Thanksgiving Day is upon us once again here in the United States – it’s my absolute favorite holiday of the year. Not only do I love eating yummy food, but I also love spending time being surrounded by family and friends. And what is it about Thanksgiving that makes food taste so good on that specific day?
This year I’ve been more intentional about showing gratitude and appreciation for the things and people I have in my life. I thought since Thanksgiving is tomorrow it’s the perfect day for me to share a few bookish things I’m grateful for this year.
Started in July 2018 by my children, the mission of the 50 States 50 Books project has one main mission: help close the literacy gap in America and expose more children to diverse literature. Our goal is to collect 50 diverse children’s books for each of the 50 U.S. states and donate them to deserving schools, libraries, and other organizations throughout the country. So far, we’ve collected over 650 diverse children’s books and donated them to 13 different states.
We’ll soon receive a gracious 800-book donation from a publishing company which will help us complete 16 additional states. That will take our total to 29 completed states, with 21 remaining left.
So far the excitement and support for our project has been amazing! We’ve been featured in our local newspaper, local television morning talk show, The Huffington Post and Moneyish. The kids’ school even got in on the action and allowed us to have 3 donation boxes throughout the school for our book drive.
My kids also received a Kid Kindness grant for their project from Kindness Grows Here. The money received from the grant will go towards our shipping and supplies expenses allowing us to ship books 50 at a time to 6-8 different states.
If you’d like to support us by sending us new or gently used diverse children’s books for kids ages 0 – 17 you can send them here:
50 States 50 Books P.O. Box 992 Middletown, CT 06457
To make monetary donations (to help us cover shipping and shipping supplies) please visit our Go Fund Me page. My children also have a wish list of books to choose from if you’d like to make a book donation. You can find the wish list here.
2. The Bookstagram Community on Instagram Would you believe nearly 4 years ago I had no idea what Instagram was or how to use it? Yeah, I was a little late to joining the social media world, but now I LOVE it – especially Instagram. Instagram is the one social media platform that I gravitated to the most and it’s where I’ve found a sense of community.
Prior to joining Instagram, I was clueless there was this whole bookstagram community of book lovers out there like myself. I’m eternally grateful for the kind people I’ve met and collaborated with over the years. By sharing, networking and collaborating with others, I’ve been able to grow my audience organically to over 35,000 people on Instagram alone. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with brands and local businesses, libraries, connect with authors/illustrators and other bloggers. Oh, and let’s not forget all of the wonderful books I’ve found out about from other book bloggers, parents and educators! My TBR list is SO long because there are so many amazing books out there to read.
3. Completing My First Library Program In September 2018, I began my first ever library program at one of my local libraries. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had all year. Each week we explored a different region around the world, read picture books and worked on craft projects. The program was geared towards children up to age 6 and allowed us all to “travel around the world” through books.
Each week taught me new lessons about things like: giving, sharing, patience, kindness, empathy, and using your imagination. The kids also reminded me of the importance of incorporating laughter and play in your day.
Overall, 2018 has been a good year for me and my family thus far. With just a few more weeks left in the year, I’m excited to see the new bookish things I’ll be adding to my gratitude list in the weeks and months ahead.
Your turn: What are some bookish (or non-bookish) things you’re grateful for this year? Feel free to share in the comments.
Disclaimer: This post is brought to you in partnership with Revolution Math, an interactive online math and story-based program for kids in grades 2-5. Get your first month of Revolution Math plus a math learning kit for $1 with the code WEEREAD1!
Education has always been extremely important to me. When I was a child I used to always say I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. Well, when I finally “grew up” I changed my mind and decided on the computer field instead. Perhaps some day I’ll be a college professor and finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of teaching. For now, I’ll settle as being my children’s first teacher.
