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children's literacy

Petit Mail Story Card Subscription for Kids + Giveaway!

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about a variety of different subscription boxes and services for both kids and adults.  I love kids’ monthly subscription boxes because they offer unique educational experiences. They can give kids of all ages the chance to learn by doing fun projects, crafts and activities.

Today I’d like to introduce you to Petit Mail!  Have you heard about these cute subscription story cards yet?  I met Alison, owner of Petit Mail,  last month on Instagram.  I saw a picture of the cards posted on her page and immediately reached out to her.  As a mom of two kids under the age of 4, I’m always on the hunt for different activities to do that incorporate both learning and fun.


Petit Mail is a monthly story postcard subscription for kids, ideally suited for preschoolers and early readers.  Each month, a story card arrives in a bright, fun envelope, addressed to your child.  Story themes follow the adventures of characters Oliver and Olivia, and encourage imagination, creative play and family connection.  Currently, there are only two characters available, but there are plans to expand the characters to include more diversity.

Parents and children can read each story card together and use the monthly adventure as inspiration for family time activities. Oliver is putting on a puppet show? You can too. Story topics include science, nature, reading, art and more.

With so much of our days filled with technology, it’s a wonderful treat to receive paper mail – children LOVE finding envelopes in the mailbox addressed just to them.  (My children are no different.)  Some months include little bonus extras, like stickers or bookmarks and every story card includes a link to additional content for parents with activity tips and suggestions.

When our story cards came in the mail my kids were happy to see their names printed on the envelopes.  My son received the story card entitled ‘Oliver Loves Reading’ and my daughter received ‘Olivia’s Science Project’.

The activity on the back of my son’s story card was to go to your local library and have a library scavenger hunt.  We haven’t done this yet, but I’m looking forward to doing it!  My daughter’s activity on her story card was to mix two colors together to make a new color.  We had fun using food coloring to mix blue and red to make purple and blue and yellow to make green.

Untitled design

Parents and caregivers might find Petit Mail to be a very affordable gift subscription. Canada and US subscriptions cost just $6 per month (including postage) and international subscriptions are also available.  Subscriptions can be purchased for 3, 6 or 12 months, and make a great non-toy gift for kids.

Parents can find out more about Petit Mail at:

Petit Mail Shop:

Sign up for the Petit Mail newsletter here!

Connect with Petit Mail!

Instagram | Facebook

Sounds great, is there a discount?
Yes, there is!  Here Wee Read Subscribers and readers can save $10 off a 1 year (12 month) subscription using code HEREWEEREAD until May 31, 2016!

How about a giveaway?
I’m glad you asked!  One (1) lucky winner will win a Petit Mail story card of their choice.  You can choose between the following themes:

  • Oliver Explores Art
  • Olivia’s Pen Pal
  • Oliver Loves Reading
  • Olivia The Superhero
  • Oliver Learns About Fossils
  • Olivia’s Science Project
  • Olivia Builds A Boat

Enter today!  Giveaway ends Thursday, April 28, 2016.  Good luck!

Petit Mail Story Card Giveaway

Disclaimer: I received two complimentary story cards in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

children's books

Kids Read the World: A Kid World Citizen Initiative

A few days ago while browsing on Instagram, I found out about an awesome initiative that I just had to share!  By now you should know how passionate I am about reading and books, so naturally I would be intrigued by this amazing project that Becky Morales from Kid World Citizen has started.

Becky is an ESL teacher and mom to 5 kids.  Her husband is from Mexico, and she is from the US.  When they had their two daughters, Becky began looking for ways to incorporate Mexican culture into their family life. Soon, they adopted their son from China, and a couple of years later, another son from Ethiopia.  As their family grew, they expanded their celebrations, books, and music to include all of their heritage cultures.

Kid World Citizen
Becky decided to start a blog to help other adoptive families honor and learn about their children’s cultural backgrounds. Many of her readers were adoptive families, but she soon realized that many parents – of all backgrounds – were looking for ways to teach their kids about the world. Parents are interested in raising little global citizens who are aware of others inside and outside their communities. Becky wanted this for for their children too, so she expanded her blog to include the whole world. Hence the name, Kid World Citizen.Becky has been blogging for several years reading tons of books set around the world. Yet, when she read the jacket covers, most often the author was from the US. While the books were taking place around the world, they were not written by authors of the specific culture, who grew up in the particular country. Wanting to experience world cultures from the perspectives of their citizens, she began to look for children’s books that have been translated into English.

