Monthly Archives

September 2015

    children's books, read aloud

    5 Board Books Babies & Toddlers Will Love!

    During this week’s library haul I scored some fantastic brand-new board books that I think infants and toddlers will love!  Ok, I must admit, I think I love them more than my kids, but they really do seem to enjoy these books too – especially my 21-month old son.  If you follow us on Instagram, you may have already seen three of these books on our page.



    All of these books are durable and high-quality.  Oh, and did I mention I think they are gorgeous and so creative?  Did I pique your interest yet?  Read on.

    A B See by Elizabeth Doyle
    My kids adore alphabet books especially this beautiful gem by Elizabeth Doyle.  Each page contains detailed illustrations and is chock-full of interesting alphabetic tidbits.  This book is also a seek-and-find with alliterative text that reads like poetry.  Each of the letters are raised making it fun for kids to trace them with their fingers similar to sand paper letters used in Montessori education.  There is also a key provided at the back of the book which contains all of the words that match each tiny picture hidden throughout.

    I Can Roar! by Frank Asch
    We had so much fun with this adorable, engaging book!  It’s a tall board book has a circular die-cut hole, perfect for toddlers to hold up and stick their tiny faces through. The pages feature Asch’s simply outlined animal shapes and declarative sentences, such as “I can squeak like a mouse” and “I can quack like a duck.” Sure to be great fun for young children.

    LOOK! by Edouard Manceau
    Here is another oversize board book with a rectangular die-cut in the middle of the book.  Children are asked a series of questions like: Do you see anything red, orange, blue or green?  Things that are near and things that are far?  The book gets more creative as you move through it, with a velcro page that invites readers to look for things in their own world that make noise, a shiny page, and even one covered in orange velvet that is soft to the touch.  Brilliant!

    Jane Foster’s ABC by Jane Foster
    I think this alphabet book is so visually appealing!  The illustrations are so bright, vibrant and downright eye-catching!  It’s no surprise the illustrator of this book is also a textile designer.  Babies and toddlers will be drawn to all the beautiful colors.

    Jane Foster’s 123 by Jane Foster
    Here is another gorgeous board book that little ones are sure to love!  My only issue with this book is that it only has the numbers 1 to 10.  I wish it went at least up to number twenty.  Still a great book though for little ones who love board books.

    There you have it!  These books are great to read aloud to young readers and will make great baby shower, birthday or new baby gifts.

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this list of new board books?  What others might you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's literacy, read aloud

    Feeling Nostalgic: My Favorite Childhood Books

    This week I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic and started reminiscing about some of my favorite books, television shows and toys I loved as a kid.  I think these thoughts popped into my head because I was thinking how fortunate all of the children who have access to so many wonderful books are today.  There are literally books for just about any topic you can think of.  Can you imagine having so many books at your fingertips during your childhood?

    My Favorite Childhood Books

    If you grew up in the eighties like me, you’ll remember some great stories that were huge back then. These were the books that got you through childhood, the characters acting as companions when all the older kids rode their bikes to the park without you.

    One of the joys of parenting I’m looking forward to is when my kids are old enough to read the books from my  childhood.  It will be a chance to not only relive the magic of the stories, but also provide the comfort of being a kid again.

    Here are some of the favorites I can remember from my childhood.  Any of these look familiar to you?

    Blubber by Judy Blume
    The cover to this book has since been updated, but I believe this is the original image.

    What happens when teasing goes too far? This classic middle grade novel from Judy Blume addresses the timeless topic of bullying and has a fresh new look.

    Corduroy by Don Freeman
    Who doesn’t love Corduroy?  Don Freeman’s classic character, Corduroy, is even more popular today then he was when he first came on the scene in 1968. This story of a small teddy bear waiting on a department store shelf for a child’s friendship has appealed to young readers generation after generation.