I knew even before I had children that I didn’t want their learning to be left entirely up to the school system. I make it a point to supplement whatever they are learning in school at home with my own teachings by making it fun. One way I supplement education at home is by using an awesome interactive online math and story-based curriculum called Revolution Math. Have you heard of it before? If you follow me on Instagram, you may have heard me talk about it in my stories. Try It Out for 30 Days for JUST $1 (No strings attached – I promise!)
Math was always my favorite subject in school. I want my kids to like math or at least do well in it even if they don’t love it as much as I do. Did you know research suggests that early math skills are a better predictor of academic success than early reading skills?
What Is Revolution Math? Revolution Math is an innovative program designed to help 2nd-5th graders develop their math skills and an overall love of learning. The live, online interface integrates an interactive learning experience with a story-based curriculum and Common Core aligned math games. Students enjoy a small class size of only 4 students, allowing them to build confidence under the instruction of a dedicated teacher. Check out their brief introductory online videos for more information.
My daughter has been using Revolution Math (we pay for this program with our own money) for the past two months. I can honestly say she is truly enjoying it and most importantly she’s learning advanced math skills for her grade. While the program is recommended for kids in grades 2-5, they also accept first grade students like my daughter.
Initially, some of the concepts were a bit difficult for her to grasp (as with learning anything new), but I’ve seen lots of improvement over the past two months. She is now able to do one, two, three and four digit addition and subtraction problems a lot easier using the concepts learned through the program without any worry or anxiety like she initially had.
Here are a few of the things my daughter has learned so far:
Place value charting to decompose addends for 2-digit + 2-digit addition and 3-digit + 2-digit addition
Different ways to represent three-digit numbers
“Bundling”, “exchanging” or “carrying” from a lower place value to a higher one
I’ve loved witnessing the progress and confidence I’ve seen in my daughter over the past two months. It’s also been great to see her build a relationship with her online teacher (the teacher remains the same each week) and on occasion participate in class with other students.
Other added benefits are parents receive a weekly update on the math tutoring session which includes cool apps and strategies you can use at home to reinforce learning. Also, registered subscribers can access additional drills for practice playing the Revolution math game. Finally, kids earn gems each lesson that can be traded in for kid-friendly prizes from the Revolution Math Rewards store. Who doesn’t love an incentive? I know I sure do! My daughter is currently saving up her gems for a fidget spinner.
Are you excited yet? Do you want to help your children fall in LOVE with math (and reading too!)?
The learning kit includes several math manipulatives: graph paper, dice, place value number tiles, a protractor and masks to use for the story time portion of the course. Be sure to use my code ‘WEEREAD1’ to take advantage of this fantastic deal for just $1 and tell them I sent you!
Your turn: Are you ready to raise a math whiz? Have you heard of Revolution Math before? Feel free to share in the comments.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All of the products mentioned here were purchased with our own money.
It’s no secret that reading aloud to kids has been recognized as the single most important activity that leads to literacy acquisition. Now, reading aloud may seem simple, especially if the children you’re reading to are infants and aren’t as mobile or easily distracted as some older kids. I’ve learned from reading with my own children and reading in front of various groups of kids that it’s not always so easy to keep them engaged.
Having a memorable story time experience sometimes requires you to be able to catch – and hold –a child’s attention from start to finish. This includes everything from ensuring you choose meaningful books with intention (before story time even begins) to any possible extension/craft activities you may do after the story is over.
Below I’ve shared four different ways I like to enhance story time at home with my own children. But before we jump right into those, let me also share a few other things I like to keep in mind prior to reading books with my kids. Note: I DO NOT always have time to do all of these things because sometimes life gets in the way. Am I right? However, if I have time to prepare ahead then I will follow these steps.
1. Select a small pile of books to read for story time. If it’s a book we’ve never read with them before I’ll write a brief and catchy 1-2 sentence introduction to let the kids know (briefly) what the book is about. Of course, doing this requires you to read or skim it beforehand.