One day while Becky was playing on Facebook, serendipity struck: She clicked on a TED talk of a woman who had read an adult’s book from every country. It was the catalyst she needed to begin. She showed her kids Ann Morgan’s talk and they all agreed they would try to read a kid’s book from every country.

It’s not a simple task, and may prove to be unattainable: there are many countries that have few publishing houses (or none at all). If they have published children’s books, it is possible that none of have been translated.

Becky decided to start an editable google doc, where she could crowdsource ideas. She called out to her networks and asked friends, family, teachers, librarians, and organizations to suggest book titles.

The project “Kids Read the World” is just at the beginning stages. They are looking for recommendations of favorite, original children’s books (translated) from every country in the world. They are hoping to read classic books that are enjoyed by kids around the planet: picture books, traditional stories, folktales, picture books or easy chapter books.

Kids Read the World
The best part?  The live document is editable, and anyone can read it and add to it!  That’s right, Kid World Citizen is asking readers to look over the list, and add any book titles under the appropriate countries. When they finish with the list, they will also share that so that others can read their way around the world!  What a neat project, wouldn’t you agree?  I can’t wait to see the final list of books!

I hope you’ll join Becky and our friends over at Kid World Citizen in researching books titles and compiling the master list!

Your turn:  What translated books from around the world would you add to the list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's books

The Story Box: A Review Plus a Discount!

During my holiday gift guide series, I mentioned a new children’s book subscription box called The Story Box.  You can check out the original post here.

Owned by speech-language pathologist (Holly) and her husband (Clint), the Story Box is a subscription box that is intended to be an inexpensive way for parents to grow their children’s personal library of books.   When you subscribe to The Story Box, your family will receive a monthly box that is curated by a nationally certified speech-language pathologist.


Each box contains 2 children’s books and a guide for parents.  Use the books and guide to make the most of your family reading time, enhance your child’s language skills, and improve your child’s chances of becoming a successful reader.  The books in their boxes are most appropriate for children between the ages of 1 and 7-years old which includes: babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary students Kindergarten-2nd graders.

I LOVE the fact that a portion of each subscription fee is used to purchase books and other educational materials to benefit children with disabilities and children from low-income families.  What a nice touch!

The books were shipped in a flat brown box with a large bright green Story Box logo on it.  When I opened the box, the kids immediately started flipping through the books.

Here are the two books we received:  It’s Monday, Mrs. Jolly Bones! and Kiss the Cow.


There are several things I like about this subscription box:

  • the well thought out and organized parent guide which includes: tips & inspiration, vocabulary tips, language concepts, example hands-on activities you can do with your children that are related to the books you just read (this is by far my favorite thing about this box!!)
  • the variety in reading difficulty, rich illustrations, messages, and styles of the books
  • the relatively simple story lines, basic language, and cute characters also make these accessible books for early readers to explore independently
  • it would make a great gift because you could add a birthday card and you’re all set to go to a kid’s birthday party!

Overall, I was very impressed with this subscription service.  I think there is a lot of thought that goes into their book selections.  In addition, the great value, plus the nice presentation and personalization makes this a fantastic subscription for little ones!

The Subscription: The Story Box
The Cost:

  • Month-to-Month Plan: $21.99 per month
  • 3 Month Prepay: $20.99 per month
  • 6 Month Prepay: $19.99 per month
  • Shipping is always FREE for all plans!

The Discount: Here Wee Read readers get $10.00 off, good through January 19, 2016.  Just use coupon code HEREWEEREAD at checkout!

Disclosure: I received this complimentary box for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way. All opinions are my own. Post may contain affiliate and/or referral links.

Your turn:  Have you tried this fantastic subscription service for your little ones yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's literacy

International Book Giving Day 2016: How I’m Helping

Save the date for International Book Giving Day 2016!

Oh, I just LOVE literary related initiatives and events, don’t you?  Ok, I know not everyone gets excited about stuff like this, but I certainly do (don’t judge me…ha ha!)

International Book Giving Day #bookgivingday takes place on 14th February each year.  Yes, the same day as Valentine’s Day.  The aim of the day is to get books into the hands of as many children as possible thereby increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books.  Although the holiday originated in the UK, book lovers around the world now join in the celebrations every year.