    The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin
    Remember Stacey, Mary Anne, Dawn, and Claudia from The Babysitter’s Club book and television series?  These 4 girls helped guide me through my teenage years with dreams of growing more independent.  I so wanted to start my own babysitter’s club, did you?

    Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
    Pippi is the ultimate girlhood role model: she’s strong, independent and fun, and just as relevant now as she was back then.

    Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
    Amelia Bedelia and she is a silly maid who takes everything literally. She is hired by Mrs. Rodgers to clean her home and prepare dinner while Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers are out. Amelia Bedelia performs every item on Mrs. Rodger’s list exactly as it says.  Oh, Amelia!

    The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
    Peter explores many of my favorite aspects of playing with snow, from snow ball fights, to making snow angels, to trying to hold on to snow even inside (even though the snow ball melts in his pocket). I think Keats perfectly captures the wonder kids feel when going out to play in the snow.

    Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
    The cover to this book has since been re-printed, but I believe this is the original image.

    Eight-year-old Ramona Quimby’s zest for life is infectious as ever. Whether speaking her mind to her third-grade teacher, or befriending her schoolyard bully, Ramona can’t be kept down!

    I’m sure there are other books I may be forgetting, but these are the ones that came to mind first.  I hope you enjoyed that little walk down memory lane.

    Your turn:  What were some of your favorite “back in the day” books from your childhood?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    Just for fun!  Our friends over at Bookroo kicked off a fun project this week. They’ve created 100 posters of well-known children’s books, along with a quiz people can use to test their knowledge using the posters. The goal of this initiative is to remind people of the simple joy of children’s books–to bring back wonderful reading memories, but also encourage the making of new ones!

    Test your knowledge today by taking the FREE quiz here! How many can you get right?  Note:  This is not an affiliate link and I am not being compensated for promoting their quiz.  Enjoy!

    children's literacy, holiday books, national dictionary day

    Do Your Kids Own a Dictionary?

    Do your kids own a dictionary?  Or are they becoming a thing of the past?  I purchased two for the kids a few years ago, but we haven’t started really exploring them yet since they’re both still young.  However, we have used other age-appropriate children’s dictionaries geared towards the preschool crowd on occasion when we’re not reading board books or picture books.

    Do Your Kids Own a Dictionary-

    Since National Dictionary Day is coming up on October 16th, I thought I’d provide you with a list of different children’s dictionaries to choose from.  Dictionary Day, the annual celebration of all things lexicographical also happens to be Noah Webster’s birthday who was born way back in 1758.  Dictionary Day was founded to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Noah Webster – the father of the modern dictionary.

    Today, Dictionary Day is largely an opportunity for school teachers to organize classroom activities encouraging students to build their dictionary skills and to exult in the joy of words.  Why not take the opportunity to learn some new words yourself or with the kids on October 16th?  It’s fun. I promise.

    The word that I learned today is “mucro.”

    Mucro \ MYOO-kroh \ noun 1. A short point projecting abruptly, as at the end of a leaf or the point of a sword.

    Now, you can start using it in day-to-day language. See? Fun! Useful! Important! (Well, at least I think so…ha ha!)

    Below are a few children’s dictionaries I’d recommend.  Enjoy!

    My First 1,000 Words
    This book is a great tool for introducing children to new vocabulary words. Words are organized into fun categories, and each word is accompanied by a colorful and kid-friendly image. Sample sentences show how the vocabulary words are used.  Recommended for children ages 1 – 5.

    My First Phonics Dictionary

    Children who are familiar with phonics will be a step ahead when learning to read. My First Phonics Dictionary is designed to make phonics easy and fun for beginning learners. The dictionary, recommended for children ages 4 and older, is an ideal tool for introducing sounds and the letters that correspond to them.

