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How to Create a Habit of Reading Together as a Family – Tips for Parents

Are you looking for an easy way to bond with your family while also creating a habit of reading or increasing literacy skills?

If you’ve been following me on social media for a while, you may have heard me mention our monthly family read aloud before.  In this post, I’ll explain why and how we started doing this in our family.

Why We Started

I decided to start having monthly family read aloud time about three and half years ago when my kids began their transition from picture books to early chapter books.   Although both kids could read independently on their own, I wanted to keep the tradition of reading aloud during story time.  I allowed the kids to choose an early chapter book to read independently, but I chose a longer middle-grade novel for us to read as a family over the course of a month. After a while, this became a habit and turned into our monthly family read aloud we still do today.

I also decided to start having monthly family read aloud time because I know how beneficial reading aloud is.  Not only does reading aloud aid in language development, but it also allows children to improve their language skills. While children listen to adults read, they pick up correct word pronunciation, word usage, and proper grammar. Reading aloud can also enhance vocabulary and it allows kids to internalize correct sentence structure. Reading aloud with children can also help them become more fluent readers.

Our reading aloud time is also great for helping me to point out and discuss examples of compassion, kindness, perseverance, and optimism while reading.  Last, but certainly not least, read-aloud time makes for excellent bonding time.

Reading aloud is a wonderful chance to share adventure, intrigue, and emotion—without having to leave the comfort of your home.  And that is irreplaceable. Wouldn’t you agree?

Our Monthly Process

Note: In addition to our monthly read aloud chapter book, my kids also read other books independently for school or pleasure during the month.

Here are the basic steps we follow each month:

1. I choose the book of the month for our family to read.  The books I choose are often middle-grade novels (for ages 8 – 12) that are borrowed from our local library.  However, sometimes we read books we already own.

2. We each take turns reading either a chapter or a few pages at a time. It’s usually just me and the kids, but sometimes my husband will listen in if he’s sitting close by.

3. During our read aloud sessions, I have snacks and water nearby along with a few fidget toys to keep the kids’ hands busy while they listen.

4. After finishing the book, (it typically takes us about 2.5 to 3 weeks to finish a middle grade novel) we reflect and talk about the discussion questions.

A quick note regarding the discussion questions: If the book already has its own set of discussion questions online, we use those questions.  If I can’t find any discussion questions to go along with the book, I’ll make them up on my own as we read. This usually looks like me making notes on my phone after our read aloud session is over each night. From my notes, I can make up my own set of discussion questions.  I aim to  make most of our questions open-ended questions to make discussion time more engaging.

5. Depending on the theme of the book, sometimes we do a craft activity or another type of activity to go along with the book.  For example, after we read the early chapter book The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane we baked cupcakes. After reading The Crossover, we visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.

If establishing regular reading aloud time with your family is one of your reading goals this year, I’d recommend starting your own monthly family read aloud.  My kids are close in age (15 months apart), so it works well for us to choose one book to focus on for the month.  If you have children in different age groups, you may want to consider choosing one or more books to read per month.  You’ll want to figure out what works best for you and your family if this is something you decide to do.

Starting this tradition came naturally for our family since I’ve been reading with my children since they were young.  My hope is that my kids associate reading with happy memories as they continue to grow.

 

A few tips that may help get you started

1. Don’t overdo it at first. You might need to start with five to ten minutes of read-aloud time, and gradually extend the time until your children are able to maintain full attention for longer periods of time.

2. Have plenty of snacks and beverages nearby or within easy reach to snack on.

3.  Scan or preview book selection of the month in advance when possible.  This helps ensure there isn’t any inappropriate language in the book.  I take full advantage of the website Common Sense to check my books prior to choosing them. I find their book reviews and summaries to be extremely helpful for choosing the best books to read.

4. Choose a consistent time to read each day. You can either choose to read in the morning, during lunch while the kids eat, for a quiet rest time in the afternoon, or before bed to help kids wind down.

5. If your kids get fidgety or have a tough time sitting still for extended periods of time during story time, incorporate fidget toys, coloring books or other hands-on activities to keep their hands busy.

6. Create a designated reading space. Make it a cozy space using pillows, blankets, or a favorite chair or couch to snuggle in.

7. Don’t be afraid to stop reading a book if it’s not working for your family.  No one wants to read a boring book.  Am I right?

