• Top 10 Life Skills Kids Need Before College

    My book list of Top 10 Books to Teach Kids to Be More Responsible made me start to think about life skills that kids need before going off to college. That and the fact that my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, will be starting high school next fall so we have only 4 years to tackle this […]

  • 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!

Multicultural children's book day, celebrating diversity in children's literature

Multicultural Children’s Book Day Coming Up!

Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book and I are getting excited for January 27th to roll around so we can celebrate multicultural children’s books along with all of you and many wonderful parenting and children’s book bloggers! So far, more than two dozen bloggers have signed up to help us celebrate diversity in children’s books and we will be matching them up with books from publishers!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Books

January 27, 2014

Multicultural Children's Book Day

Our wonderful sponsors include:

Platinum Sponsor: Wisdom Tales Press

Multicultural Children's Book Day Sponsors Wisdom Tales

Wisdom Tales publishes both children’s and teen titles and was created for the purpose of sharing the wisdom, beauty, and values of traditional cultures and peoples from around the world with young readers and their families.

World Wisdom has been publishing children’s books by Caldecott medal winner, Paul Goble, since 2005; since 2002 it has produced many acclaimed books that are well-suited for teens, especially those about the American Indians. Read more…

bilingual multicultural picture book

Bilingual Diversity Picture Book of the Day GIVEAWAY

It could be that because I am getting excited for Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature on January 27th 2014 , I really got excited about the Marisol McDonald picture book series.

I grew up in Southern California but have been living outside Boston for the past 15 years. When I went to a friend’s birthday party in Southern California a decade ago — I kid you not — EVERY single child at that party of two dozen was of mixed race. That’s California for you!

My own kids are multi-racial Asians that we refer to in Hawaiian slang as a “Mixed Plate” in that they are 1/4 Japanese, 1/4 Chinese and 1/2 Korean. And American too, of course, because they were all born in Boston.

In the first picture book, Marisol doesn’t match because she has red hair and nut-brown skin. She likes peanut butter and jelly but nestled in a burrito. I’m glad these multi-racial messages are finally making it in picture book land because this kind of mixed up culture is very normal to me.

My name is Marison McDonald, and I don’t match because … I don’t want to!

I like being unique, different, and one of a kind.

Read more…

lap reading, reading to two kids on my lap

Reading to Two Kids on My Lap and GIVEAWAY

Please welcome my guest poster, Kristin Briley, a teacher and wife of children’s book author Randy Briley. She is posting today on how to read aloud to two kids of different ages with different interests and keep them happy!

Did you ever have that reading challenge? What books worked for you? Please share!

 

Bridging the Gap: Reading to Two Kids on My Lap

As a bibliophile myself, an English teacher of many years who knows the importance of reading, and a mom who loves quiet moments I can share with my children, books rank high on my “very good things” list. I love reading with my kids, but the challenge lies in finding books that appeal to and hold the attention of both of my sweeties at once. I have a two and a half year old daughter who loves animals and a five year old son who loves all things construction.

It was easy to read books with my son when he was a toddler. As he’s grown older, it’s become harder to draw him in and he has outgrown many of the books that my daughter still loves. He does enjoy reading IF I can drag his attention away from Legos, Netflix, vehicles, and building things out of jump ropes, boxes, carbingers, and duct tape.

My daughter loves to read but some of the longer stories my son is ready for don’t hold her attention quite yet. As I try to bridge the age and interest gaps, I find myself turning to a small assortment of books that I can rely on to interest BOTH of my kids…books that they both love hearing and looking at over and over again.

Here are the top ten books that I know will engage both my daughter and son and evoke their laughter as we build their love of reading.

1. A Day at a Zoo by Sarah Harrison OR A Year at a Construction Site by Nicholas Harris
There are several in this series by Millbrook Press, but these two are my kids’ favorites. The scene in the books stays the same, but each page shows the scene at a different time of day, different month of the year, etc. My daughter loves finding the different animals and my son helps to find the suggested images. They both laugh at the little mishaps that close inspection reveals (cement being poured on a worker) and we can spend a long time poring over all the details in the illustrations.

