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family fun

    family fun, product reviews

    The Easiset Way to Learn How to Play Chess for Ages 5 – 105: Brainblox Family Fun Chess

    Disclaimer: My family received a free Family Fun Chess set from Brainblox to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    If you’re like me and have little to no experience playing the game of chess, you may be wondering how to teach kids to play chess when you don’t even know how to play yourself! Thankfully, Brainblox is here to help! They recently introduced a beautiful Family Fun Chess set to their product line and it’s so great.

    If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me talking about it recently in my Instagram stories.  I also hosted a giveaway in partnership with Brainblox where we gave away one chess set to a lucky winner.

    What is Family Fun Chess?

    It’s a color-coded, FUN, learn-as-you-play game for kids and adults to learn chess!

    When it’s your turn, simply roll the Chess Cube to see which piece to move! The Reference Cards make it easy to learn-as-you-play, while the full-color Instruction Book and videos tell you everything else you need to know.

    The chess set includes:

    • a folding wooden chess board
    • 32 wooden chess pieces
    • 2 reference cards
    • a full color chess book
    • a wooden cube

    Learning how to play chess the “Family Fun” way was very easy to understand for me and my kids.  We found the reference cards to be super useful in helping us all understand how each of the chess pieces are able to move on the board during the game.  I also appreciate the fact that Brainblox included instructions for playing chess the standard way too.  This will come in handy once we’ve fully grasped the rules of chess and are ready to move on to learning how to play standard chess.

    The thing I love most about learning to play chess and teaching my kids to play is all of the benefits associated with understanding the game.

    Here are just a few of the benefits of playing chess:

    • increases concentration and memory
    • helps with paying attention to detail and strategic thinking
    • improves problem-solving and spatial skills
    • exercises both sides of the brain

    Even more importantly, I find learning to play chess alongside my children to be much more meaningful because offers quality time and experiences that we will remember for a lifetime. If you’re sold on learning to play chess with your little ones, you’ll first need to get your family a chess set.  If you can’t already tell, I’d highly recommend the Family Fun Chess set from Brainblox.  It makes a great holiday or anytime of the year gift for ages 5 – 105!

    Not ready to invest in a chess set of your own yet?  You can also look into local chess clubs for kids in your area.  Find out if your child’s school or your local library has a Chess Club. That’s a great place to start, so kids can get basic instruction and have peers to play with.  There are also many online resources and apps available to use too.  You can choose to play against friends, connect with other players at your level, or get live or virtual tutoring.

    Your turn:  Do you or your children know how to play chess?  Are you excited to learn about the Family Fun Chess set from Brainblox?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    family fun, parenting

    First Day of School Prayers for Children and Parents + 5 Day Prayer Challenge

    Tomorrow my children start their first day of school in a brand new environment.  Although I’m excited for them to start this new journey in a new school, I am also filled with a bit of anxiety and I just feel like praying—and I thought you might pray with me—for our children as they start a new year of school.

    I believe the best gift we give our kids as they head back to school is our prayers.  Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college, children need our prayers.  If you believe this too, I hope you’ll join me in a 5-day prayer challenge you can do on your own.

    In order to participate, all you need to do is recite the prayers below each morning for the first five days of school.  If you don’t like any of the prayers I’ve chosen, feel free to come up with your own prayers.  And of course, if you’re not the religious type then this challenge isn’t for you and that’s okay.  If your children already started their first day of school, no worries you can still participate.  Just recite the prayers each morning for five consecutive days with your children or on your own.

    I hope you find this prayer challenge to be helpful and will help spread the word if it’s something that resonates with you.