My Favorite Read Aloud Resource

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is still my favorite resource when it comes to the topic of reading aloud.   In this book, Trelease explains in plain English why reading aloud to your children matters. He tells you how to do it.  And he even gives you suggestions for books to read.  This book was my introduction to the importance of reading to children starting at an early age.

Your turn: Does your family already participate in monthly family read aloud time? Are you inspired to start this routine with your family?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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children's books

20 Black Parents to Follow on Instagram Who Instill a Love of Reading in Their Children

As a parent, I’m obsessed with cultivating a love of reading in my children. It’s one of my favorite things about my parenthood journey thus far. Before becoming a parent, I read countless books and studies that have proven the many benefits of reading. I knew before having children that I wanted to instill a love of reading in them starting at birth. I take pride in seeing how well both of my children read (and write) and how they often choose to pick up a book and read on their own without being told to.

When it comes to children, the ideal time to begin sharing books with them is during infancy, even as young as six weeks old (or sooner). From early on, children should own books, be read to often and see others reading and writing.  Children are rapidly learning language.  They often quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1-2.  Therefore, as parents and caregivers it’s crucial to read aloud with them often to increase their vocabulary.

Below I’ve rounded up 20 Black parents I follow on Instagram who value reading and work to instill a love of reading in their children. These parents get it and understand the importance of establishing a reading habit with their children early on. I thought some of you may be interested in following some of these people as well for inspiration, tips and Black family joy!

1. Me @hereweeread

2. @jeanellnicolereads

3. @rattlesandheels

4. @mymotherhoodmagic

5. @_colorful_stories

6. @justmeomaya

7. @imsuzettesays

8. @readlikearockstar

9. @apron_education

10. @schoolathomeandbeyond

11. @polishedplayhouse

12. @puzzlehuddle

13. @rahmarodaah

14. @thevitamindproject

15. @mayasbooknook

16. @mommyweek

17. @firstname.basis

18. @twolightsacademy

19. @arethoseyourkids

20. @mybusybeesandme

Your turn: Did this list help you discover new people to follow? Who are some of your favorite Black parents to follow on Instagram who value the importance of reading with their children? Feel free to share in the comments as I’m always looking for new like-minded people to connect with.

children's literacy

World Read Aloud Day: Share Your Love of Reading Globally + Fun Ways to Celebrate

February 1st is World Read Aloud Day.  It’s a day that motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. Each year World Read Aloud Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries thanks to people like you who participate and spread the word across the globe!  World Read Aloud Day is presented by global literacy nonprofit LitWorld and sponsored by Scholastic.

Why Reading Aloud Matters

There have been countless studies that have proven the many benefits of reading.  When it comes to children, the ideal time to begin sharing books with children is during infancy, even as young as six weeks old (or sooner). From early on, children should own books, be read to often and see others reading and writing.  Children are rapidly learning language.  They often quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1-2.  Therefore, as parents and caregivers it’s crucial to read aloud with them often to increase their vocabulary.

Have you ever noticed children who aren’t as articulate as others when they reach the age of 2 or 3?  From that alone, I can usually tell the kids who are being read to at home versus the ones who aren’t.  Either they are being read to OR they have frequent back and forth interaction with a loving caregiver.

Fun Fact: Reading 15 minutes per day exposes children to over 1,000,000 words per year!  Reading 15 minutes every day for 5 years is 27,375 minutes.  Daily reading is enough to make a difference.  That’s why reading aloud matters especially now in a world where so many kids are exposed to screens on a daily basis.

Fun Ways to Celebrate World Read Aloud Day

One of the great things about World Read Aloud Day is connecting with other like-minded book lovers globally across the world.  It’s so interesting to follow the hashtag #WorldReadAloudDay to see how other libraries, educators, parents and children are celebrating the day.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate and participate:

  • If you’re an educator or librarian, arrange to have a Skype session or in-person visit with an author or illustrator
  • Educators can arrange a Skype session with another classroom in a different state or country.  Both classes can take turns reading aloud a book (or a short chapter from a book)
  • Make your own Reading Crown using a brown paper bag.  So cute and fun!
  • Print and color your own Bookmarks!
  • Organize a book drive and donate collected books to a local organization or school in need
  • Make a monetary donation to LitWorld or another organization that promotes the importance of reading
  • Attend a read aloud event in your community or at a local library or bookstore!
  • Donate books you no longer want or need to a local organization, pediatric office, Little Free Library or shelter
  • Read aloud a stack of 2 – 5 picture books at home with smaller kids or read aloud a couple of chapters together with older kids
  • Incorporate technology and use read aloud apps like: Epic, One More Story, and Storyline Online
  • Follow along on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtags #wrad19 or #WorldReadAloudDay

