• Today I am on the Front Page of The Boston Globe

    Today I am on the front page of The Boston Globe for the past week of posts that I wrote on my microblog, I Love Newton, about the anti-Asian racism in the local high school musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. School play’s stereotypes bring outcry and apology. “Millie” touches nerve in Newton by Ellen Ishkanian, Globe […]

  • Get Kids Reading Strategies: 12 Surefire Ways

    I searched five years of digital photographs looking for photos of my kids reading and I only came up with the handful here. Why? It’s not easy getting kids reading, especially to love reading enough that they choose it over more exciting things like screens, playdates or sports! I started my blog after my oldest […]

  • 10 Perfect Read Aloud Books for 3rd Grade

    I had the great fortune to meet The Nerdy Book Club founders at a dinner for Anne Ursu hosted by Walden Pond Press to celebrate her latest chapter book, The Real Boy. (It’s wonderful. I put it on my  Newbery 2014 Contenders list! And it just won a Middle Grade Fiction Nerdie). Colby Sharp, one of […]

  • Best Beginning Chapter Books for 2nd and 3rd Grade

    Best books for beginning readers from my library. This list is perfect for 2nd grade and 3rd grade.

  • How To: Create a Great Kids’ Book Club (Activity and Book Suggestions)

    Some ideas on how to set up a book club for your child with examples of successful book club meetings.

  • Top 10: Best Dragon Children’s Books (ages 2-16)

    The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog has a great post on dragons that preempted this post but I actually had been working on this for several weeks. There is something magical about dragons and I’m glad that some kids can keep the magic alive. I’ve gathered my favorite dragon books that range in age from picture books to young adult. What is your favorite dragon book? Please share!

  • Best Science Apps for Kids (ages 4-21)

    I am starting to buy into this idea of teaching and really connecting material through games and apps. I was sort of on board with this concept, but since playing around with The Elements (a Harry Potter version of the Periodic Table) that my brother-in-law turned me on to, I am now a believer as I saw, with my own eyes, how captivated my kids were with the Periodic Table, an otherwise dull chart.

  • Newbery Winners by Grade Appropriateness!

    Thank you to Hubpages for this information. There are additional book suggestions by grade if click here to see their post. I have added an asterisk to the books that I’ve read and loved (and two astericks for must reads!).

  • Best Picture Books That Teach Math Concepts

    Picture books can be a visual and fun way to introduce math concepts. I think it makes math less intimidating when it’s part of a story. For those kids who love math, it’s another way to eat it up!

  • Top 10: Best Beginning Chapter Book Series (ages 6-9)

    Dragons and aliens and dinosaurs, oh my! And for girls, there are interesting slightly mischieveous girls to meet as well as cousins who are really sweet. Short chapter book series can often have repetitive plot lines about nothing or language that is neither rich nor interesting. There is something special about each of these book series for the child AND the adult reading along.

Sponsored Video: What Kind of Future Will Our Children Have?

Why bring a child into this world?

Did you ever wonder that when contemplating parenthood? Or worry that the world is terrible place to bring a child into? Or a place with depleted resources presenting a grim future for our children?

Unilever’s Why Bring a Child Into This World? is a film created by Ogilvy London and David Latin America to invite us all to think about a more sustainable future. Why? It’s our children, research says, that motivates adults to make changes for a more sustainable future.

Unilever‘s film is part of an initiative called Project Sunshine that will create 2 million “acts of sunshine”, providing children with school meals; clean, safe drinking water and improved hygiene. To achieve these goals, Unilever is working with Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

Project Sunshine goes back to Unilever’s roots. Founder William Lever started the company (then called Lever Bros) with its first brand, Sunlight soap, in the 1890s. His revolutionary new product  helped popularize cleanliness and hygiene in Victorian England with a mission ‘to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products’.

This post is sponsored by Unilever:

Because there has never been a better time to create a brighter future, we are launching Unilever Project Sunlight . We believe in a world where no child goes to bed hungry, where every home has enough water to drink, wash and clean, where preventable diseases are prevented, and where every child lives past their fifth birthday. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we are inviting you to join us on the journey. Take action to make a difference at projectsunlight.us

Unilever reminds me to think about a more sustainable future as we head into the holiday season. How about you? I’d love your ideas on sustainability that you’d implemented. Thanks!

3rd grade chapter books from a 3rd grade boy

3rd Grade Chapter Books from My 3rd Grade Son

My son is just 9-years-old and in third grade and I’m trying to keep track of the books that he’s read as a third grader. This is his list so far, as of November 2013. I’ve included his rising 3rd grade summer reading as well.

During my parent teacher conference, his teacher told me that my son was reading well and had a good vocabulary. I had a confession for her. (This is a little embarrassing!.) Every night, my son insists on bedtime reading and it works like this: I read aloud to him while he plays on his DSi or a (non educational) video game on the iPad.