    Day One

    Dear God, Father of heavenly lights, Giver of perfect gifts,

    I give my child(ren) to you today and everyday.  Keep him/her and his/her schoolmates safe and protected, Father God.  I ask that this school year you would use every person, every experience and every lesson to shape him/her into Your image, to grow in his/her fruit of Your spirit.  God, grow in his/her heart.   Teach him/her to sacrifice like You did, giving up what he/she values for the good of others. Bless the teachers and administrators, God.  Keep them safe.  These men and women who have committed to invest in the next generation. Give them discernment and wisdom to see each student’s unique abilities and gifts. Multiply their preparation and may their plans be fruitful. Fill the day with moments of wonder. Remind them of their special place in the lives of their students and give them confidence in their abilities.  And for all the parents/grandparents, Lord, I pray for peace. Give us plenty to do so we don’t have time to fret. Let us be extraordinarily grateful for the privilege of parenting. Fill us with wisdom as we watch our babies grow. Grant us patience and kindness as they stretch their wings. Hold us close to You as we learn to let them go.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Two

    Dear Father God,

    Today, I ask You for godly, loyal friends for my child(ren). Friends who love purity, who are pure in heart, and gracious in speech, friends that will sharpen them and love them at all times.  Please give my child(ren) a heart of compassion. Help him/her/them to see situations from every perspective and to treat others like they would want to be treated. Give him/her/them a friendly and kind spirit. May he/she/they welcome friends with a smile.  God I pray my child(ren) would be wise when choosing friends. Give him/her/them discernment to find true friends and help them to build each other up. Give them the ability to say no when necessary and bravery to stand up for what is right. In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Three

    Dear Father God,

    Today I pray for Your care and protection throughout the school year. 
    Cover the schools in our area and across the nation with Your covering and protection.  I/we pray for vigilance among administrators and teachers as well as security personnel. Lord I/we pray that would-be perpetrators will be turned from their intentions and receive the corrective influences that are needed in their lives.  Lord, I/we pray that the school year will be successfully completed without incident. It is so.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Four

    Dear God,

    Today I come to you in prayer Lord, asking you to help my child(ren) experience peace this year. I pray he/she/they will not worry about things they cannot control, but that You will guard his/her/their hearts and minds and keep him/her/them trusting in You. I pray he/she/they will not only enjoy the peace of God, but peace with God. I pray he/she/they will develop a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving as they look to You daily for their needs.  Grant him/her/them Your peace in their hearts and minds in great measure.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Five

    Dear Heavenly Father,

    Let this school year be their best year ever with excellent grades, favor with teachers and classmates and good behavior all covered by Your protection. Enable our children to continue growing in wisdom and stature all the days of their lives.  Let Your peace and understanding envelope them at all times.  Let your joy be their strength. Help them to trust You as their refuge and fortress.  Guard their minds from bad counsel and peer pressure. Bless them with Your Spirit of discernment to know and do what is right at all times.  Strengthen their heart and spirit to resist the devil, so that he/she will flee from them.  Teach them to cast all their anxiety upon You, trusting and genuinely knowing that You care for them.  Let Your light shine in their lives and cause all forms of darkness around them to flee. Make them strong and courageous in the presence of danger. Let them be assured You will never leave nor forsake them as they remain strong in You and Your mighty power.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Below I’ve also included a few short prayers for parents or kids to recite daily.  Source: Living Prayers.

    First Day of School Prayer
    (a parent’s prayer poem for their child starting school)

    Dear Lord,

    Fill her (his) heart with peace,
    Hold her (his) hand today,
    Help him/her feel secure and loved,
    Be with him/her we pray.
    May him/her smile and make new friends
    Paint and learn and play,
    Bless the teaching staff who care
    For little ones today.
    Lift my heart to trust that he’ll/she’ll
    Be overseen by you,
    Father God cover us
    On his/her first day at school.


    Prayer for a child starting a new school year
    (a simple prayer for a child of any age to say)

    Father God,

    Thank you for being beside me,
    Thank you for this new school year.
    Please be there to hold my hand,
    Please help me to relax and enjoy the day.
    Bring new friendships into my life,
    Bring new possibilities to learn and grow.
    Help me to pray in my heart to you if I am anxious,
    Help me to remember that you are always with me.