You can join in the fun of the World Read Aloud Day movement by registering on litworld.org/wrad.  On the website you’ll also find some helpful resources including a book list and activity packet to use at home or in your classroom.  To learn more about World Read Aloud Day visit litworld.org/wrad and scholastic.com/WorldReadAloudDay.  On social media, join the conversation and post videos or pictures using #WorldReadAloudDay.  Connect with LitWorld on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

children's literacy

4 Ways To Enhance Story Time With Kids

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.

Simply 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.

2. Mindfulness Activities Before and After Story Time

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.

3. Tell Me a Story Cards from eeBoo

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.

4. Use educational flashcards like ABC Me Flashcards (or another set of flashcards you enjoy).

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.

Book Reviews

What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada (A Book Review)

What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom


Publisher: Compendium Inc
Pages: 44
Format: Hardcover
Age Range: 5 – 6 (and up)
Grade Level:
Kindergarten – 3 (and up)
Publication Date: February 6, 2018 (Available for pre-order now!)

Synopsis
The award–winning creators of The New York Times best sellers What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? return with a captivating story about a child who isn’t sure what to make of a chance encounter and then discovers that when you have courage, take chances, and say yes to new experiences, amazing things can happen.

In this story, a child is visited by his first chance and unsure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though he still wants to take them. Then one day he realizes that he doesn’t need to be brave all the time, just at the right time, to find out what amazing things can happen when he takes a chance.

The final addition to the award-winning What Do You Do With…? picture book series created by New York Times best-selling author Kobi Yamada and illustrator by Mae Besom, What Do You Do With a Chance? inspires kids of all ages and parents alike to find the courage to go for the opportunities that come their way. Because you never know when a chance, once taken, might be the one to change everything.

Reflection
One thing that has become crystal clear to me over the years is out of fear comes growth. You can let fear inhibit you or you can let it motivate you to do and be better. Simply put, once you define and conquer your fears you can grow and be more apt to take chances. That is the overall message of this powerful forthcoming book. I’m in LOVE with it!


It touches upon the process of learning, growing and stretching the bounds of who we are. With each new discovery, each lesson learned, we become larger and more complete than we were before, and we gain confidence that we can continue to grow and learn. Children need to actively explore and discover the world around them and learn to take calculated risks. The more they can do, the better they feel about themselves. That is just one of the messages I took away from this book.

The story follows a child who is presented with many chances but is afraid to act upon them. The more chances come around, the more the child’s fascination grows until one day he finds the courage to finally take it.

So what do you do with a chance?  You take it…because it just might be the start of something incredible.

I’d highly recommend this gem (along with the other two books in the series) for people of all ages. This book is for anyone who has ever wanted something but was afraid of taking a risk to get it. It is sure to inspire and motivate you and your little readers.  So go ahead, take a chance, and read this one – you’ll be glad you did.

Your turn: Have you read the other two books in this series?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's books

Brave Children: Four Simple Ways to Support Scaredy-Cat Kids

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Disney-Hyperion for the #ReadMo Ambassador program!

Monsters, the dark, ghosts, the boogeyman, giants, shadows, loud or creaky noises – all things that lead to nighttime fears in children.  Are you dealing with any of these lately?  We certainly are with our (almost) four year-old son.

Does this scenario sound familiar?  Dinner time is over, dishes are washed and now it’s time to give the kids a bath before bed.  Once the kids are squeaky clean and story time is over, it’s time for them to snuggle and get cozy in their beds.  Then all of a sudden the fears start settling in.  Here come those darn annoying monsters again – or so your children think.

As parents, I think it’s our natural instinct to want to do everything we can to help create a bedtime environment that will help our children feel safe, while also validating their fears and working together to solve the problem.  Sounds simple enough, right? Not always! Here are a few ideas of how I try to accomplish this.