2. Write a brief list of open-ended questions I may want to ask the kids as follow-up questions once the story is over. See my first enhancement tip (reading comprehension cubes) below for a simple way to do this if you can’t think of any questions on your own.
3. Have an extension/craft activity ready for the kids to do together after the story is over. I usually choose simple activities that relate to the book(s) in some way.
Here are the four ways I enhance story time when reading aloud with my kids:
1. Reading Comprehension Cubes by Learning Resources
We’ve had these story time cubes for a while now and they are always a hit with my kids! They really help us have a deeper discussion about the story afterwards. These cubes offer a total of 3 dozen different questions to test, challenge, and enhance your kids’ comprehension of the books they read.
Simple roll the red cubes for questions before reading. Toss the blue cubes for questions about the story in progress. Roll the green cubes for questions after reading.
These mindfulness cards are so fun for doing things like “shaking out the sillies” before story time or taking a few deep breaths afterwards.
This boxed card deck includes 50 creative mindfulness games, visualizations and exercises divided into 5 categories to help children feel grounded, find calm, improve focus, practice loving-kindness and relax.
I’ve mentioned these cards before on the blog, (click here to read) but they are worth mentioned again.
Tell Me a Story Creative Story Cards. These cards are my “secret weapon” I use when I want an alternative to reading books and they are perfect for honing my storytelling skills. Recommended for ages 3 and up, the deck of 36 beautifully illustrated cards assist children in creating their own stories.
An endless number of stories are possible by placing any number of the cards in any order. Short stories, long stories, kids create a new story every time they shuffle the deck. The whole family can make a game out of the cards, by taking turns picking cards and telling a story together. Parents, grandparents and teachers will find the cards useful as an aid in their own storytelling.
To use the cards, you simply lay as many as you want out in front of you in an order that tells your story.
Designed to be used in a myriad of ways, ABC Me Flashcards are illustrated in vibrant colors with easy to understand wording on the back. They begin with the alphabet but A isn’t for apple. This time, A is for Africa. And so from A to Z or from Africa to Zora Neal Hurston, younger children can learn their ABC’s and older children can use the same cards to learn about their history.
I like to pair these with non-fiction picture or early chapter books when reading aloud with the kids. They help make a connection with the person or event we’re reading about in a fun way.
These are just a few examples of how you can keep your young audience engaged during story time. I hope you find these tips helpful to help get you started and to put your best foot forward if you want to enhance story time.
Your turn: What other tips would you add to this list? How do you enhance story time with kids? Feel free to share in the comments.
Are you a fellow bibliophile like me? Want to know how you can build a decent home library at a fraction of bookstore prices? Read on.
Before we get into some of the many ways you can score free or discounted books for your home or school library, first let’s talk about some of the benefits reading provides. Research has shown people who read books—fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose—for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years, live an average of two years longer than people who don’t read anything at all.
Research also suggests that children as young as six months who read books with their parents several times a week show stronger literacy skills, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs than nonreaders. (Check out how I taught my two-year older daughter to read.) Bottom line is when reading is practiced over a lifetime, it keeps your mind sharp. Isn’t that great news?
Some of the other added benefits of reading?
increases empathy and emotional intelligence
improves analytical thinking
improved writing skills
I lead a full and busy life. How can I possibly find time to read each day?
If you think that you don’t have enough time to start reading, you’re wrong. How do I know? Because we make time for the things that are important to us. Period. How much TV do you watch? How much time do you spend scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.? You could easily replace reading with those activities. (Check out my post about how I find time to read.)
If you’re worried about the cost of books, the most obvious place to take advantage of is your local library. Most libraries use the interlibrary loan system, so you can check out nearly any book you want. I also use Worldcat to find libraries in the area that might have my book.
20+ Other Ways to Score Free or Discounted Books
AbeBooks Abe Books is a respected online marketplace in used books, and often has hard-to-find books at reasonable prices. I like to use this site mostly for searching for out-of-print titles.