International Book Giving Day is a 100% volunteer initiative born out of the knowledge that:

  • Most children in developing countries do not own books.
  • In the United Kingdom, one-third of children do not own books.
  • In the United States, two-thirds of children living in poverty do not own books.

International Book Giving Day’s focus is on encouraging people worldwide to give a book to a child on February 14th.

Why not use the day to spread love in a different kind of way to:

1) gift a book to a friend or family member,
2) leave a book in a waiting room at a pediatrician’s office or children’s hospital for children to read, or
3) donate a gently used book to a local library, or shelter or to an organization that distributes used books to children in need internationally or locally.
4) Host a book giveaway on your blog – that’s something I plan to do…stay tuned!  This is a great idea for all you authors out there.

One of my personal goals this year is to start giving back and volunteering my time again (gradually).  Prior to having children I used to volunteer for several different organizations, but I had to scale back and start being more “stingy” about my time in order to take care of the kids as they were my #1 priority.  Now that the kids are a little older and growing more independent each day, I now feel like I’m ready to start volunteering again even if it’s just in small ways to start.

Therefore, I’ve decided my first way of giving back this year will be to donate books on International Book Giving Day.  I contacted the local Reach Out and Read organization in my area and told them I’m interested in donating books.  If they agree to accept the books (which I don’t see why they wouldn’t), I plan to make a book donation to their organization.  In addition to donating some of my own books, I plan to reach out to several friends and family members to see if they have any books they may want to get off their hands.

Depending on how many books I receive, I also want to make a donation to my local library, hubby’s barber shop, and leave some books in the waiting room at the kids’ pediatrician office.  In each of the books I also plan to insert one of the cute International Book Giving Day bookmarks which can be found here.

So instead of giving the kids chocolates this Valentine’s day why not give a book instead?  Perhaps you agree, but I think chocolate and toys are all very fine and dandy but books, well books are just awesome and last much longer than a box of chocolates ever will.  I’m just saying.

To learn more about International Book giving Day visit their website here.

Your turn: What are your plans for International Book Giving Day?  How will you give back?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's literacy

Literacy Expert Spotlight: Sophie Helenek

This month’s literacy expert is Sophie Helenek.  Sophie is an elite athlete, award-winning author, former banker, Everest summiteer, runway model, and mother.  Also, her daughter happens to go to the same preschool as my son – how cool is that?

Please tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in Guyancourt, France.  I’ve always had a passion for music, education, and sports.  At the age of 22, I obtained my Master’s degree at La Sorbonne Business School.  In 2013, I became a new mom and embarked on the journey of writing a baby book series which includes four delightful board books Fruits, Sky Wonders, Shapes and Musical Instruments.  I am also a motivational speaker and panelist at different events around the world.  I am currently embracing my new career as executive coach and keynote speaker.

Please provide some insight on what it’s like to be a children’s book author.
As per my experience, it is not easy to be a children’s book author mainly because everyone thinks they can do it. But it is far from easy. Writing a children’s book is a tedious and challenging process which requires lots of research, great attention to details, and a mental made of steel! You are working on complex concepts that are expressed in “simplistic” ways. Such discrepancy often undermines your hard work and it can be very discouraging.

My inspiration
My inspiration was my daughter. When she was a small baby, I showed her an M.C. Escher book. She seemed to like the black and white spiral drawings. When I say “like,” I understand you don’t really know what is going on in an infant’s head, but I could tell that something happened. I was surprised and started reading about how babies’ eyes work, what they see, and why.

At birth, babies are very nearsighted; that is why they are interested in bold black and white shapes and high contrast patterns. Eager to learn more, I read bunch of studies on speech development, child temperament, and babies’ milestones. Gathering all this information, I developed and designed My First Books series from a baby’s perspective. I wanted to write an engaging book that promotes bonding and supports an infant’s developmental growth milestones: vision, memory, speech, and social skills.

They are not just picture books or bedtime stories but rather activity books conceived to stimulate a baby’s senses.


Here how My First Book series works:

  • At first, a baby will enjoy simple illustrations with black-and-white and high-contrast patterns designed especially for the very young to focus on.
  • As babies gets older, their brains learn to distinguish bright primary colors and will start identifying the illustrations with the words you read, which triggers their memory process.
  • Each picture is accompanied by a simple word that babies will love repeating and which helps their speech development.
  • The last pages show all the illustrations together, which also helps the baby’s memory process.
  • My First Book series offers a special feature for toddlers, as they can write on the book with a white board pen, wipe it, and write again!