Read more…

5thgradepicturebooks

23 Great Picture Books for 5th Grade

A reader asked me for a list of picture books appropriate for 4th and 5th grade. I wasn’t sure myself. Sure, there are advanced picture books but does the list have to hit the Core Curriculum agenda? Don’t 4th and 5th graders want to read solely chapter books, having left picture books behind in 1st or 2nd grade?

So I searched the internet. I found teachers in 4th and 5th grade sharing their favorite picture books and this gave me the courage to add to their list with my own. I do think picture books are for everyone. And my final observation is how my middle school aged daughters will sidle into my bedroom when I’m reading a picture book to my 3rd grader (who only will read picture books when I force him to or when he’s left his chapter book at school mistakenly) and everyone will enjoy the story. Even if you have to use stealth to get picture books in front of older kids, it’s well worth it!

My list is a little heavy on Patricia Polacco and Jacqueline Woodson, but they are birds of a feather. Each shares their personal stories that resonate to include all of us. Eve Bunting has the gift of telling other people’s stories with great sensitivity as if they were her own history. Emily Arnold McCully  tells stories that quietly inspire.

What is your  favorite picture books for 5th Grade or 4th grade? Please share and I’ll add to the list!

 

Holocaust Picture Books for Kids

I have 34 Haunting Holocaust Books for Kids including picture books, chapter books and graphic novels but I chose these two for 5th grade. PickyKidPix touched on the Holocaust in 5th grade last year.

The Cats of Krasinki Square by Karen Hesse

Can cats outsmart the Gestapo? In Warsaw during WWII, the Gestapo have forced all Jewish men, women and children into a ghetto where they are being ravished through disease and starvation. Those who can escape and pass for Aryan must use their ingenuity to find a way to bring food to their friends. The cats of Krasinki Square can help outfox the Gestapo. In this story of courage amid horrific inhumanity, Hesse celebrates the Jewish Resistance and the cats who helped as well.

Read more…

Top 10 Crocodile Books for Kids

Top 10 Crocodile Books for Kids

The wolf was very nearly driven to extinction through hunting. I can’t help but wonder if children’s literature has a role to play in portraying wolves as “bad guys.” Thankfully, due to human intervention including breeding programs and reintroduction programs, the wolf is making a comeback.

So, I wondered how crocodiles were portrayed in children’s books and if there is a balanced view of crocodiles. Are they “good guys” or “bad guys”, tricksters, foes or friends? But one thing is for sure, they have been around for a very long time.

Nile crocodile

Nile crocodile

Crocodiles , including the rest of Crocodylomorpha, have been around for at least 225 million years, survived multiple mass extinctions, but today, due to habitat destruction and poaching, many species are at the risk of extinction, some being classified as critically endangered.

Estuarine crocodile, crocodile books for kids

Estuarine crocodile

The news isn’t great for crocodiles. After surviving 225 million years, many species are in danger of extinction. And it seems that we and our children will determine if these hardy genetic marvels will survive or die out. In honor of the crocodile, let’s examine how they are portrayed in children’s books and let’s hope there are enough warm fuzzy ones to inspire some kids out there into saving them. Read more…

Caldecott, Newbery and Printz 2014

Caldecott, Newbery and Printz 2014 Contenders

I thought I’d update my post on predicting the Caldecott, Newbery and Printz possible 2014 winners now that the year is almost to a close. What are your favorites? Care to make a prediction for the Caldecott, Newbery or Printz? It doesn’t matter if it wins or not!