    School Morning Prayer
    (a simple prayer for primary school aged children to say)

    Father God,

    Be with us today
    Fill our hearts with joy
    Fill our minds with learning
    Fill our classrooms with peace
    Fill our lessons with fun
    Fill our friendships with kindness
    Fill our school with love


    If you’re looking for a few religious picture book recommendations for children, you might enjoy this post.

    Your turn: What will you pray for your children (grandchildren) as they go back to school? Feel free to share in the comments.

    connecticut, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT

    Disclaimer: Thank you to Lake Compounce for providing me and my family with complimentary access to the park. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Did you know Lake Compounce is the oldest, continuously-operating amusement park in North America?  It had its genesis more than 170 years ago in!  Lake Compounce is home to Boulder Dash, which has been voted the world’s #1 wooden roller coaster, as well as Connecticut’s largest water park.  It has over 400 acres of fun and is essentially like having two parks in one.  You get rides, games, food and roller coasters along with an amazing water park that is SO MUCH FUN – especially on a hot day.

    One of my favorite things about the park is how clean it is.  Plus, the lines are usually pretty quick and the staff is has always been very pleasant and helpful each time we’ve visited.  Our most recent family visit was a few weeks ago and as usual, Lake Compounce didn’t disappoint.  It’s definitely our family’s favorite go-to amusement park in the state of Connecticut.

    We like to get to the park as soon as it opens to try and avoid the mad rush.  As soon as you arrive all guests must go through a security checkpoint and bag check for safety reasons.  The lines typically move along pretty quickly although depending on the size of the crowd and time of day, the wait could be about 10 minutes or slightly longer.  Keep this in mind if you’re visiting with smaller children as they may get a little antsy.

    Once you get past security and the ticket lines, it’s time for the fun to begin!  We like to reserve island loungers on the Lake Compounce website prior to our visit.  You get 2 lounge chairs, a shaded straw umbrella, entrance to the exclusive island lounge chair area, and accommodations for up to 4 people. The island loungers are conveniently located right next to Bayou Bay which is one of our favorite attractions at the park.  The lounge chairs sit on a sandy area across from the lake making it feel like you’re spending the day at the beach.  Oh and the best part?  You can leave your belongings in the private island lounge chair area.  It’s always monitored by a Lake Compounce employee giving us peace of mind our stuff will be safe.  If you have a larger group of people you can rent a cabana.  The park currently has 5 Luxury Cabanas located lakeside by Riptide Racers, 6 Private Cabanas located by the entrance of Mammoth Falls, 2 located on the lake, and 5 located next to Bayou Bay.

    Our family likes to explore the water park attractions first, eat lunch and then head to the amusement park rides afterwards before heading back to the island loungers to pick up our belongings.  So far this year we had a chance to experience: The Dino Expedition, Croc-o-Nile, Boulder Dash, Zoomerang, Riptide Racer, The Wave Swinger and Down Time.  We also tried our hand at some the games which is always a blast.

    Lake Compounce has always catered to families with young children like ours, while offering high value thrills for the older kids and adults too.  Our kids love the variety of rides and games in the kiddie park including the Dino Expedition.  There are also plenty of seating/resting options for watchful parents and grown-ups who like to watch children ride and take photos.  The park is interesting enough and accessible enough for our family so naturally always purchase season passes for the amusement park and parking lot.  They pay for themselves on the second visit.  Season pass holders also get other perks throughout the year too like buddy passes and food/retail discounts.

    From the outside, Lake Compounce appears hidden and small, but trust me, you can spend all day inside and not get to everything.  Since they are constantly adding new attractions and features to the park, we still haven’t done everything there yet.

    Prior to our visit we read a few amusement park themed books like: Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee.