What tips and advice would you give to others who may be considering writing a children’s book?
First you need an idea. Then, do your research and see if your idea makes sense, and if it could target an audience niche. Once you are getting ready to start writing, step back and ask yourself : Why am I doing it? And What do I really want to achieve with my book? Write down your answer, and keep it handy. It will be a good motivation boost going forward!  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need advice.

What are some activities that you’ve done with your child to promote literacy?
I placed books everywhere, among toys, on shelves at her eye sight, on the dining table, in the car…. Books are part of her daily life. It is a bonding time, as well as a self-exploratory medium for her. She discovered she can turn pages, choose her books, “read” at her own pace, etc.

What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
I always encourage people to think out of the box and be open minded to your child interests and affinities. Some unknown authors wrote wonderful books which are not promoted by big publishing companies and therefore are stuck under the radar of the “must-have” children books.

Nevertheless, I personally love board books by Karen Katz, Where’s Spot flap books, and Mother Goose.

Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family?
I read her books every morning before or after breakfast, and every night before going to bed. I always give her a book to look at when she is in her car seat.

I also incorporate several types of books into my parenting: nighttime stories, which are mainly soft pastel drawing books that are calming; nursery rhyme books, which are more wordy and playful; and activity baby board books like My First Book series which are placed with all other toys.

Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
Don’t hesitate to read in front of your child – before you know it he/she will mimic you reading.

If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
It is never too early (or too late) to read to baby.

Parents play a key role in their child development by supporting their healthy physical, emotional, and developmental growth. Being a first-time mom my motherhood instincts were to love, bond, and nurture my child as well as to feed her active brain. I played and read a lot to her and she loved it since day one. It is never too early to read to your baby, despite their seemingly passive demeanor their brain is constantly at work absorbing information and generating new connections among brain cells.  Reading to babies appears to be an excellent nourishment to complete their brain development, a “brain food” as mentioned in Baby Read-Aloud Basics book.

Hardcover, Paperback, or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
I love hardcover books. I don’t like e-books, I love turning the pages and writing notes.

Fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, romance, or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
I am scared very easily, so it is impossible for me to read a suspense or thriller book. I enjoy reading fiction and business/reference books.

Name an adult book that:
You really enjoy:
Gabriel Garcia Marquez author of the marvelous book “One hundred years of solitude”.  I also like more light hearted authors like Natalie Nothomb or Anna Galvalda.

You would recommend to others: The book series by Katherine Pancol
“ Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles”, “La valse lente des tortues” and “Les ecureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi”

What books are on your nightstand right now?
I did not realize how many books I read at the same time. I have two magazines on my nightstand, the Times, and the Atlantic ; a financial book: “The New Advisor for Life” by Gresham and two books in French “au revoir la-haut” by Pierre Lemaitre and “Un secret” by Philippe Grimbert.

Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
I am working on a new board book series “Baby Babble” dedicated to promote speech development by introducing fun and engaging age appropriate sounds. The first book of the series will be released in spring 2016 “Baby Babble Ooo”, which includes vocalization such as Ghosts say Boo, Cows say Moo, Owls say Ooo, as well familiar words and functional objects such as spoon and balloon.  Some videos will be added on the publisher website to guide parents in helping their child in the production of the sound Ooo.

How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?

Twitter:  @nurserybooks
Books available on :

Your turn:  Did you enjoy this post?  Are you interested in being featured?  Do you know someone who might want to be featured?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

children's literacy

Do Your Kids Own a Dictionary?

Do your kids own a dictionary?  Or are they becoming a thing of the past?

National Dictionary Day is October 16th is celebrated each year on October 16th.  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, dictionary picture books or picture books about words I’d recommend.  Enjoy!

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham & Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

How can we make the world a better place? This inspiring resource for middle-grade readers is organized as a dictionary; each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect. For each word, there is a poem, a quote from an inspiring person, a personal anecdote from the authors, and a “try it” prompt for an activity.

The Dictionary of Difficult Words by Jane Solomon, illustrated by Louise Lockhart

Find out all this and more in the Dictionary of Difficult Words. Test your knowledge with more than 400 words to amaze, confuse and inspire budding wordsmiths (and adults). All of the words featured in this book are difficult to spell, hard to say and their meaning is obscure to most children (and most adults!)