Read Empowering Books About Scaredy-Cats
The goal: Show kids how to handle and overcome fears
Now that we’ve identified our sons’ fear of being afraid of monsters and the dark, I try to focus on these topics by reading lighthearted, “not so scary” books like Leonardo the Terrible Monster and Sam the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems.  Our son has really taken his Leonardo the Terrible monster stuffed toy.  He honestly takes his Leonardo everywhere to help protect him (even to school) – it’s the cutest thing!  I also like using the book Sam the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World to show our son how brave Sam and his new friend Kerry are.  It seems to be helping him feel more brave by sleeping in his own bed through the whole night…winning!

Make a Bottle of “Monster Spray”

The goal: Scare those pesky monsters away!
Fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of lavender essential oil (around 5-10 drops). Use a crayon, pen or permanent marker to make a “label” (or design one on the computer, print it out, and tape it on). You can also decorate your spray bottle with googly eyes or other craft materials.  Each night at bedtime when your child says they’re scared use the spray.  Let your child spray all the places in their room that need it when it’s bedtime.  Hopefully you child will be confident there are no monsters in the room which will help them fall asleep.

Show Your Kids How Much Fun It Is to Be in the Dark!
The goal:
Show kids being in the dark can be a fun experience.
Get creative and show your kids how much fun being in the dark can be.  Read books by flashlight under the covers in the dark or have a glow in the dark party to help your children make the connection between the dark and having fun.

Be Supportive: Watch Your Mouth!
The goal: Avoid saying negative statements to your kids and be supportive.
Whenever possible try to avoid saying any of the following phrases to your children:

  • You’re a big kid/stop acting like a baby.
  • There’s no need to be scared.
  • There’s no such thing as monsters, don’t be silly!
  • Stop whining/crying!

During times like these, it’s important to remember children’s imaginations are powerful and complex things. They can bring both delight and fear.  Remember that your goal is to stay connected with your child, provide empathy and support, and be a safe place for them to fall back on.

About Sam, the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World
A TERRIFICALLY TERRIFYING TALE!

Sam is afraid of anything and everything—except for his friend Leonardo, the terrible monster.
Kerry is afraid of everything and anything—except for her friend Frankenthaler, the other monster.
One day, the two scaredy-cat kids make a particularly scary discovery: each other!
AAH! EEK! Something has to be done. Something BIG. But what?

About Leonardo, the Terrible Monster
Leonardo is truly a terrible monster-terrible at being a monster that is. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to frighten anyone. Determined to succeed, Leonardo sets himself to training and research. Finally, he finds a nervous little boy, and scares the tuna salad out of him! But scaring people isn’t quite as satisfying as he thought it would be. Leonardo realizes that he might be a terrible, awful monster-but he could be a really good friend.

Visit the Official Website
Follow Disney-Hyperion on Twitter
Check out Disney Books on Facebook and Instagram

Your turn: What are some of your best tips to help kids overcome their fears?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

The Case of the Stinky Stench by Josh Funk + A Book Giveaway!

The Case of the Stinky Stench (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast) by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Synopsis
There’s a stinky stench in the fridge–and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, begs him and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron von Waffle? A fetid fish lurking in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring the same delectable wordplay and delicious art that won critical raves for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast–this fun follow-up is an absolutely tasty treat for kids and adults alike!

Reflection
Let’s face it, opening your refrigerator and smelling spoiled food is awful, right?  But sometimes it’s easy to forget what’s in your refrigerator and how long it’s been there until one day you open the door and encounter a very unpleasant smell…ewwww!  When food overstays its welcome, it can eventually fill your fridge with a terrible odor and no one wants that especially not our favorite food detectives Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  In The Case of the Stinky Stench they’re on a mission to solve a smelly mystery.

I love the use of rhymes, fun food-related wordplay and the engaging illustrations featured throughout this book.

Back in the kitchen and deep in the fridge,
past Trifle Tower, across Taco Bridge,
on a vacation at Marshmallow Coast,
sat Lady Pancake beside Sir French Toast.

There are also some great vocabulary words for little readers you don’t often see in picture books like: nefarious, devious, knave, vicious, sleuthing, dejected, fermented, fathom, prevail and delectable.  I had to pull out the dictionary to look up the word nefarious…hahaha!

In the end, it’s Inspector Croissant who solves the mystery AND does a good deed for his fellow foodie friend.  My kids and I really enjoyed reading this entertaining and funny mystery.  It’s currently our new favorite breakfast time read aloud book – so fun!  Just make sure you have some food or snacks nearby after reading it in case your kids start asking for something to eat immediately after like mine do!  Want to enter for your chance to win a copy of this book?  See our giveaway listed below.