    A few other things to keep in mind:

    • Bring all of our summertime essentials if you plan to spend the day there: suntan lotion, bathing suits, extra clothes to change into, towels and strollers if traveling with smaller kids
    • Be prepared to walk – You’ll do a lot of walking from the moment you arrive at the park.  If you have a fitness tracker it’s a great way to rack up your step count for the day!
    • Admission for kids ages 3 and under is FREE
    • They have phone charging stations, family restrooms AND a nursing station for nursing mothers (Woohoo!)
    • Locker rentals are also available for securing your belongings
    • Shirt and shoes are required everywhere except Crocodile Cove water park.  Bathing suits are required for the water park area.
    • Outside food or drink is not allowed in the park (with exception of baby items, food allergies or other special dietary needs)

    I cannot recommend this place more!  Visit at least once to experience all the park has to offer for a fun family day adventure.

    Ready to head to the park?  Be sure to take advantage of my ticket discount by clicking here!

    connecticut, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center in Southington, CT

    Spring has sprung here in the Northeast and is our area is now bursting with lush gardens and flowers in bloom. Mother Nature has certainly given us lots of rain this season so far. The rain has been great for all the plants, trees and flowers despite it dampening my mood and thwarting my plans at times.

    Two weekends ago, the kids and I had the pleasure of attending an event at Winterberry Gardens located in Southington, CT. Their 16-acre garden and landscape center is gorgeous! They have everything from native plants to unique plants all planted by certified growers.


    I will admit years ago I didn’t have a green thumb to save my life.  Every plant I had died. Now, I’ve learned how to take care of plants after much research, reading and watching videos online.  Now that I have Winterberry Gardens as an additional local resource that’s an added bonus!

    To help provide you with ideas for your home or garden Winterberry Gardens offers tours of their landscapes gardens and they host educational seminars. They also have a wide selection of hanging plants, trees, soil, mulch, perennials and annuals.  Oh, and did I mention they do landscaping too?  Yes, their expert landscape designers can create a plan for you that’s both stunning and easy to maintain no matter the size of your yard or budget.

    I’m so excited with the new plants I purchased from Winterberry Gardens and will be going back soon to buy more and attend their upcoming educational seminars.

    If you’re local in the area be sure to check out this amazing garden and landscape center.  It’s a one-stop-shop for all of your lawn and garden maintenance needs.  It would make an excellent educational field trip with kids and the local library (Southington Public Library) is just 10 minutes away.

    Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center
    2070 West Street
    Southington, CT 06489
    Phone: (860) 378-0071

    family fun

    The Eggscellent Social Media Scavenger Hunt

    Come one, come all – because the Eggscellent Social Media Scavenger Hunt is about to begin!

    With Easter around the corner, I created a scavenger hunt and I hope many of you will participate and join in the fun!  The adventure begins on Monday, April 1, 2019 and ends on Monday, April 15th. You’ll have two weeks to try and answer as many of the questions listed below correctly.

    If you start and stick it through, by the end of the hunt – even if you don’t win a prize – you will have gotten to know me, my blog, and my family a little better.  You might even learn some things along the way or find some new book recommendations, which is always a plus!

    Does that sound okay?

    Good, let’s get going!

    What’s at Stake?

    • A $50 Amazon gift card!  This scavenger hunt is open to ANYONE in the world.  The gift card code will be emailed to the winner.

    Talk Rules to Me
    Okay – are you ready for the rules?

    1. The FIRST person to get the HIGHEST number of points by answering the questions correctly will be deemed the winner.  It could be YOU!

    2. You MUST email all of your responses to in order to enter.  You must put “Eggscellent Scavenger Hunt” in the Subject line of the email so I’ll see it.  Untitled or improperly titled email messages will NOT be accepted.  All email entries must be received by April 15, 2019 by 11:59pm EST to qualify.

    3. Bonus Opportunities.  Yes, there are bonus opportunities too!  For 5 bonus entries: Comment on my last two (2) blog posts OR my last 2 Instagram posts.  For 7 bonus entries: subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

    The Spirit of the Games
    I’d like to remind everyone that Eggscellent Social Media Scavenger Hunt is for fun, for learning, and for getting to know me a little better.  If you have any questions about this scavenger hunt – pop them in the comments below the post.