Amazon Amazon is usually my first go-to website for online book shopping. This is especially true if I want to purchase a newly released or forthcoming book I’m excited about.
Amazon Marketplace I have purchased several of my books through the Amazon Marketplace, it’s Amazon’s used book service. You can get many titles for less than a dollar, and even though Amazon charges $3.99 shipping per book, the total still comes in under $5. I typically only purchase books in very good or excellent condition from here.
Black Baby Books Black Baby Books is a service that was created to make it easier to find and purchase children’s books with Black characters. They often have discounted deals on recently released books!
Book Fairies Do you believe in book fairies? I certainly do! Last year, my kids and I had so much fun being book fairies for the day leaving books around our city for others to find and treasure. Book fairies hide books around the WORLD, every day, for people to find, read, and then leave for the next person. You never know when you’ll find a free book or two from the book fairies!
Booksalefinder If you live in the United States or Canada, check out the The Book Sale Finder website. This site allows you to find book sales listed by non-profit organizations. The site is always kept up to date when I use it. Just click on your local area using either the map or the corresponding link to your state or province. The list will show you all nearby book sales in your area. The best part? When my kids and I have attended some of these book sales we score paperbacks for about 50 cents or $1 and gently used/new hardcovers for a $1 – $3!
Better World Books
Better World Books collects and resells used books to raise money for literacy programs around the world and also keep great books out of landfills. I like to occasionally browse their bargain bin deals.
Bharat Babies Looking for children’s books that feature Indian characters? The mission of Bharat Babies is simple: design and produce developmentally appropriate books that tell the stories of India’s heritage for children from birth through elementary school.
Book Swap Parties
Attending or hosting a book swap party is a free way to collect books for your home library. It’s also a great way to get rid of books you or your children are no longer interested in reading. You can have it at someone’s home or a local park or library. For each used book a family or person brings, they get to swap it for a different book at the party. For extra fun, have snacks and hold book talks during the event.
Craigslist is another place to find gently used or new books for a fraction of the cost.
DiscoverBooks Discover Books helps books achieve their greatest purpose by collecting and reselling them to other readers, donating books to those in need, or recycling used books to become another useful good with a new story to tell.
Don’t underestimate your local Dollar Store! I usually always browse the book section whenever I go into a dollar store. Sometimes I’ve found some really good deals there.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an area that offers this program. However, if you do be sure to check it out! Just visit the website and search for an affiliate program near you.
I’ve heard there are lots of different Facebook groups where you can score cheap books from others. I haven’t done this personally, but know others who have.
Friends and Family Asking family or friends if they have any gently loved books never hurts, right? I often find people are generally happy to depart with books their children or relatives have outgrown or if they are in the midst of spring cleaning or downsizing.
Gifts I have a couple book-loving friends and family members who like to give my children books as gifts. When we receive great books from our wish list, we’re always thrilled to give gifted books a new home!
Green Valley Book Fair
I don’t live in the mid-Atlantic area, but it’s on my bucket list to make it to the Green Valley Book Fair one day. Have you ever heard of it? Residents of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States are fortunate enough to attend the 25,000 square foot Green Valley Book Fair when it is open. It’s a warehouse in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia that is open about six times a year, for about two weeks at a time. Prices for new books are typically 60-90% off the retail price, and the selection tends to be similar to what you find at large retail bookstores.
Half Price Books
I really wished there was a Half Price Books in my area – sigh. (Please come to the Northeast!) They have a massive collection and excellent prices on both new and used books.
Kohl’s Cares Want to make a difference in your community? Simply purchase $5 items from the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program. There is a cute collection every season, so you can buy new books and soft toys year-round. What’s more amazing – 100% of the net profit is donated to support children’s initiatives.
Library Book Sales
My local libraries host these sales several times throughout the year. In the past I have bought hardcovers for $1 to $2 and paperbacks for $0.50 to $1. Check your local library to find out when they host their sales.
