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holiday gift guide series

    children's books, diverse books, holiday books, holiday gift guide series

    8 Christmas Picture Books Every Black Child Should Read + Clarence Claus

    As soon as the holidays start to roll around, people often ask me for children’s holiday book recommendations – specifically Christmas books for children of color.  As I’ve often said, I don’t discriminate when it comes to reading books on my own or with my kids.  However, I do know the power of children seeing themselves reflected in literature especially around Christmas when they are bombarded with images of a Caucasian Santa Claus.

    So in addition to reading quality books that prominently feature children of color, I also support small Black-owned businesses like Green Top Gifts to show my kids that Santa can look like us – enter Clarence Claus.  Have you heard of him yet?  He’s the Black Santa Claus I wish I had been exposed to growing up.

    Greentop Gifts is a wrapping paper company featuring a Black Santa Claus. Clarence Claus™ truly represents the culture and lifestyle for people of color.  You may have seen the Clarence Claus wrapping paper featured in the list of Gayle King’s Favorite Things in the December 2017 issue of Oprah Magazine.

    We’ve proud to collaborate with Greentop Gifts to showcase their high quality wrapping paper and highlight eight Christmas books I think every Black child should own (or at least read and borrow from the library).  The children’s books mentioned below is a great place to start if you are looking for Christmas stories featuring Black children and families.  Not only are they entertaining, but they also help put children (and adults) in a festive mood.

    Recommended Picture Books (Ages 4 – 8)
    12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora
    Christmas for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
    Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina
    Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson
    The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora
    The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow (Read my review here!)
    Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Grimes and Kadir Nelson

    What are some of your favorite Christmas books to read with your little readers?

    Be sure to enter our Instagram giveaway where you can enter to win:

    • (2) rolls of Clarence Claus Wrapping Paper
    • (4) Clarence Claus Gift Labels
    • (1) Clarence Claus Kid’s Shirt

    Happy Holidays and happy reading!

    holiday gift guide series

    Charitable Giving with CARE: Teaching Kids About Kindness and Giving

    I describe my three year-old son as a giving, empathetic and gentle soul.  My daughter shows signs of giving and empathy too, but not as much as my son does.  I think when children learn to be givers at an early age it shapes their values and provides opportunities to develop kindness, a virtue that improves lives and reduces violence and bullying.

    But in a culture dominated by violence, cruelty and self-absorption (and quite a lot of the “gimmes” during this holiday time), empathy and compassion must be nurtured, and studies show that young people are becoming less empathetic than in generations past.  As our child’s first and most important teacher, we, as parents, have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion for people, animals and the earth, starting when children are very young.

    I try to teach concepts of giving, kindness and empathy by reading lots of books like ones listed here and here.  In addition, I provide my kids with different opportunities to help others. Even from an early age, children can be involved in helping others. From donating non-perishable goods to a food pantry, to donating their clothes and toys, to volunteering as a family at an animal shelter, I aim to find numerous age-appropriate opportunities to cultivate generosity and empathy.

    Another way I’m teaching the kids about giving this holiday season is by introducing them to organizations like  CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice.

    I am truly inspired by the overall mission of CARE as they support things that are near and dear to my heart like diversity and empowering girls and women.  The website is full of inspiring stories and videos of children like Evelesi and Maliyana whose lives have been forever changed because of small acts of kindness from people and families like ours.  Check out this video to get a dose of inspiration.  Want even more inspiration?  Be sure to tune in to to meet and interact with the girls featured in the 2016 catalog from December 5th – 16th.

    With your support CARE can:

    • Help poor families send their children to school
    • Help people learn skills to start and sustain their own businesses
    • Deliver emergency aid when disaster strikes
    • Help women build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities

    Reading books and telling stories that demonstrate showing compassion and care for others is great.  I will never discount the power of using stories to get certain points across to children.  It’s been proven that stories are a wonderful teaching tool, and of course, regular reading and storytelling build important communication and literacy skills. However, I think whenever you have the opportunity to provide children with real-life, tangible examples and sharing personal stories helps even more.  Help your children see the impact of giving like never before this holiday season with CARE.  Your gifts will empower girls and women to pursue their dreams and help lift up their communities.

    Learn more about Gifts for Change and donate!

    Want to get involved?  Give a gift, change a life. When people do their holiday shopping with CARE their money directly impacts women and girls around the world who need it most. Contributions to the catalog strengthen communities and empower individuals to be independent and successful.  Learn more about the Gifts for Change at the website.  In the catalog you can give as little as $25 up to $7,000 or more.  The choice is yours!  Of course any amount you can donate will be greatly appreciated.

    Connect with CARE!
    Website | Facebook | Twitter

    holiday gift guide series, product reviews

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: MyFamilyBuilders

    When I came across MyFamilyBuilders™ on Instagram I knew I had to feature them in my holiday gift guide!  While my kids haven’t actually tried these blocks yet, I can already tell they’ll spend hours playing with them.  Don’t they look great?