    And without further ado…

    Here you go: The Eggscellent Social Media Scavenger Hunt list of questions.

    On your mark.

    Get set.


    1. At what age did my daughter start reading? If you’ve been following my blog for a while you may already know this. If not, search my blog post archives to find the answer.  (Worth 3 Points) 

    2. What date did I start my Instagram account? In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, my username is @hereweeread. (Worth 5 points)  Note: you’re gonna have to scroll WAY back in my feed to find the answer!

    3. What is the name of the community service project my kids and I are currently working on? Easy if you’ve been following me for a while.  (Worth 2 points)

    4. Name two sources I mention on the blog for scoring free or discounted books to help build up your home or school library. (Worth 4 points)

    5. Which author did I meet at last year’s Book Expo in NYC that had me fangirling HARD? (Worth 2 points)

    6. How many Bookface photos did I feature on my Instagram page from January 2019 to March 2019? (Worth 2 points) Note: Don’t know what a Bookface is? You can read about it here.

    7. List the titles of two (2) books I posted on my Instagram page during the month of March 2019. The titles can be any two books you choose. Worth (4 points)

    8. What is one useful tip I provide in my blog post entitled “HELP…MY KIDS WON’T SIT STILL DURING STORY TIME“? (Worth 3 points)

    9. At the time you’re working on this scavenger hunt, how many followers do I have on Twitter? Also, if you’re not already following me on Twitter, won’t you consider giving me a follow? My username is @hereweeread. (Worth 1 point)

    10. At the time you’re working on this scavenger hunt, how many followers do I have on Facebook? Also, if you’re not already following me on Facebook, won’t you consider giving me a follow? My username is @hereweeread. (Worth 1 point)

    11. Name one person I’ve interviewed on my blog. Hint: Interview can be an author interview or another person I’ve interviewed/featured on the blog. (Worth 2 points)

    12. Name 2 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) brands we’ve worked with in the past or featured on the blog. (Worth 4 points)

    13. How old are my children? (Worth 2 points) 

    14. At the time you’re working on this scavenger hunt, how many followers do I have on Pinterest? Also, if you’re not already following me on Pinterest, won’t you consider giving me a follow? My username is @hereweeread. (Worth 1 point)

    15. Name 2 books you’re excited to read from my 2019 Ultimate List of Diverse Children’s Books. (Worth 3 points)

    16. Name 1 inventor listed in my blog post entitled “9+ Black Inventor’s You May Have Missed in History Class.” (Worth 1 point)

    17. Tell me the name of one place my family and I visited on our popular Literary Road Trip Adventures. (Worth 2 points)

    18. Tell me the name of three categories I have listed in my Amazon Bookstore. (Worth 5 points)  Note: You can find the direct link to my Amazon Bookstore here.

    19. What do I have a Master’s Degree in? (Worth 3 points)

    20. Name 2 podcasts I’ve been featured on in the past.  Hint: I’ve been featured on 6 podcasts to date. (Worth 5 points)  Note: If you can only name 1 podcast you will get 2 points, not 5 points.

    21. Tell me the name of at least one (1) publisher I mention in the post entitled, “Diversity in Publishing A to Z”. (Worth 2 points)

    22. Name another publication I write for besides my own blog. (Worth 3 points)

    23. What musical instrument do both of my children play?  (Worth 5 points)

    24. In what state do my family and I currently reside?  (Worth 2 points)

    25. Which fictional tv character’s wardrobe do I fantasize about having?  (Worth 4 points)

    To enter and be in the running for the gift card grand prize, email your answers to me at:  You must put “Eggscellent Scavenger Hunt” in the Subject line of the email so I’ll see it.  Untitled or improperly titled email messages will NOT be accepted.  All email entries must be received by April 15, 2019 by 11:59pm EST to qualify.