    The 96-page dictionary begins with simple consonant and vowel sounds like b and e. More difficult consonant and vowel sounds, such as ch and ea, are presented in the final two sections. Each sound is accompanied by several common words that represent the sound, along with a colorful photograph or illustration of the word. A two-page review at the end of each section helps reinforce the sounds just presented. In addition, a sounds chart at the end of the dictionary lists the key pictures and key words used for each sound in the book.  Recommended for children ages 2 – 6.

    My First English Spanish Dictionary

    The Perfect Primer for early bilingual language development.  This book is divided into two sections.

    1) Favorite Animals – like: Farms, Wild animals, Parks, Pets
    2) Themes – like: Foods, Insects, Body, Transportation, Clothes

    Great for Home Schools and Early learning!  Recommended for children ages 4 – 8 years old.

    French-English Picture Dictionary
    It’s never too soon to start teaching boys and girls a second language, and this book presents pages filled with cheerful color pictures that help teach French words to English-speaking children in early grades. It presents more than 350 illustrations of familiar objects, with nine pictures on each page. Every picture is labeled with its English word, followed by its French equivalent.

    Words are grouped according to themes, such as Sports, The Classroom, Fruit, Vegetables, Party Time, Weather, and many others.  Recommended for children ages 4 – 8 years old.

    My First Dictionary
    My First Dictionary is the perfect go-to reference. With one thousand entries and pictures, this first dictionary features nouns, verbs, and adjectives that are most commonly encountered by young children, and definitions that give the word’s primary meaning in terms of a child’s experience. Every entry has been checked to ensure it is up-to-date, and new words and pictures have been added to make sure it’s relevant for today’s kids.  Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

    Merriam-Webster Children’s Dictionary
    This revised and updated dictionary for elementary school children includes more than 93 new entries, from broadband and graphic novel to MP3 and smartphone — for a total of 35,000 words and phrases in all. Each entry is fully explained with its definition, usage, examples, and notes on spelling and punctuation.  Recommended for children ages 5 – 9 years old.

    Math Dictionary for Kids, 4E: The Essential Guide to Math Terms, Strategies, and Tables
    Equipped with this handy, updated reference of more than 400 full-color, illustrated definitions, children will be able to quickly find the definitions and illustrated examples that will enable them to solve many of the math challenges they face. Recommended for students in grades 4–9.

    Merriam-Webster’s Elementary Dictionary

    New features include pronunciation paragraphs for every letter, Greek & Latin word root paragraphs, and kid-friendly usage hints in full sentences.  Special sections include geographical names, signs and symbols, an introduction to Greek & Latin roots in English, a guide for writers, and a list of literary works used in the text.  This dictionary is designed to help students and educators meet Common Core Standards.  Recommended for children ages 8 and up.

    Oxford Illustrated Children’s Dictionary
    The Oxford Children’s Dictionary boasts a number of features that make it an ideal reference work for young children. It offers crystal clear definitions, which include pronunciation guides for difficult words (such as guerilla or ricochet) and up-to-date example sentences that show how words are used in context. It has an attractive layout, with headwords in color and numerous illustrations on every page.  Recommended for children ages 8 and up.

    Kid’s Bible Dictionary
    Bible dictionaries are a fantastic tool for better understanding scripture – and here’s a dictionary especially for younger readers! The Kids’ Bible Dictionary provides interesting, age-appropriate, often fun definitions for 1,000 Bible words and names. From Aaron, Abba, and Abomination to Zacchaeus, Zeal, and Zion, the Kid’s Bible Dictionary covers all the key terms from the whole of scripture. Fully illustrated, with a colorful, kid-friendly design, Kid’s Bible Dictionary is ideal for personal reading, Sunday schools, and home schooling.  Recommended for children ages 8 to 12.

    Super Heroes: My First Dictionary

    This sounds like it may be a fun dictionary for little boys who love super heroes and comic strips.  Introduce children to first words in this super-cool pre-school visual dictionary.