Little Free Libraries
I want to own a little free library in my neighborhood so bad! Aren’t they the cutest thing? The premise is simple: take a book and leave a book in one of the small boxes in various locations around the world. Browse their website to see if there is one in your community or better yet – start your own!
New Book Stores
Many large chain book stores have a bargain book section where you can sometimes find good books marked 50-75% off, or even more. Don’t be too proud to browse the clearance section!
Yes, price matching is a thing – even when it comes to book shopping! Simply check with your customer service desk before you purchase books. I know places like Target will price-match to Amazon.
Shop Off Season This tip really comes in handy when looking for holiday or seasonal books – just like when shopping for off-season clothes, holiday decorations or household items.
Tag Sales Hit up your local tag/yard/garage sales to find bargain books! I’ve found good, quality books for as low as 0.25 cents! Oftentimes, people just want to get rid of books so you can haggle and talk them down if want to pay a cheaper price!
Thriftbooks Thrifted books delivered right to your door? Yes, please! ThriftBooks is basically like searching your local thrift store without the hassle. If you’re looking for cheap books online, this is a good place to search.
Thrift Stores Goodwill, Salvation Army and local thrift stores usually have loads of books. You’d be surprised at what you can find given a little time and patience.
Sometimes I find great deals at used bookstores between $3 – $7. Bonus points for also supporting a local business!
Did you find this article to be helpful? Share it!
Now do you see it’s totally possible for you to read AND have a great home library on a budget? As your collection starts to grow, people may even start to offer you their unwanted books. Take them! If you don’t need them, you can share them with others, swap them, or even sell them and buy books you want. Happy reading!
Your turn: What other ways would you add to this list? How do you build your library on a budget? Feel free to share in the comments.
Synopsis When global pop star Kelly Rowland became a mom for the first time, giving birth to her son Titan, she felt the most incredible love she had ever experienced. But after spending nine months so focused on the baby growing inside her, she was caught completely off guard by how much she had changed. Like many first-time moms, she was not ready for what had happened to her body and for so many overwhelming new thoughts and emotions. She wondered: Will I Ever Walk Again? Will I Ever Sleep Again? Are My Boobs Always Going to Be Like This? Rowland had questions about everything from postpartum bleeding, skin and hair changes, and dealing with aches and pains to getting back in shape and sex after baby. She also weighed the larger notions about what she wanted out of motherhood and the rest of her life.
In Whoa, Baby! Rowland and Dr. Bickman team up to share this reassuring information with new moms everywhere. Often hilarious and always down-to-earth, Rowland and Dr. Bickman cover every surprising challenge that new moms face.
Reflection The subtitle of this book pretty much tells it all. “A guide for new moms who feel overwhelmed and freaked out (and wonder what the #*$& just happened. Whoa Babyis the book I wish I had by my side before giving birth to my first child. Yeah, I read other pregnancy books, but they only provided answers to the standard questions you find in most books. I love Kelly’s “tell it like it is”, hilarious and blunt advice she provides as she reminisces about her first pregnancy.
First off, some of the descriptions used for each chapter are great and straight to the point: What are these bumps on my butt? (hemorrhoids), So now we’re both wearing diapers? (urinary incontinence), Why didn’t anyone tell me to bring Depends? (postpartum bleeding), Will I ever get my groove back? (Sex after baby). I had these exact same thoughts after becoming a mom the first time around. I was thinking, why didn’t anyone tell me these things?
Next, my attention was captured with the opening sentence in the introduction. It’s great to know someone else also enjoyed everything about being pregnant! I thoroughly enjoyed both of my pregnancies, but anytime I tell others they look at me like I’m crazy. I was fortunate enough to never experience any sickness or heath scares with either pregnancy just like Kelly.
This read like a chatty narrative and focused mainly on Kelly’s experience, while adding in several useful tidbits of information like recommended natural herbs to increase lactation while breastfeeding. Kelly’s OB GYN Dr. Tristan Bickman also adds her input and advice throughout the book.