I do find this irritating, so periodically I ask him what a word means as I come across it in the story or ask him what has just happened in the chapter book. If he can’t give me a reasonable answer, I shut down his game. If he answers my question reasonably well, he keeps on playing. Perhaps this is giving him multi-tasking skills?  I’m not sure. We do take turns reading though I do the bulk of the reading at home. He gets reading time at school and takes his book back and forth each day which helps us move through the book.

We’ve made our way through every word that Rick Riordan has ever written in this manner. Now, we are working through Harry Potter and after that, we’ll finish the last four books of the Half Magic series. I hope we will read some Roald Dahl this year as well.

Here’s my son’s book list with his reviews. He highly recommends all of these books!

Graphic Novels and Graphic Novel Hybrids for 3rd Grade Boys

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

I think it’s very funny and it’s a very good book because he kept failing at life and being a detective but he thought he was the greatest detective in the world.

Read more…

chapter books on moon for kid, picture books on moon for kids, moon books for kids

Top 10 Moon Themed Books for Kids

I just got the lastest Red Knit Cap Girl picture book, a sequel with an environmental message and this inpired me to create this list.  I had hoped the first one would win a Caldecott but alas no. It did win a New Times Best Illustrated Book award but here’s hoping that Red Knit Cap Girl To the Rescue gets a Caldecott nod this year!

What are your favorite chapter books, picture books, folk tales, graphic novels or non-fiction books about the moon? Please share!

 

5 Multicultral Moon Themed Books for Kids

5. Red Knit Cap Girl To the Rescue by Naoko Stoop

Red Knit Cap Girl is back and when she finds a young polar bear cup, she asks the moon how to get it home. She and White Bunny go on a charming adventure that speaks to our fragile eco-system. Stoop uses found materials to illustrate using both paint and collage work which supports the eco message in subtle and beautiful way. [picture book, ages 2 and up]

Read more…

Christmas Crafts for Kids

Christmas Crafts for Kids ebook GIVEAWAY

I am just not good at crafts. I wish I was but I’m not. This is why I am so excited for a Christmas Crafts for Kids book. I can really use it. I’m also excited that the author is a fellow blogger, 123 Homeschool 4 Me, Beth Gorden. Her eBook contains more than 100 activities, crafts and recipes based on children’s books (which makes me deliriously happy!). But more than that, it is a labor of love that took Beth more than one year to write.

Christmas Craft eBook for Kids Giveaway

She has wonderful books, crafts, activities, recipes and and ideas for celebrating 24 days of Christmas. If you wanted to use some of her ideas for Advent, she also has them organized by the day. Her book makes me want to move in with her for the holiday season!

If you are looking to start a holiday tradition (or two) for your kids, this is a wonderful place to get ideas.

Day 1: Elf on a Shelf

Day 2: J is for Jesus

Day 3: The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Higgs

The Pine Tree Parable tells the heartwarming tale of a farmer and his family who nurture tiny seedlings into fragrant Christmas trees.

When the trees are tall enough to offer to their neighbors, the farmer’s wife plans to keep the most beautiful pine tree for her family, until one snowy December night when a child teaches her the true meaning of Christmas.

Read more…

Remembering the Veterans in My Life

Remembering the Veterans in My Life on Veterans Day

At first I thought that we didn’t have any veterans in our family but then at lunch today with my son, his friend and my husband, we all thought about it.

There’s my uncle Arthur Takahashi who served in the 442nd Infantry Regiment during WWII. As a Japanese American, he enlisted despite his family — including my mother —  being forced to relocate from their home and losing most of their possessions as a result.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army was a regimental size fighting unit composed almost entirely of American soldiers of Japanese descent who fought in World War II, despite the fact many of their families were subject to internment. The 442nd, beginning in 1944, fought primarily in Europe during World War II. The 442nd was a self-sufficient force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany.

The 442nd is considered to be the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the United States Army. The 442nd was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations and twenty-one of its members were awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II. The 442nd’s high distinction in the war and its record-setting decoration count earned it the nickname “Purple Heart Battalion.”

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team motto was, “Go for Broke“.

442nd go for broke Japanese American

image from Battle Story

442nd japanese americans wwii

image from CaliSphere

Photographer: Mace, Charles E. — Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

I chose Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki in his honor. While my mother did not end up in an Internment Camp because she had relatives in a remote part of Utah, most of her neighbors in San Francisco’s Japantown did. Baseball Saved Us tells the story of a Japanese American boy and his family who build a baseball diamond in their internment camp.

Read more…

seahorse facts for kids, seahorse books for kids

Seahorse Facts: Seahorse Fathers Do Get Pregnant!

Do you think seahorses are magical too? There is something about having a head like a horse, a tail like a monkey, and skin color that can change like a chameleon. It doesn’t surprise me that Poseidon is the father of horses in Greek Mythology!