THE GIVEAWAY!
Our friends at Sterling Children’s Books were generous enough to sponsor this giveaway to ONE (1) lucky winner! Enter for your chance to win a copy of The Case of the Stinky Stench written by Josh Funk.  Open to US and Canadian Residents age 18 and over.  Good Luck!

The Case of the Stinky Stench Book Giveaway

Connect with The Author!
Josh Funk spends his days writing computer code and his free time writing picture book rhymes.  Visit Josh’s website or find him on Twitter.

Connect with the Illustrator!
Brendan Kearney specializes in illustrating children’s books.  He currently lives in the UK.  Visit his website or find him on Twitter.

children's books

When a Bully Is President

When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Opressive Times by Maya Gonzalez

Publisher: Reflection Press
Pages: 48
Age Range: 7 – 10 and up
Grade Level: 2 – 5  and up
Format: Paperback

Synopsis
Bullying is real, but we can change the story by changing the focus. Begin with yourself. Begin the journey of art activist. You are the artist. You are the storyteller. Change yourself. Change the world!

Playful ink and watercolor illustrations support a powerful journey that touches on bullying in the founding history of the US, how that history may still be impacting kids and families today, and ways to use creativity and self respect in the face of negative messages for all marginalized communities. The first part of the book briefly acknowledges the United States’ past and present and shows some basic forms of activism that kids engage in. The next part talks about walking away from a bully or de-escalation and focusing on how to take care of yourself and community. Finally, practical ways creativity and portraiture can be used to support self respect and spread respect in community are explored. Communities reflected include Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Chicanx, LGBTQ Americans, disabled Americans, Americans who identify as women and girls, Muslim and Sikh Americans and Asian Americans. Story text is in English and Spanish. The back includes related resources and referrals.

Reflection
This book is a perfect example of a person taking action! The idea and concept of this book came as a direct result of the 2016 Presidential election. On November 9, 2016 (just one day after the election) author Maya Gonzalez decided to pen a children’s book about bullying because she knows first hand what it’s like to be bullied. She understands what it’s like to feel like you don’t have any power in any given situation. Enter President Donald Trump.

This bilingual (English/Spanish) book is NOT your usual children’s book. It’s more of a self-care book for kids using truth and creativity as tools to help kids deal with bullying. It focuses on the heart of social justice issues – doing the inner work. Communities reflected include: Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Chicanx, LGBTQ Americans, disabled Americans, Americans who identify as women and girls, Muslim and Sikh Americans and Asian Americans. It also defines what the word bullying means, discusses colonization and talks about ways children can make a difference.

The illustrations are outstanding and so powerful! Consider this book to be a call to action and a valuable tool for our youth ages 7-10 and up. Children are challenged to stand up for themselves, love themselves, understand their history and embrace their own creative power. The backmatter includes a glossary and additional resources. Check this one out for your little activits and agents of change!

Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's books

Kill ‘Em With Kindness: 18 Love and Kindness Books for Kids!

It couldn’t be a more perfect time for us to take a moment and celebrate love and kindness through books! We can ALWAYS use a little more love and kindness and a reminder through books, for kids and adults, never fails.

The world is a crazy place and we have an opportunity to teach our kids to love and be kind. To look for opportunities to reach beyond themselves and show someone else they care. February was the perfect month for all of us at @kidlitpicks to be reminded of these beautiful ideas, and so we shared books on Love and Kindness all month long. We’re proud to present our round-up for the month!

Thanks to Michelle from The Book Report for such a wonderful theme!

Wonder, by RJ Palacio

“’Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness’ — R.J Palacio” — Summer from @readingisourthing

My Beautiful Birds, by ​​Suzanne Del Rizzo

“I would love to talk about each and every spread, but this is a book worth seeing for yourself. Trust me, it will stick with you for a very long time.” — Mel from @spiky_penelope

I Love You Night and Day, by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown; I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak and Caroline Jayne Church; God Loves You, and I Do, Too!, by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

You are loved. Sometimes, that is just all the message a book needs.” — Katie from @afriendlyaffair