I found this book to be a really fun and honest depiction of what to expect with a new baby. No sensors, just truth. At times, it may feel like Kelly is sitting across from you telling you the good things and the bad things you can expect. Some parts may make you laugh out loud. Whoa, Baby opens you up to the normalization of what to expect as a first time parent that other people may not warn you about like how loose and floppy your vagina is after childbirth (if you give birth naturally) and how much you’ll bleed.
There were several chapters in this book I wish I would have read prior to having my first child. For example, I think chapter 14 (Why Can’t I Sit Down without Wincing?) and chapter 18 (What Do I Want Out of Motherhood?) were particularly useful. I think even if expecting or first-time moms don’t really learn anything new from this book, they will get the encouragement that they aren’t alone and can laugh about their own experience.
The chapters and the overall book are fairly short, allowing you a quick snippet each evening before bed or whenever you take a 10 minute break during your day. I think the real talk is a perfect balance to the other academic pregnancy books out there that freak you out about all the preparation required for childbirth and parenthood.
Overall I think Whoa, Baby provides much needed guidance for the new mom. It may even help to put your mind at ease and also let you know that your experiences are normal.
BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a Book Blast for The Art of Blissful Parenting by Sharon Ballantine. The blast will run October 24 – October 26, 2016.
About the Book
Title: The Art of Blissful Parenting | Author: Sharon Ballantine | Genre: Parenting Number of Pages: 190 | Publisher: Balboa Press | Publication Date: November 24, 2015 Book Description: What if you had the ideal relationship with your children? This book is for every parent that wants to have a powerful bond with their kids. Parents have the opportunity for newfound freedom and joy when they teach their children about their Internal Guidance System. Tools and guidance are offered in this book for exacting the art of blissful parenting by practicing alignment. It’s fun and easy to work with the Universe and a short lesson in the Law of Attraction is part of this script. Parents-live and also teach your children how to manifest what they want by thinking in a more positive way and deliberately creating their lives.
What others are saying…“This book is filled with amazing tools for any adult who wants to sharpen the innate gifts of the children in their lives and support them in developing and following their internal guidance. Beautifully and thoughtfully written with clear practical exercises to allow you to put into practice what you have read.” – Debbie (Amazon Reviewer) “The Art of Blissful Parenting offers readers a refreshing, out-of-the-box approach to raising happy children. Sharon offers practical tools and tips for teaching kids how to thrive by using the law of attraction and following their internal guidance system.” – (Amazon Reviewer) “This is a fascinating book for anyone who wants to raise confident, independent children. The author presents her unique ideas in a thoughtful and insightful way” – Cheryl (Amazon Reviewer)
About the Author: Sharon Ballantine
Sharon Ballantine is a Parenting Coach and certified Law of Attraction Life Coach. She has successfully raised three children and is the author a new book “The Art of Blissful Parenting.” Sharon is the founder of “The Ballantine Parenting Institute,” her online parenting program. Ballantine is a sought after speaker, and was host to her own Internet TV Show with Conscious Evolution Media Network from 2013-2014. The platform of The Sharon Ballantine TV Show featured a conversation with passionate spiritually minded guests. Sharon also had her own column with Beliefnet.com “Parenting on Purpose.” Sharon was interviewed on TV, February 15, 2016 for her new book release, “The Art of Blissful Parenting” on KING 5 New Day Northwest, a live daytime talk show in Seattle. Ballantine has been interviewed on several radio shows including Blog Talk Radio in Los Angeles, Chat with Women radio show in Seattle and Conscious Evolution Media Internet TV in Denver. Her interview with Hay House Radio will air by summer ’16. Sharon’s website is SharonBallantine.com which features weekly teaching blogs, podcasts and slideshows. You can see her educational videos on her YouTube channel, Sharon Ballantine. Sharon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband Jay.