    A combination of the 500 most popular words for preschoolers along with essential DC super hero names and terms, this unique visual dictionary makes it fun for kids to build their vocabulary and early and pre-reading skills. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash–and other fan favorites–are fabulous guides to first words and the DC universe. The classic comic book art rounds out this entertaining, educational, great-looking package. Each entry includes an illustration, and an example of the word used in a sentence.  Recommended for children ages 3 and up.

    Dictionaries provide children with so much information about words, especially when they’re learning to read. They teach things like: pronunciation, correct spelling(s), word meanings, parts of speech, and syllable divisions.

    Your turn: Did you find this list of children’s dictionaries to be helpful?  Do you feel dictionaries are becoming obsolete with the invention of online dictionaries?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    read aloud

    Two Rules for My Read Aloud Journey

    When I started my read aloud journey three years ago I had two rules:

    1. I vowed to read to my children daily.
    2. I promised to read them stories that had characters who looked like them that they could relate to.

    Two Rules for My Read Aloud Journey

    Let’s face it, finding good, quality books featuring people of color is hard!  Today, it’s a lot easier than it used to be years ago, but the struggle is real.

    Many of the books with Black characters are either related to the Civil Rights era, slavery, natural hair, or historical biographies of famous people’s lives like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman and Malcolm X.  Don’t get me wrong, some of those books are great, but I don’t want to read my children books about slaves or natural hair all the time.  Besides, those types of stories are not always appropriate for bedtime.  If you’re a parent of a Black or Brown (multicultural) child, you’ll understand what I mean.

    If I see one more children’s book about Civil Rights, slavery or how much Black girls love their natural hair I’m going to scream!  Where are the quality books like The Boxcar Children and Harry Potter for Black and Brown children?

    When I think back to my own experiences growing up, particularly my early childhood literary memories I don’t ever recall reading a children’s book where a Black child (or a child of another multicultural race) was the main character.  Luckily, there were several television shows in the 90’s that featured positive Black role models that I admired.

    So, I decided to try and make it different for my children.  I read a wide array of books that includes everything from classics to non-fiction books.  In addition, my goal is to fill their experiences with a full spectrum of Brown and Black characters in a variety of books. I want their experiences of story and representations of the world to include people of color, particularly people whom they can imagine being like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Misty Copeland, Michelle Obama or some of the fictional characters we read in books like Lola (from Anna McQuinn’s series).

    Of course, I believe all children should be exposed to a wide range of people, experiences, and cultures.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents and educators felt that way?  The bottom line is we still need greater diversity in children’s books. But, even more importantly, we need people actually to buy and read them to their children and grandchildren so publishers will continue to publish them.

    If you’re looking for some book suggestions for African-American children check out some of our favorites here.

    Your turn:  Do you expose your children to a wide range of characters in books?  Or, do you just stick to your own race or culture?  What are some of your read aloud rules when reading to your children?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, read aloud

    Picture of Grace: A Book Review

    Picture of Grace
    by Josh Armstrong

    This Sunday, September 13th is National Grandparents Day.  I’ll be honest and say I didn’t even know such a day existed until my adult years.  This is probably because it didn’t originate in the United States until the year 1978.  It’s often one of those holidays that can be easily overlooked especially since it’s right around back-to-school, Labor Day and adjusting to new routines for both kids and adults.

    Of course, one way the kids and I will be celebrating Grandparents Day is by reading grandparent-related books like Picture of Grace written by Josh Armstrong.

    Six-year-old Grace aspires to be an artist like her beloved grandfather Walt. Every week, she goes to his house and watches with great joy as he paints.

    Of course, not everyone appreciates Grandpa Walt’s artwork. But as Walt tells Grace, “Some people appreciate the hard work while others just want the painting to be finished. But you can’t be distracted by either group.”

    When tragedy strikes, Grace takes it upon herself to honor Grandpa Walt in a special way. Through her act of love and kindness, Grace’s family discovers an amazing secret about Walt’s final, unfinished masterpiece.

