a car instead. That is, until Nana points out why riding the bus is so much better.

    As he and his Nana take the bus across town, observant little CJ is full of questions and more than a little wishful thinking asking: “Nana, how come we don’t got a car?” Nana gently chides him, really just planting seeds for how she sees the world. “Boy, what do we need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.”

    You see, it’s really how you look at the world, the magic you can see there, and the people you meet along the way. When CJ asks why a blind man on the bus can’t see, Nana tells him, “Boy, what do you know about seeing? Some people watch the world with their ears.”

    Rather than telling CJ about what community means, his Nana shows him that he’s a part of it. After an event-filled bus ride, they arrive at their destination, the soup kitchen. “I’m glad we came,” CJ says looking at the familiar faces in the window of the soup kitchen where they both volunteer every Sunday.

    I adore the fact that CJ’s Nana helps him see beauty in his surroundings, whether it’s on the bus or the soup kitchen they head to every Sunday afternoon. As Nana said, “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, C.J., you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

    In my opinion, this picture book has it all.  Wonderful descriptive writing, beautiful, rich illustrations and it’s full of abundant, child-centered details.  I love it when picture books can capture a small moment–and help us hold onto the small moments in our own lives.

    This book makes me smile and think of my Nana every single time I read it–it’s so filled with love, friendship and an appreciation for life, in such a real way.  Many ideas are touched upon in this book: poverty, music, manners, volunteering, helping, caring, family and gratefulness.

    I love the overall message of this book: being grateful for what you have.  Little CJ is so lucky to have a grandmother who teaches him to see things from a different perspective.  If only all children could be so fortunate to have someone like CJ’s Nana in their lives.

    Want to learn more? Check out the original NPR radio interview I listened to:

    NPR Interview with Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

    Your turn:  Have you read this book to your little ones before?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    currently reading, read aloud

    What the Kids are Reading (in July 2015)

    Here’s a roundup of the books I’ll be reading aloud to the kids this month.  We’re exploring everything from colors to animals and bugs to chocolate!  What’s on your reading stack?

    Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

    Dog starts off the day with one black spot on his left ear. But it seems that wherever he goes, he runs, rolls, and trots right into colors. As he wanders around town, Dog collects spots made of red jam, blue paint, pink ice cream, and more. When he finally arrives back home, Dog has ten different colored spots. And then it’s bath time for this colorful canine, who makes learning colors and numbers easy, messy, and fun!

    You Are My Baby: Ocean by Lorena Siminovich

    This board book is adorable!  It’s part of a series written by the author Lorena Siminovich.

    Readers will find a little book nestled inside a bigger one: Turn the pages to match the baby animals to their parents, and learn some early concepts along the way.

    You Are My Baby: Safari by Lorena Siminovich

    This book is from the same series of board books as the one mentioned above except it’s all about safari animals. So cute!

    The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
    Each ring of the doorbell brings more friends to share the delicious cookies Ma has made. This terrific and suspenseful read-aloud picture book about friendship, sharing, and cookies can also be used to introduce basic math concepts to young children.

    Bug detective : amazing facts, myths, and quirks of nature by Maggie Li
    This book is so fun and interesting! The kids have really taken an interest in nature and bugs this summer so this book is perfect for helping them to learn more about bugs. From creepy-crawly beetles and scary spiders to beautiful butterflies, this playful guide will reach out and grab bug-crazy kids! Funny, picture-packed pages provide tons of information on bug habitat, feeding rituals, predators, and more, while each spread focuses on one creature-like bees or centipedes—with a brief introduction and facts scattered brightly everywhere. Plus, the book comes with a magnifying glass embedded in the cover, so budding “detectives” can complete the “missions” they’ll find throughout, along with additional activities in the back.

    The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

    This book came highly recommended so we’re reading it. In a laugh-out-loud hilarious twist on the legend of King Midas, a boy acquires a magical gift that turns everything his lips touch into chocolate. Can you ever have too much of your favorite food? John Midas is about to find out….

    First published in 1952, The Chocolate Touch was an instant classic—and has remained a timeless favorite with kids, teachers, and parents.

    Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
    Hatching a plan for survival isn’t always easy in the wild. And how animals lay, protect, and even use each other’s eggs as a food source help reveal the life cycle of the natural world. Eggs come in all shapes and sizes. The ostrich’s is the largest, but some are so small, you need a microscope to spot them. Animals hide them and disguise them in smart and surprising ways, too. Some abandon their eggs, while others protect them fiercely and carry them wherever they go. There are as many kinds of eggs as there are animals that depend on them, because in the animal kingdom, the fight for survival begins with the simple, but extraordinary, egg.

    Where Does Kitty Go in the Rain? by Harriet Ziefert
    A lilting kitty mystery combines with rain-centered facts to create an utterly charming fiction/nonfiction picture book. As kids are invited on the search for Kitty, they’ll also discover what different animals do to enjoy, or avoid, a rainy day. Harriet Ziefert’s rhyming couplets pair beautifully with Brigette Barrager’s lush art to make a combination that is sure to please young readers and adults alike.

    What makes a duck waterproof? Where do butterflies hang out to stay dry? What serves as a built-in umbrella for a squirrel? Created especially for younger readers, here’s a unique title that’s part mystery, part science, and all curiosity-inspiring fun!

    Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood
    I love finding great alphabet books to read!  After working hard all summer with their teacher, “Capital T,” the lower case letters of the alphabet are on their way to the first day of school. But they’re held up when the letter i loses her dot. The letters come up with a plan, and race around to find a substitute for Little i to wear s offers a star, h a heart but at the last moment the mischievous dot returns (anxious about being replaced).

    One Too Many: A Seek & Find Counting Book by Gianna Marino
    In this boisterous barnyard, the fun grows with each turn of the page. One bouncing flea is joined by two cows, then three horses, and so on, all the way up to twelve swooping bats. Children will delight in following the shimmering path of the flea, counting each bounce along the way to find the new arrival. Older readers can take the challenge further, counting all the animals on the page, or hunting for their favorite. And a surprise ending reveals which animal is just one too many!

    Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins

    It’s time to eat! Which animals eat bamboo, can gulp down a whole deer, or swallow rocks to help them eat?

    Frindle by Andrew Clements
    I recently started a ‘Summer Stories’ story time for kids that live in my neighborhood. We read books outside two nights a week for half an hour and then have a brief discussion afterwards. The kids are really enjoying it! I let the older kids alternate who reads the books and then we all listen while eating our snacks. This is one of the longer chapter books we’ll be reading aloud during our ‘Summer Stories’ story time this month.

    Is Nick Allen a troublemaker? He really just likes to liven things up at school — and he’s always had plenty of great ideas. When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he’s got the inspiration for his best plan ever…the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there’s nothing Nick can do to stop it.

    Your turn:  What are your kids reading this month?  Have you read any of these books?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.