    The overall mission of MyFamilyBuilders™ is to help create a world where parents and kids celebrate love and the values shared by all families, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation or culture.  The folks at MyFamilyBuilders™ wants to improve our world, so we’re starting with children, the toys they play with, and what those toys can teach them.  Through MyFamilyBuilders™ toy set they are creating a world where children and parents are proud of themselves, their families and their communities.


    MyFamilyBuilders™ toy set contains 48 wooden pieces that snap together with cleverly concealed magnets and a board game with 25 big cards that they’ve designed to empower parents and kids to play, experience and facilitate easy conversations about diversity & tolerance.  With a total of 2048 possible matches per set, kids will have a ton of fun and create a world free of preconceptions.

    THE MyFamilybuilders™ SET INCLUDES
    · 48 handcrafted magnetic wooden blocks
     that come in 12 sizes: 16 adults heads, 16 kids heads, 4 big bodies, 4 small bodies, 4 big legs, 4 small legs; 3 blocks (head, body, and legs) make up a character.
    · 25 big cards to play 5 fun educational games in conjunction with the 48 unique wooden blocks. The 5 games were designed by an education specialist for different age stages ( 3+; 4+; 5+; 6+).

    Packaging: The MyFamilybuilders™ set comes packaged in a handy box to keep all of the pieces securely in one place for storage.
    Total weight is 3.12 lbs.
    Materials: Eco-friendly hardwoods. Safe, non-toxic, water-based paint.
    Safety: This product conforms to most international safety requirements for toys, including regulations in the USA (CPSIA) and Europe (EN71).

    Price: 48-piece set: $69.95 (current sale price), 32-piece set $49.95


    I think this magnetic wooden block set would be perfect for teaching kids about diversity and respecting differences of other people.  They’d also be great for kids who love to mix and match colors and fashion styles.  Add these to your holiday gift list, but hurry because I hear they are a hot selling item!  Great for ages 1 to 99.

    Connect with MyFamilyBuilders!
    Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

    adult books, book reviews, children's books, holiday gift guide series

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

    The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

    Publisher: Candlewick
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 12
    Age Range: 5 – 8 years old (and up)

    Hope and joy radiate from the pages of Robert Sabuda’s new pop-up book celebrating the Nativity.

    Long ago in the town of Bethlehem, on a bright and starry night, a baby was born, a child who was called the son of God. Announced by an angel, born in a humble manger, laid in a bed of straw, visited by shepherds and wise men—the age-old, awe-inspiring story of the birth of Jesus is lovingly brought to life by master pop-up artist Robert Sabuda in six gorgeously imagined scenes, culminating in a 3-D manger sheltering humans and beasts, guarded by an angel above. Glinting with touches of gold and pearlescent foil, The Christmas Story is a visual feast, a holiday treasure to be shared with the whole family.


    Before there were 3D movies, there were pop-up books.  As a child, I used to love pop-up books because the action literally jumped right out at me as I turned the pages.  Opening each page was like unwrapping a gift.  There was always a surprise awaiting on the next page to reward me.  So fun!

    Pop-up book artist Robert Sabuda is the master at transforming a blank piece of paper that lacks dimension, texture and movement and turning it into a beautiful piece of art.  That’s exactly what he has done with the book The Christmas Story.  It’s truly a marvel in paper engineering that your kids, and even some adults, will be pretty impressed by.

    My kids love looking at all of the intricate art on each page.  As I read the story, they like counting the number of items they see on each page like: doves, sheep, palm trees and camels.  They also love pointing at the gold foil accents that make certain things in the book stand out like the stable where Jesus was lying in.

    Reading this book really gets me in the holiday spirit.  It features six imagined scenes from the inspiring story of the birth of Jesus.  Little readers will see scenes of the angel who came to tell Mary she would soon have a baby named Jesus, a scene of the three wise men traveling, and more.  The book ends with a beautiful nativity scene with the three wise men giving Mary precious gifts befitting for a king.

    This book makes a really special holiday gift for children or adults.  While I wouldn’t recommend it to be held by the smallest readers due to the fragile pop-up art, I think children ages 5 and older would handle it just fine.  The pages are sturdy and so is the cover, but the pop-up artwork is fragile.  A true delight to read and marvel at all the beautiful scenes featured.  A holiday book that can be enjoyed as a family again and again each year during the holiday season. Perfect for religious families!

    Your turn: Have you read any of Robert Sabuda’s pop-up books?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    holiday gift guide series

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: IttyBittyBees

    I recently had the opportunity to connect with Dalia Dixon, owner of, a new online toy store. They have a great selection of black/brown action figures and dolls as well as adorable wooden toys and games. Their mission is to inspire little ones with toys that represent them and provide fun play!

    IttyBittyBees came to fruition while Dalia was shopping in a predominately African-American community in Atlanta. While shopping with her two toddlers, she noticed that only white dolls were sold in stores in predominately African-American neighborhoods. She felt that this was a total disservice and almost downright indoctrination (given the history and current events of this country) to the African-American community. Then one day she decided that she wanted to make black/brown toys more available to the members of her community.