    What a heartfelt story about a little girl who is her grandfather’s biggest fan!  First off, let’s talk about the book cover illustration.  It’s so simple, yet so beautiful!  I think the illustrations used throughout this book are amazing and really do an awesome job of capturing a wide range of emotions: happiness, sadness, shock, confusion, and anger.

    Next, I think the story is very engaging and interesting.  I love the relationship between Grace and her Grandpa Walt.  How cool would it be to have a grandfather who is also a famous artist?  What a treat it would be to sit and watch him paint his masterpieces and have them come to life right before your eyes!  It’s apparent that Grace envied her grandfather as she told him she wanted to be just like him when she grew up.  I loved Grandpa Walt’s response when he said to Grace, “That’s very kind of you, but I can think of nothing better than you simply being yourself.”  Who wouldn’t love a grandpa like that?

    Grandpa Walt was in the process of painting his final masterpiece and Grace enjoyed sitting by her grandpa’s side each day while he painted.  Then one day tragedy strikes and Grace is heartbroken.

    I was surprised when Grandpa Walt passed away.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.  This is the first book I’ve read to the kids where someone actually dies in the book.  Although death is touched upon briefly, I didn’t find it to be disturbing to the kids in any way.  My kids are still too young to have an in depth conversation about death so when Grace’s mother tells her she can’t visit Grandpa Walt anymore, I just told the kids Grace was sad and moved on with the story.  I think it also helped that the author chose not to dwell on the loss of Grandpa Walt with text.  Instead, the illustrations did all the talking and let you know why Grace wouldn’t have the opportunity to see her grandfather again.

    Finally, I really enjoyed the ending of this book when Grace took it upon herself to finish the painting her grandfather started by adding her own special touch.  She painted herself and her grandfather both smiling and having fun – just the way she remembered spending time with him.  It was perfect!

    Although death is addressed in this book, don’t let that deter you from reading it to your little ones.  Besides, there are other topics to be explored and discussed like: grandparents, art, honoring loved ones, love, courage, and respect.

    Overall, I think this is a good, quality book for children, although I would recommend it for children ages 4 – 8 years old.  Consider letting the kids snuggle up with a grandparent and read this touching story.  Or, if your child’s grandparents have passed away read it in remembrance of them.

    Special Grandparent’s Day Deal: The e-book is FREE until Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, 9/13.  Get your FREE e-book copy here.  Hurry, expires on 9/13!

    About the Author
    Josh Armstrong is a bereavement counselor for Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care. This year, he published his first illustrated children’s book, Picture of Grace, collaborating with Tear Soup illustrator Taylor Bills. He has also contributed to several newspapers, including The Mount Airy News, The Winston-Salem Journal, The Elkin Tribune and The Weekly Independent. He and wife Chelsea celebrated their third anniversary this March.

    For more information about the book or the author please visit the website:
    Picture of Grace is also on Facebook:

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this book review?  How will you be celebrating Grandparent’s Day with your little ones?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

    adult books, book reviews

    Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose (A Book Review)

    Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose
    by T.D. Jakes


    Book Summary
    In this book, T.D. Jakes teaches you to find order in the steps of your life and have the courage to say yes to destiny. We all have a destiny. Finding the courage to drive past the challenges, pains, and even the shortcuts of life to the deeper purpose of living is to thrive in one’s divine destiny.

    Most people have sensed destiny pulling them to just the right place or person. Whether it is the spouse you meet, or the children you bear, or the promotion you receive, everyone has a purpose to pursue. Sometimes it is understanding our destiny that helps us accept what on the surface appears to be failure.

    Throughout the book, T.D. Jakes shares insight to help you play the roles you were designed for. Expanding on his #1 bestselling book Instinct, Jakes reveals that instinct is the first step to the destiny that awaits.