    Enjoy the hunt! -Charnaie

    diverse books, family fun

    The 2019 National AntiRacist Book Festival

    Have you heard all of buzz about the inaugural 2019 National AntiRacist Book Festival yet?  This ticketed event will be taking place on Saturday April 27, 2019 on AU’s Washington College of Law campus in the neighborhood of Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.  The event is hosted by American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center.

    Along with nationally renowned writers, journalists, poets, and scholars who have recently published critically acclaimed books, the festival will include workshops for aspiring writers with leading literary agents and book editors. This year’s inaugural festival primarily features authors of anti-black racism and its intersections.  There will also be free workshops for educators and youth, and workshops on photography and self-care.

    “The inaugural Antiracist Bookfest will offer one of the most distinguished lineups of anti-racist authors ever assembled for a book festival,” said National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “We are making history with this incredible collection of bestselling, award-winning and popular authors, who often headline events. We are delighted they each agreed to come together and launch the Antiracist Bookfest, while supporting our work in the Antiracist Research and Policy Center.”

    Sample of authors in attendance:

    National Book Critics Circle Award-winning historian Carol Anderson
    National Magazine Award-winning reporter Shane Bauer
    Bancroft Prize-winning Yale historian David Blight
    New York Times bestselling-author Robin DiAngelo
    National Book Award Finalist Erica Armstrong Dunbar
    Award-winning Harvard professor and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates
    New York Times bestselling-author Morgan Jerkins
    Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tyehimba Jess
    Award-winning Washington Post editor Steve Luxenberg
    Nationally renowned Campaign Zero Co-Founder DeRay McKesson
    New York Times bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo
    New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds
    Award-winning poet and writer Clint Smith
    PEN Open Book Award winner Nafissa Thompson-Spires
    New York Times bestselling author D. Watkins
    National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jacqueline Woodson
    Very Smart Brothas Cofounder Damon Young

    Ticketed portions of the festival will include author panel discussions and workshops for aspiring writers.  All proceeds from ticket sales for the Antiracist Bookfest will go to the work of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, started at AU in fall 2017. The center is based on a new vision of change that’s grounded in historical revelation and focuses on policy change.

    To purchase tickets click here!

    Media members are required to RSVP with Rebecca Basu, American University Communications, 202-885-5950,  For more information about this event click here.

    Your turn: Are you planning to attend this event?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    family fun

    A Lesson in Black History on the Basketball Court: Our Harlem Globetrotters Family Day Experience

    Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by The Harlem Globetrotters and US Family Guide who provided us with tickets to the show.  We appreciate their support that allows us to share information about events we think your family may enjoy.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    This Black History Month we had the pleasure of attending a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game. We had an awesome family day at The XL Center in Hartford, CT watching The Harlem Globetrotters take on the exhibition team, The Washington Generals.

    The Harlem Globetrotters have been a staple of family entertainment throughout the country since 1926. Their creativity and genuine showmanship have excited generations of fans and created a lasting impact on American sports culture.  If you’re looking to spend some quality time together as a family and be entertained, attending a Harlem Globetrotters game (at least once in your lifetime) is a must!

    This was our family’s first time going to one of their games and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  The tricks, the comedy, the dancing, the music – they really put on an amazing show.  My favorite part of the game was the slow motion re-enactment that involved the entire audience and players.  It really looked like everything was happening in slow motion – so cool!  The kids favorite part was watching “Hot Shot” standing on top of the basketball hoop and watching “Hammer” perform the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen.  So many memorable moments!

    In addition to enjoying the game, we also used our family outing as a Black history lesson.  We talked to the kids about the history of the team from the 1920’s to present day.  Since the Globetrotters are an all Black team, we also mentioned some of the racism the team faced over the years due to segregation laws.

    Overall, a great time was had by all of us.  The Globetrotters proved they are not only wonderful basketball players, but excellent entertainers too!  Their comedy is fun an family-friendly and they are crazy talented too!

    For the latest news and information about the Harlem Globetrotters, visit the Globetrotters’ official Web site: and follow them on Twitter @Globies.

    Your turn: Has your family ever been to a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game?  Feel free to share in the comments.