Seahorse Facts

Did you know that father seahorses hatch the eggs?! Male seahorses have special pouches for the eggs and part of the courtship routine to win a female includes inflating their pouch by pumping water through it to display its emptiness in order to entice the female to deposit her eggs in it.

The eggs develop in the pouch for two to six weeks, depending on species and temperature, until they become fully formed juveniles called fry. When the male seahorse is ready to give birth, he has muscular contractions to expel the young from the pouch. I wonder if the contractions are as painful as human ones? Read more…

runaways in children's books

Top 10: Runaways in Children’s Books

The joy of children’s books is reading about things, and thereby living vicariously, without actually having to experience the discomforts or stress of it. Herein lies the beauty of runaways in children’s books. I remember two runaway chapter books that made me jealous for such a wonderful adventure. They bookend my list.

And these runaway kids were not even angry at their parents. It’s these independent adventures that fascinated me as a child reading these chapter books. My Side of the Mountain made me want to live in a burned out gigantic tree, subsiding by foraging off the land with a pet falcon, no less. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler made art museums suddenly interesting.

Not all runaways are so lucky. Some run from domestic violence; others can’t control their violent tantrums. Either way, these runaway experiences are more traumatic.

Do you have a favorite children’s book with a runaway? Please share!

 

10. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Sam Gribley just wanted adventure so he took off for his grandfather’s abandoned land in the Catskill Mountains, thus starting the greatest runaway adventure in children’s literature! He made it sound so enticing that other envious readers besides myself were moved to action. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was also affected:

“…I thought the Craigheads might be the only family in America that was having more fun than the Kennedys. Obssessed with falcons as I was from birth, I read My Side of the Mountain in 1964. … I entered Millbrook upstate New York drawn by its informal falconry program….My experience as a young falconer accounts in large part for my lifelong devotion to raptors and my continued interest in natural history….My years as a falconer helped drive my own career choice as an environmental lawyer and advocate. The knowledge and experience I acquired from falconers have marked my life and made me a far more effective advocate on nature’s behalf.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

[chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Read more…

Books for Kids Set in the Appalachia

Top 10: Books for Kids Set in Appalachia

I remember when I received my first letter from my soon-to-be college roommate. I looked at the envelope and tried to fathom where she was from. WV. What state was WV? I had no idea. I had to look it up.

WV: her postal code state, stood for West Virginia. It was my first encounter with Appalachia. (Yes, I led a pretty sheltered childhood and did not travel much!).

I learned snippets about her region from living with her.

  • She was the hardest working person I know. Hands down. Makes me look like a total slacker. I have a feeling that people from Appalachia are like that.
  • Her father was a optomistrist and he would sell kids eyeglasses that were big enough for them to grow into. I wore glasses too (but had switched to contacts by college) and the idea of only being able to afford a single pair of glasses in a lifetime was sobering.
  • My roommate was also the most socially talented person I ever met. She could sit  down at table of a dozen awkward teens and get everyone talking without feeling like she was hogging the conversation. And no one works a room better! This is before I had even heard of social emotional intelligence and I was able to see it in person.
  • In case you were wondering, who is this roommate? She’s the person managing the U.S. budget. I think she had a tough week during the government shutdown but there is no one better to do this job!

The stories of Appalachia are often sensationalized around moonshine, clan feuding, coal mining and poverty so. While endowed with abundant natural resources, Appalachia has long struggled with and has been associated with poverty and the region itself lacks specific defining boundaries. The region defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission currently includes 420 counties and eight independent cities in 13 states, including all of West Virginia, 14 counties in New York, 52 in Pennsylvania, 32 in Ohio, 3 in Maryland, 54 in Kentucky, 25 counties and 8 cities in Virginia,29 in North Carolina, 52 in Tennessee, 6 in South Carolina, 37 in Georgia, 37 in Alabama, and 24 inMississippi.

In creating this booklist, I dedicate this to Sylvia Mathew Burwell, the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (my freshman college roommate).  And, of course, to everyone living in District 11.

Can you please help me out by adding your favorite books for kids set in  Appalachia? Thanks so much!

p.s. I got an assist after I tapped out at around 7 books from Carol Hurst’s excellent blog.

 

Best Books for Kids Set in Appalachia

10. Catch Rider by Jennifer H. Lyne

You don’t have to be a horse-y person to appreciate this gritty but uplifting chapter book. It hits on all the stress points of Appalachia: factories destroying the pristine natural environment, haves vs have-nots, and the equestrian legacy where this story unfolds.

14-year-old Sid has more natural riding ability than the rich girls who have $1000 custom boots, Equitarian horses that cost more than houses and the best trainers available. After her father, a horse trader,  dies in a car accident, she’s hoping that training and selling horses with her uncle will help put her family back together. When she takes a job at fancy barn to earn money, she comes firsthand into the fancy world of the Equitation championships and if she can pull off a good showing at Madison Square Garden, she could achieve her  ultimate dream, a show rider that can ride anything. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Read more…