    Author Background
    Thomas Dexter, better known as Bishop T.D. Jakes, has turned his lifelong love of Scripture into a thriving empire that has inspired millions of people around the world.  Jakes is the bishop of The Potter House, a megachurch with over 30,000 members.  His ministry program, The Potter’s Touch, is televised to 3.3 million viewers weekly.

    If you’ve never heard of him before, I think T.D. Jakes can be best described as one of the most influential black thought leaders in America today.  With his very charismatic demeanor, he’s a visionary and provocative thinker.  Jakes is also a communicator, evangelist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and bestselling author of over 25 books.

    To say that I enjoyed this book would be an understatement.  I truly LOVED this book!  It spoke to the very depths of my soul and came into my life at the perfect time.  I devoured this book in just two days while on a mini family vacation over the summer.

    The book starts out with Jakes recounting a conversation he had on an elevator with the late Coretta Scott King several years ago during her last days.  He asked her why she never remarried and she said, “I was called to be his wife”.  It was in those moments after his interaction with Mrs. King that Jakes began to ponder about his own destiny.  Hence, he wrote this amazing book to help others clear their paths of distractions and disruptions and get on the path to destiny.

    This is the first book I’ve read that was written by T.D. Jakes.  The thing I noticed right away was his writing style.  It’s exactly like his speaking style…straight and to the point.  No sugar coating.  As I was reading the book, it felt like he was right there in the room preaching a private sermon to me.  It might sound funny, but I could actually hear his voice in my head as I read each word.

    Throughout the book, Jakes shares stories of some of the challenges and setbacks he faced throughout his life while traveling on the path to his destiny.  He tells readers to get their relationships, money, and thoughts in step with their destiny and pull away from visionless people who have no plans for their future.  He also urges you to pour into relationships that pour into you and discusses the importance of being intentional about the people you are connected to.

    There are so many great nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout this book that I took note of.  Here are just a few:

    • Leave behind small thinking and think big – always go above and beyond.
    • Stop allowing minor thoughts to occupy your mind.
    • If you pray for an oak tree, God will send you an acorn because things can come from small beginnings.  Don’t throw the acorn away because your tree is the seed.  God works through the agricultural principle of planting a seed and reaping a harvest.
    • There are times when emptiness is needed so that God can be allowed to fill a void.
    • God can use disorder to create a new order in your life.
    • Be determined to invest in yourself despite delays, setbacks, and sidetracks.
    • The most important things in life require struggle.
    • Destiny becomes reality when you partner with God.  Be open to listening to God.
    • Let God fight the battles you can’t win for yourself.
    • Add someone you your life who is smarter, more knowledgeable or accomplished than you and learn from them.
    • To expand your knowledge and exposure in life, let go of the easy and familiar.
    • Be careful with the gift of time.  Every day is a withdrawal from the bank of time.
    • Don’t spend your time obsessing about what others are doing.  Don’t be jealous.
    • Declare there is more inside you yet to be discovered and focus your attention on getting it.
    • The journey to destiny requires a curious mind.
    • Gain knowledge from unlikely sources.  Knowledge comes from all types of people and sources.

    Although there were some points in this book I’ve heard other motivational speakers say before, they weren’t articulated quite the same way that T.D. Jakes said them.  His matter-of-fact tone really resonated with me.

    Throughout each revealing chapter, Jakes shares how stepping into his purpose got him where he is today. He is also transparent about a few of the mistakes he made along the way, what he learned from each and how he overcame them.

    I really felt T.D. Jakes’s charismatic personality shine through in each chapter as he unfolded each topic with lots of colorful anecdotes and high-paced energy.  Overall, I think this is one of the most inspirational and motivational books I’ve read in a while.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is ready to discover how to step into their God given destiny and purpose in life. I think this book is an excellent blue print that outlines the steps you need to take to reach your destiny.  A winner!

    Your turn:  Have you read this book yet?  Have you figured out your destiny and purpose in life yet?  If so, what is it?  Feel free to share in the comments.