Shhh! We Have a Plan, by Chris Haughton

To me this book perfectly illustrates the beautiful, gentle way a child sees the world. It shows that gentleness and kindness are the best way to get things done.” — Claire from @alittlebookhabit

Plant a Kiss, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H Reynolds

We need to teach our children to do just that; spread love and kindness to those that we encounter.” — Leah from @astoryaday

That’s Me Loving You, by Amy Krause Rosenthal and Teagan White

One of the darling new release books about love.” — Clarissa from @book.nerd.mommy

Pass It On, by Sophy Henn

A beautiful message with bright and colourful illustrations, this book is a perfect read to cheer you up and make you smile. Just remember to #passiton” —  Kim from @bookbairn

Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell

This nearly wordless picture book carries a subtle message of connection and love. With gentle tenderness, the story feels fresh and a bit introspective.” — Miranda from @bookbloom

The Wonderful Things You Will Be, by Emily Winfield Martin

This book is a celebration of the love of a parent for their child from tiny baby to watching them grow into the person they were meant to be.” — De from @books_and_babycinos

Love Matters Most, by Mij Kelly and Gerry Turley

A mama polar bear searches for her cub!” — Arielle from @childrensbooksgalore

You Are My Heart, Marianne Richmond

For all the love, words, hopes and dreams I have for my little one that I’m too much of a blubbering mess to say, this book is just perfect.” — Rossa from @curiouslittlepeople

One, by Kathryn Otoshi

If you need to address bullying with any age group and begin some thoughtful discussions on the topic, look no further than One.” — Lauren from @happily.ever.elephants

One brings up key life lessons about boundaries, kindness, common courtesy, and standing up for yourself.” — Charnaie from @hereweeread

The Crow’s Tale, by Naomi Howarth

“We can easily look around and see the love and sacrifices that those around us make. From the small moments such as holding open a door for another, to the simple act of going to work every morning.” — Wendy from @homegrownreader

Under the Love Umbrella, by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys

“Let’s just give a [fist bump] for the diversity of characters and family situations depicted in the awesome-sauce illustrations.” — Shannon from @ohcreativeday

Plenty of Love to Go Around, by Emma Chichester Clark

A great book for dealing with jealously, sharing, and realizing there is enough love in someone’s heart for more than one.” — Michelle from @the.book.report

Lily Loves, by Kai Lüftner and Judith Drews

Wild and cautious, loud and gentle, Lily is totally and truly herself.” — Liam from @words.and.illustrations

Your turn: What books would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

You Are Three by Sara O’Leary (A Book Review)

You Are Three by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Karen Klassen

Publisher: Owl Kids Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 24
Age Range: 2-3
Grade Level: Preschool

Synopsis
Life’s third year is full of milestones: learning ABCs, making friends, playing make-believe, and having real conversations. The final book in this series, You Are Three, looks back on each of these memorable achievements and more, inviting little ones to celebrate how much they have grown and discovered.

Supersaturated ink-and-wash illustrations in a striking palette lend a contemporary, whimsical feel to the book while the diverse children pictured add to the text’s warmth and broad appeal. You Are Three is a timely gift for toddlers and their parents, who will enjoy reflecting on the highlights of the third year and expressing how much their child is loved.

Reflection

I remember when we ventured into “threenager” territory when my daughter turned three.  Growing up I always heard the term “terrible twos”, but now people seem to think turning three is worse than turning two.  At least that’s what so many people kept telling me.  The term “threenager” is now the way people often refer to the milestone third year of life for children.

Like some parents, I get emotional when I start thinking about how fast the kids are growing.  This is especially true for milestone birthdays like age 3.  It’s so bittersweet for parents, but turning three is monumental for children.  It seems as if they find their own independence overnight.  Gone are the days when they need to be right by your side at all times.  When You Are Three highlights just how much changes with a child’s development in one year.

So much has changed in just a year.  You are three!  We used to always know where to find you.  But now you are here, there, and everywhere.

Throughout the book you see children doing a variety of things three year olds are typically capable of doing: saying their ABC’s, building a tower with blocks, having conversations, and riding on a scooter.  I love the vintage/contemporary and whimsical feel to all of the illustrations.  I also like the warm and inviting choice of color palette the illustrator used.  There is also a diverse cast of toddlers which depicts that the same developmental changes are evident in different races and cultures around the world.