Possible Caldecott 2014 Winners

Journey by Aaron Becker

A wordless picture book seems to have an advantage in an award for best illustration. I’ll put my money on this one if a wordless picture book takes it though Bluebird by Bob Staake is another strong contender! My son loved Harold and the Purple Crayon series and this is Harold Meets Where The Wild Things Are but with a girl heroine and in a magical castle setting! The artwork is lush with details of the little girl’s imagined world that is realized through a magical red crayon.

I think Journey and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! both have an equal shot at winning the Caldecott award. Whoever doesn’t get it between these two picture books, will surely get a Caldecott honor.

Bluebird by Bob Staake

In his most beautiful and moving work to date, Bob Staake explores the universal themes of loneliness, bullying, and the importance of friendship. In this emotional picture book, readers will be captivated as they follow the journey of a bluebird as he develops a friendship with a young boy and ultimately risks his life to save the boy from harm. Both simple and evocative, this timeless and profound story will resonate with readers young and old. 

I have to get this book. Even my husband was raving about it from a review he found online. Wordless picture books seem to have en edge for a Caldecott too. We also love Bob Staake’s Look a Book! and Look Another Book!

If I were to vote, I’d pick Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown. His illustrations are extraordinary! There’s something about the graphic nature with subdued colors contrasting with the pop of orange tiger. I love the story too!

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

From Caldecott Honor artist Peter Brown comes a story that shows there’s a time and place for everything…even going wild.

I think all kids (and even adults) can relate to feeling confined by rules. Mr. Tiger decides to shake things up by leaving his civilized life behind and go a little wild. Eventually, he returns because he misses his friends and he finds that perhaps his influence has rubbed off. Everyone at home is little wild too!

Read more…

special needs and ncld

Special Needs Resources for Parents

Thank you to everyone who took time to give me feedback on my last sponsored post on Special Needs Resources for Parents from The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). Many of you left kind comments that this was useful stuff so I will continue to highlight resources from the NCLD.

As this is the holiday season, I thought I would start with some timely topics to help reduce the stress during this busy time of year.

 

How to Deal With Relatives Who Don’t “Believe” in Learning and Attention Issues

“She has such a hard time controlling that child.”

“Oh, it’s only a stage. He’ll grow out of it.”

If you hear frustrating comments like this, here’s some great advice from NCLD on how to respond:

When you get these kinds of comments, take a deep a breath and try not to be defensive. Instead, try to talk with your mother or whoever is doubting you. Keep in mind this person may be coming from a well-intentioned place and may not want to see flaws in your child. Sometimes generational differences can be a factor. Issues like ADHD may not have been as well known or as widely discussed when you were a kid. There may also be an element of denial. More here.

NCLDRead more…

Vtech nnotab 3S Kid connect tablet.

VTech Tablet for Kids

I am proud to be writing about VTech toys today as part of a sponsored campaign with Social Moms. I was always a wooden toy kind of mom but when my kids were young, I would buy a few times a year, very carefully, a “bells and whistles” electronic toy for them. It might be for Christmas or a birthday. It had to have an educational angle to it or be a toy that had longevity. And it was ALWAYS a VTech toy.

There was the Alphabet Apple. I think that was the first VTech toy I bought. The new one comes with numbers; ours didn’t. My kids liked lugging it around by the handle though they didn’t play with this as much I would have liked.

The VTech Driving Toy was gold for me. This looked fun so I bought it and it entertained my kids for a very long time. My kids loved shifting gears while steering the driver’s wheel and I liked that there was an educational element hidden as they happily drove.

Read more…

hair chalk

PickyKidPix Wants This: Hair Chalk (and a discount coupon)

PickyKidPix is obsessed with hair styling which she is learning via YouTube videos, mostly through Cute Hair Styles. She’s watched all 200+ of them. I can actually recognize the videos from the audio alone!!

She gotten quite good at complex braids and have moved on to hot styling products including curling irons and flat irons. When I told her I had an offer to try out Hair Chalk, she was all over it! “YES!”, she said. And her disdain for my blogging has moved incrementally but slightly in a more favorable position.

hair chalkRead more…