The Word Collector by Peter H.Reynolds

In this extraordinary new tale from Peter H. Reynolds, Jerome discovers the magic of the words all around him — short and sweet words, two-syllable treats, and multisyllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect, transform, and empower.

First 100 Words by Roger Priddy

Your little one will soon learn some essential first words and pictures with this bright board book. There are 100 color photographs to look at and talk about, and 100 simple first words to read and learn, too. The pages are made from tough board for hours of fun reading, and the cover is softly padded for little hands to hold.

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 and picture book dictionaries to be helpful?  Do you feel dictionaries are becoming obsolete with the invention of online dictionaries?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

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.

back to school books

My Favorite Back to School Toddler and Preschool Books

Ah, back to school, the smell of new clothes, crayons, scented markers, and the excitement of a new school year. For some children, September means starting anew with a clean slate.  For others it’s a reunion of friends being united once again.

Soon many parents will be scouting libraries, websites and bookstores for the perfect “going to school” books.  I think the most popular topics for these books fall into a few different categories:

  • Making new friends
  • Separation anxiety
  • Dealing with new situations, routines and schedules
  • Helping children (and some parents) cope with feelings of anticipation, excitement and nervousness

Last year when my daughter started preschool in a program for two-year old toddlers, I discovered that starting a new school year is a big transition for the whole family.  Therefore, to help ease this transition for her I started reading books about school.  In addition, I took her to the school regularly to play in the playground so she became familiar with the outside environment.

I think both of those things helped tremendously although like many of her other classmates she suffered from separation anxiety the most.  It took most of the kids in her class about two weeks to fully adjust.

I believe reading a variety of books about school and school related topics can help children relate to various situations they might encounter.  And it may also help to spark conversations about their thoughts on a new school year.

My “Back to School” list includes books for toddlers preschoolers since that is the age range of my own children.  I hope you’ll find these helpful and possibly a few to read to your little ones as well.  Enjoy! (Note: This post contains some affiliate links.)

O U R   E S C A P E

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
Reading this book to my daughter last year was by far the most helpful in helping with transitioning to school.

It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back?  Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!

Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Applet
When Baby Bird says good-bye to his mama at school each morning, he feels sad. Mama Bird feels sad, too. Sometimes it’s hard to be apart. But as Mama Bird says, the love they share is with them always, keeping them close until the best part of the day–when they are together again.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits
This book is similar to the book The Name Jar also featured below.  Such a great book for all children!

Yoon’s name means “shining wisdom,” and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names–maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending.

Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka
All summer Oliver and his dad played together, laughed together, sang together, and read together.  Now it’s time for Oliver to start school!  On the first day, Oliver’s dad isn’t quite ready. . . . Suddenly he feels nervous. His tummy hurts, and he would rather stay home.  But Oliver isn’t convinced. What if the first day is really fun? What if it’s the start of an exciting year?

My Preschool by Anne Rockwell
Join a happy little boy during a day at preschool, from cheerful hellos in circle time, to painting colorful pictures and playing at the water table before snack time. The best part of saying good-bye at the end of the day is that the little boy knows he will come back tomorrow.

Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This wonderfully warm and humorous book will put any preschooler’s jitters to rest. “The first four months of school for eight first graders are chronicled in wonderful watercolor detail.

Pete the Cat: Too Cool for School by Kimberly and James Dean
In this funny My First I Can Read Book, Pete just can’t decide which outfit to wear to school! He has so many options to choose from. Fans of Pete the Cat will enjoy Pete’s creativity in choosing the coolest outfit.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
I recently wrote a review for this wonderful book.  You can read it here.

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from.

Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard
Ok, who else remembers reading this book as a child?  I used to love this one!

The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving again. Spitballs stuck to the ceiling. Paper planes whizzing through the air. They were the worst-behaved class in the whole school.  So begins this quirky classic, first published in 1977 and still relevant today as a lighthearted reminder to show our appreciation to those we value.

Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
Preschool for Maisy means a day filled with friends and things to do, from the time she hangs her coat on a special peg to the time she says good-bye. There’s painting and snack time, stories and nap time (and a bathroom break in between). Soon everyone is ready to haul out the instruments and make some noise, then head outside for a turn at the sandbox or slide.

Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus by James Dean
Join Pete as he rides on the bus to school with his friends and hears all the different sounds a bus makes as it drives. Fans of Pete the Cat will sing along with Pete in this rendition of a classic favorite children’s song.

Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
Froggy’s mother knows that everyone’s nervous on the first day of school. “Not me!” says Froggy, and together they leapfrog to the bus stop — flop flop flop. Froggy’s exuberant antics, complete with sound effects, will delight his many fans and reassure them that school can be fun.

The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
It’s the night before preschool, and a little boy named Billy is so nervous he can’t fall asleep. The friends he makes the next day at school give him a reason not to sleep the next night, either: he’s too excited about going back! The book’s simple rhyming text and sweet illustrations will soothe any child’s fears about the first day of school.

Curious George’s First Day of School by H.A. Rey
It’s the first day of school, and Curious George has been invited to Mr. Apple’s class to be a special helper! George is just the right monkey for the job—until he starts to wreak his usual havoc, that is. Red and yellow paint makes orange, yellow and blue makes green . . . and a mixture of all the paint colors makes a big mess!

Your turn: What are your favorite “going to school” books to read with your children?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's literacy

Bookroo: A Children’s Book Subscription

Have you heard of Bookroo yet?  If not, please allow me to introduce you to this fabulous new children’s book subscription box.

When Jane from Bookroo contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in writing a review for their subscription box I was so excited and I couldn’t wait for our box to arrive in the mail!  Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, Jane and the rest of the Bookroo crew!


What is Bookroo?
Bookroo offers three different subscription types: month-by-month, three-month or six-month. Each month you receive either three board books (if you sign up for board books) or two picture books (if you sign up for picture books).  You are not allowed to select the books you receive, but you can be assured the books will be good quality.

I know you may be thinking, what makes this subscription box different from all the others out there?  I asked Jane this same question.  What makes Bookroo stand out is the experience they create and the value at which it is offered. While there are other book subscription boxes, by wrapping each book in quality and cute wrapping paper, and including a hand written note, Bookroo brings the excitement of unwrapping and gift giving to books! Also, in every box the retail of the books exceeds the subscription price, so Bookroo customers get the books plus the experience at a discount, rather than at a premium.  Oh yeah, they offer FREE shipping too.  Score!

In the event you receive books you already own simply take a picture of yourself or your child giving the book(s) to someone else and you’ll get $5 off of your next subscription.  This is great for kids who already have lots of books in their home library collection.

When our Bookroo package arrived I was thrilled!  I waited until the kids came home from daycare so they could open up the box.  We signed up for picture books so there were two books in our box.  Each booked was individually wrapped by hand with quality wrapping paper and even tied together with twine.  I just love it when companies go the extra mile to make you feel special!

I wasted no time and read both books to the kids right away.  The book titles we received are: The Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner and Dream Away by Julia Durango and Katie Belle Trupiano.  The kids seemed to enjoy both books, but if we had to choose a favorite between the two it would be the book Dream Away.  My kids seem to love books with rhyming text, plus it’s a good bedtime story.

Ready to find out how you sign up for your Bookroo subscription?  Remember, there are 3 different subscription types to choose from:

  • 1 month – $19.99 with FREE shipping
  •  3 month – $55.99 with FREE shipping
  • 6 months – $104.99 with FREE shipping

As a bonus: The Bookroo crew was gracious enough to provide an exclusive discount code to share with my readers.  This discount allows you to save $4 off your first order!  Get your Bookroo discount here!

And it gets even better!  Right now they are also offering a buy one, give one promotion.  Sweet!  More details can be found here.

Thanks again Bookroo for offering such a great, quality children’s book subscription box to get kids excited about reading!

Want to connect with Bookroo?  Visit their website!
You can also find them on Social Media: Facebook Instagram

Disclaimer:  I did not receive financial compensation for this review.  I purchased the subscription box with my own money.  All opinions expressed are my own.

children's literacy

Literacy Expert Spotlight: Kathleen Odean

Starting this month, I will be featuring a literacy expert on the blog each month!  Exciting, right?  This is one of the “secrets” I’ve been working on behind the scenes in an effort to keep bringing you fresh content and new literacy ideas.

For now, these posts will only last through the end of this year.  If they prove to be popular and if I’m able to feature more people I’ll keep it going.