When You Are Three shows how children are constantly exploring new concepts and ideas.  It demonstrates three year olds’ newfound physical abilities and their skill at judging risk.  As a parent of a three year-old son, it makes me value his inquisitive nature, his kindness and his sense of responsibility.

Just as the other two books in this series, (You Are One and You Are Two) I think this book is great for children transitioning from babies into toddlerdom.  In addition to showcasing a child’s developmental changes, this book also sends a clear message to children that a parent’s love is something that will never fade.  It will only grow stronger.  Check this one out for the “threenagers” in your life.  It makes a great gift for a third birthday party!

Your turn: Have you read the other two books in this series?  Are you looking forward to reading this one?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta (A Book Review)

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range:
4 – 8 years old
Grade Level: Preschool – Grade 3

Synopsis
In this picture book biography of Muhammad Ali, author Gene Barretta and illustrator Frank Morrison tell the unforgettable childhood story of this legendary boxing champion and how one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time.

The Louisville Lip. The Greatest. The People’s Champion. Muhammad Ali had many nicknames. But before he became one of the most recognizable faces in the world, before the nicknames and the championships, before he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, he was twelve-year-old Cassius Clay riding a brand-new red-and-white bicycle through the streets of Louisville, Kentucky. One fateful day, this proud and bold young boy had that bike stolen, his prized possession, and he wouldn’t let it go. Not without a fight.  This would be the day he discovered boxing. And a champion was born.

Reflection
At the very beginning of this book, the author’s note explains Muhammad Ali’s birth name was Cassius Clay.  At the age of twenty-two he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.  Therefore, Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali are the same person.

I love how this book starts off chronicling a few important events in Muhammad Ali’s professional boxing career.  In February 1964, Cassius Clay surprises everyone and wins the world heavyweight championship to Sonny Liston.  In May of 1965, Clay and Sonny Liston meet for a rematch, but this time Clay has a new name.  He now goes by the name of Muhammad Ali.  At the age of thirty-six near the end of his career, Ali becomes the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship three times.

The book then takes us back in time to when Cassius Clay was just 12 years old living in Louisville, Kentucky.  He didn’t know it then, but having his bicycle stolen turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  That single event helped launch his boxing career.  When he went to report his stolen bicycle to a police officer, he ended up in a local boxing gym. There, Officer Martin told him that before he went to look for the person who stole his bicycle, he should learn to fight. Under police officer Martin’s wing, Cassius worked hard and eventually became a huge force in professional boxing.  It’s funny how one unfortunate event changed his life forever.

I truly enjoyed this contagiously positive book for so many reasons.  For one, Ali is represented as nothing short of an iconic superman, his achievements are glorious and his predicaments are merely minor roadblocks to greatness.  It’s clear to see that Ali’s life was truly amazing, and this book is a great introduction to that remarkable life.

I think Frank Morrison’s vivid illustrations accompany this story so well.  My son’s favorite illustration is the last one in the book with Muhammad Ali wearing a white robe (pictured below).  The page formatting throughout the book varies between beautiful two-page spreads with text at the top and bottom.  Action words and phrases like: “Pow!”, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, “I am the greatest!” and “I shook up the world!” are printed in larger bold type which makes them stand out on the pages.  When reading this book aloud, it’s fun to emphasize these words with smaller children as it adds a bit more action and excitement.

Overall, I find this to be a high quality children’s biography that little readers are sure to enjoy.  There are themes of: hard work, determination, overcoming obstacles, boxing, sports, persistence and confidence; something Muhammad Ali clearly had plenty of.  Perfect for boxing lovers, for reading during Black History Month or anytime of the year. The back matter includes some additional facts about Ali’s life, a bibliography, photos and other resources for further reading.

Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Black History Month Books for 3, 4 & 5 Year-Olds…including Black Joy!

It’s Black History Month again!

This year I decided to focus on a few board books and picture books for the younger readers ages 3 – 5 (and up).  If you’ve been looking for excellent quality historical books about prominent Black people from the past and present, I hope you’ll enjoy this list.  Maybe you’ll find something new or be reminded of some of your old favorites.

I recommend these books because they are not overly wordy and don’t dwell strictly on oppression, slavery, pain, or struggle. Most are easily digestible for the younger crowd and great for reading aloud at home or with a preschool or early elementary class.

Remember, Black History shouldn’t be limited to the month of February.  Make a commitment to read books about people of all different races with your children year-round.  Enjoy!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

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