    Wanting to start a toy store was also reinforced by a video of a little African-American girl on a news website. She remembers watching a video that showed the little girl choosing the white doll over the black doll because she felt the white doll was prettier and better, versus the black doll that was ugly and bad. When Delia was younger, her mom bought her white dolls at first, but she began buying her black dolls and she was very excited to receive the dolls that looked like her.  They made her feel special and served as a confidence booster.

    Representation is important for self esteem, awareness, and confidence. It’s also reinforcement to be a productive member in society. IttyBittyBees wants black and brown children to see more positive images of themselves so that they are more confident about themselves and who they are.

    You can visit to browse their selection of toys and books. You can follow also follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The links are listed below.

    family fun, giveaways, holiday gift guide series, product reviews

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: Hideaboo Hideouts + An Instagram Giveaway!


    5-4-3-2-1 blast off!  The kids absolutely LOVE playing in their new Hideaboo rocket ship hideout!  Created by an award winning teacher, Hideaboo hideouts help spark creativity and allow your kids to play independently or with each other. My kids love pretending they are astronauts in a rocket ship flying to outer space.


    One of the best things about the hideouts is they are totally portable and can be placed in any part of your house or used on the go (as long as your bring your card table along with you).  We currently have our hideout in our living room, but the kids have played with it upstairs in their room too.  It’s perfect for keeping them occupied while I do things like cook dinner or fold the laundry.

    Hideaboo also provides you with FREE access to their printable library.  They’ve created activities, diy costume ideas, an adventure journal and printable puppets for each of their Hideouts! Your purchase comes with a code for free downloads of your printable activities and instructions.  How fun is that?

    Each hideout is made to slide over a card table and it’s super simple to set up and fold away for easy storage.

    Here’s what’s you get:

    • Includes ONE Hideout and ONE storage bag
    • Card table not included
    • Slips over standard card tables, 34″ w x 28″ h
    • Easy to setup and tear down
    • Durable, high quality fabric & machine washable

    These are the current hideouts available:

    • Happy Camper Hideout
    • Enchanted Castle Hideout
    • Underwater Submarine Hideout
    • Outer Space Rocket Hideout
    • Down on the Farm Hideout
    • Lemonade Stand

    The best part?  Our friends over at Hideaboo were gracious enough to sponsor a giveaway!  That’s right, you can choose ANY one of their hideouts if you are the lucky winner!  Pop on over to my Instagram page if you want to enter to win.  Good luck!

    Connect with Hideaboo!

    Website | Instagram | Facebook

    giveaways, holiday gift guide series

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: My Reading Adventures Journal + A Giveaway!

    Photo Credit:

    Are you guys following Lu and Bean Read yet?  They have a wonderful podcast where they introduce you to new authors and children’s stories.  They also have a lovely website and Instagram account that I’ve been following for a few months now.  Today, we’re featuring their brand new reading journal for kids in our holiday gift guide series.

    Do you keep track of the books you read on your own or the ones you read with your kids?  I keep track using an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been using for a few years now.  I know, it’s old school, but it gets the job done.  One day I’ll finally purchase a reading journal for myself.  For now, I’ll live vicariously through my kids and help them log their books in their My Reading Adventures kids journal from  I think it’s a great way to spark or enhance a child’s interest in reading.

    The My Reading Adventures kids reading journal offers kids space and prompts to write, draw and reflect on a year’s worth of reading. The journal allows kids to record 52 books—one for every week of the year—as well as completing several fun writing and drawing exercises. It’s designed for kids of every age. Younger kids may choose to complete the book with an adult. For the youngest kiddos, each section provides space to draw responses. Older readers may wish to use the journal on their own or with an adult. They are given the option of drawing and writing to spark their creativity.


    • 124 pages
    • Spiral bound
    • 6 x 9 inches
    • Space to record 52 books
    • Options to write, draw or both
    • Younger readers can record pictures books with the help of an adult
    • Older readers can complete the entries alone or with an adult
    • Fun extras!

    Since we read well over 52 children’s books in a year, this journal will serve as a record of our favorite 52 books we’ll read next year along with any specific reactions the kids had.  I can’t wait to start filling up our journal!

    Perhaps you’d like to give this journal as a gift during the upcoming holiday season. Wouldn’t it be fun to pair the journal with a nice pen/pencil or markers and a favorite book?  Thankfully our new friends at are graciously offering to giveaway one FREE journal to a lucky reader.  So. One of you lovely readers will walk away with a brand new reading journal! Keep it. Or give it. Or buy a few and stick them under the tree.  Makes a great holiday gift for little readers.  Good luck!

    Connect with Lu and Bean Read!

    Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

    My Reading Adventures Journal

    Your turn:  Let me whether you already keep a reading journal for your kids, or why you think it would be good to start. I look forward to hearing your responses!