This month’s literacy expert is Kathleen Odean, an expert on children’s and adults books.   Kathleen has spent the last thirty years steeped in books for young people as a librarian, workshop presenter, reviewer, university instructor, and author of four guides to children’s books. All her work is aimed at helping young people connect with books that will enrich their lives and add to their happiness.


Q: Kathleen, please tell us a little about yourself.
A: I spent seventeen years as a children’s librarian in public and school libraries. Now I give workshops to educators on new books for young people and do a lot of reviewing. My mission is to connect kids and teens with good books, whether I’m doing it directly or through their teachers and parents. I’ve written four guides to children’s books, published by Random House: Great Books for Girls, Great Books for Boys, Great Books About Things Kids Love, and Great Books for Babies and Toddlers. I also had the wonderful privilege of chairing the 2002 Newbery Award Committee.

Q: Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family?
A: Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mother who read to me and took us five kids to the library a lot. My husband reads to me now when we have time, mostly nonfiction. He and I have been in a nonfiction book group with other adults for about 7 years, which is sheer pleasure.

Q: If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
A: Make it fun. You don’t have to teach your children to read, because that’s what schools do. You need to give them positive associations with reading, which means having a good time together around reading and choosing books you both enjoy. Let them see you read for pleasure, too—that makes a big difference.

Q: What were some of the favorite children’s board, picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across this year?
A: A picture book I like a lot is A Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara with pictures by G. Brian Karas. I love Jerry Pinkney’s new version of The Grasshopper and the Ants. I’m a big fan of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books, the latest of which is I Will Take a Nap! All three are 2015 publications.

Q: What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
A: Two categories come to mind.  One is your children’s favorite books that they will want to re-read and cherish. Another is poetry anthologies like The Random House Book of Poetry for Children selected by Jack Prelutsky, with pictures by Arnold Lobel. A love of poetry is a gift parents can give to their children, and having anthologies at home is a large part of that.

Q: Hardcover or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
A: Actually, paperback is my favorite but I use e-books when I’m traveling.

Q: Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
A: Everything. I love fiction including literary fiction and mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and poetry.

Name an adult book that:

a) Inspired you: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick (a young adult memoir)
b) Made you laugh out loud: Anything by Terry Pratchett.
c) You recommend to others often: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Q: What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?
I give workshops to educators on new young adult books, so I’m busy reading the newest ones.

Q: How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
I blog about YA (Young Adult) nonfiction at I can also be reached through my website,

Check out Kathleen’s Books!

Great Books for Girls
Great Books for Boys
Great Books for Babies and Toddlers
Great Books about Things Kids Love

Your Turn:  Did you enjoy this post?  Are you interested in being featured?  Do you know someone who might want to be featured?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

children's literacy

Five Children’s Books to Read for the 4th of July

The Fourth of July is a day to reflect on the history of our country, and to celebrate the things that make it unique. It is also a time in which many of us celebrate with our family and friends, have cookouts, watch parades, and end the day with fireworks bursting in the sky.

I hope you’ll take a moment to read a book about the holiday with your children in spite of the racial tensions going on in the world today.  We still have so much to be thankful for and celebrate.

There are so many good books available that explore the history of our great country and many are geared to children.  Below are a few to choose from.  Happy 4th!

ABC USA by Martin Jarrie
Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems by Paul B. Janeczko and Melissa Sweet
Your turn:  What’s on your reading stack for the 4th of July holiday weekend?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.
children's literacy

Fun With Sight Words: Water Balloons & Word Walls

I love discovering new and simple sight word activities to try out with the kids!  Once a month I present a short list of words to both of my kids, specifically my daughter since she’s older.

Since I started doing this some time last year there are many words my daughter can recognize instantly and effortlessly.  I believe that by automatically recognizing these words it has helped her develop into a fast reader. Repeated exposure to sight words is key so I come up with different ways to expose the kids to the same words over and over until they stick.

Recently, I created a simple “word wall” using post it notes which turned out a be a big hit with my daughter.  I often catch her reading her words when she wakes up in the morning or when preparing for bedtime.

Since it’s summertime, I wanted a sight word activity we could do outside that involved water.  Then I came across a simple activity with water balloons.  I thought how hard can this be – Fill balloons with water- Write words on balloons – Throw at each other.  Viola!  Instant fun and learning at the same time.

Before throwing each balloon we sing a song that reinforces the spelling of the word and then bombs away!  Such a fun activity on a hot day!

Your Turn:  What are your favorite sight word activities to do with your little ones?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.