• 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!

Rebecca Stead Guys Read Other Worlds, Liar and Spy, how Rebecca Stead writes boy characters

Rebecca Stead on Grokking and Other Matters

I’m thrilled to welcome Newbery winning author Rebecca Stead today as my guest blogger courtesy of Walden Pond Press since Guys Read: Other Worlds, edited by Jon Scieszka, is out today and includes a wonderful short story by Rebecca Stead.

Rebecca Stead, Liar and Spy, Guys Read Other Worlds, Leslie College

I met Rebecca though the Random House Read and Play Community along with Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool on a webchat a few years ago. Rebecca came to Boston as a visiting scholar at Leslie College and I was thrilled to meet her in person. She’s very nice!!

Rebecca Stead, Leslie College, Liar and Spy

Jacqueline Davies introduced Rebecca and after she read a few chapters of Liar and Spy, she took Q and A. One student asked her if it was more difficult for her to write boy characters. This is her answer:

Her latest book is Liar and Spy. I think the only reason why she didn’t win a Newbery for that is because she won the Newbery for When You Reach Me three years ago. Her debut novel is First Light.

It is a honor and priviledge to have her today writing about grokking, science fiction and what inspires her. Read more…

chapter book for young girl

20 Gentle Chapter Books for a Young Girl

My reader Natalie has a young daughter who has been reading enthusiastically at a young age:

My daughter  read first books of Penderwicks and Half Magic, but I should look into their sequels to return her to a more gentle universe :)

My daughter is probably a little unusual since she is reading since she was 3, and it’s truly her favorite thing to do. We still read theme-based picture books (we really loved several of the kite books you recommended, by the way), but she is reading a lot of long books on her own.

She is a big fan of myths and legends as long as they don’t involve mummies and zombies – these are two things she is terrified of. She went crazy this summer about Percy Jackson and the Olympians – each book took her about 3 days to read, and then she reread all of them several times. Now she is reading through Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Last summer she read through Secrets of Droon, and, of course, she read all Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus chapter books.

I’ve arranged this list in the order of easier to more difficult books. So the 10th book is where I’d start your daughter and then I’d work down to the first book.

Readers, what other gentle chapter books for a young girl would you recommend? Thanks for sharing!

 

Old Fashioned Chapter Books for a Young Reader

10. My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles

My kids usually get this as a read aloud in first or second grade. Teachers love this  old fashioned fantasy easy chapter book series. [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]

Read more…

Domestic Violence books for kids

Domestic Violence Books for Kids

My mom friend Sarah Perry heads up The Second Step, a non-profit in Newton that provides comprehensive support services to survivors of domestic violence. She reminded me that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.

I don’t think about Domestic Violence much but when I researched books for kids on this topic, the titles alone broke my heart. And when I went looking for them at the library, my entire list was not on the shelves. Strange, huh?

I’m glad that there is a month every year that raises awareness about domestic violence because it’s under my radar in my day to day life. Luckily, there are brave souls out there who fight on behalf of victims of domestic violence.

One such stand out is actor Patrick Steward. I knew him from my obsession years ago with Star Trek: The Next Generation where he played Captain Jean Luc Picard. Watch this video below in which he answers a question from a brave soul about violence against women and what matters most to Patrick Steward.

 

Patrick Steward and Domestic Violence

Read more…

Asian furniture designers, Asian designers, Asian artisans, interior design, modern Asian furniture

Asian Furniture Design and Asian Furniture Designers

I’m been researching Asian American and Asian furniture designers and artisans. Grasshopper and Sensei is enjoying the finds I am discovering and now she’s even talking about being an architect or furniture designer someday when she grows up. It’s not just the beautiful forms I’m searching for; it’s also the stories behind the designs.

Take George Nakashima who is a recent discovery for me. A Japanese American, he was forced into concentration camps when his youngest was just 6 weeks old. He and his family ended up settling in Pennsylvania where he started building his compound, one stone at a time. Today, he is considered the father of the American Craft movement.

His pieces tell a story of time, the uniqueness of each tree, and the artisan who brings that story to life. They have a timeless quality that really appeals to me. You can really fall in love with his work.

George Nakashima

George Katsutoshi Nakashima (Japanese: 中島勝寿 Nakashima Katsutoshi, May 24, 1905 – June 15, 1990) was a Japanese-American woodworker,architect, and furniture maker who was one of the leading innovators of 20th century furniture design and a father of the American Craft movement.

I love this dining room table and the chairs as well. George talks about bringing the soul of a tree to life. What a wonderful way to think about furniture making! Read more…

Katniss

Archery For Kids for the Sheer Joy of It

Grasshopper and Sensei loves The Hunger Games. When she went to sleepaway camp this summer, one of her favorite activities was archery. When she hit 5 bullseyes, she reached Level Katniss and then she stopped keeping track but she did ask me to find her an archery range when she returned home.

At Mother/Daughter Weekend at her camp, I was forced to sail a Sunfish (actually, it was me screaming on the bow of the boat as we nearly hit other boats, kayaks, and submerged tree trunks), run for my life in a competitive game of Freeze Tag, make a bead necklace, sleep in a tent, and shoot 5 arrows at the archery range.

My first three attempts at archery completely missed the target. But attempt number 4 was the ellusive bullseye. I can see how easy it is to get hooked! Read more…

MiaBoxing

Exercise: A Small Change for a Big Difference

I hate to exercise. Getting “in shape” feels like a temporary and elusive condition. Gyms don’t work for me. I won’t show up and I don’t like that feeling of not knowing what to do whether it’s working the equipment or what the next thing I should be doing.

I tried personal training too. It solved the “what to do” part but it quickly became boring. I need to find motivation to exercise. For me,

  • if I am meeting a friend
  • if I have an appointment set up
  • if I am helping someone with their exercise goals

I think half the battle is just figuring out what your exercise motivation is.

For many years, I did yoga because my friend was newly certified and I wanted to support her. The benefit to me was not just coffee together afterwards but finally being able to touch my toes! Read more…

books for kids with single parents

Children’s Books With Single Parents

The divorce rate in America peaked at around 50 percent in the 1980s and slowly has been trending downward. It is now slightly more than 40 percent. With so many divorced families, why are there more children’s books depicting single parents? Fruit & Veggie Mom ‏(@Eatfruitnveggie3h) asked me on Twitter, “My question is – what about books for single moms? Everything is mommy and daddy!”

This list is for her! Can you please help me out by adding your favorite children’s books with single parents? Thanks so much!

Single Parent in Children’s Books

10. A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

I love this picture book about an African American multigenerational family who save up and then search for a special chair after a fire destroys their home. Though it is never explicitly stated, the family is depicted as a grandmother, a mother and her daughter. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Read more…

banned books

Reading for Banned Book Week

In honor of Banned Book Week, let’s all read a book on the list! Thank you to Allison of No Time for Flashcards for this link!

 

Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011-2012

Information on why the book is banned or challenged excerpted  from The Daily Beast.

1. TTYL series by Lauren Myracle

The first book in the series, “TTYL,” was banned from a town in Texas in 2008, after parents complained about the sex and profanity in the book. But author Lauren Myracle seems unfazed by the controversy. “My favorite comments come from girls who say, ‘I feel like you’ve given me a self-help book because my parents won’t talk about this.’ When I was a kid, I read Judy Blume to figure out what a hard-on was and what to do when you got your period, so when people say to me, ‘You’re this generation’s Judy Blume,’ I am wildly honored by that,” she says.

Read more…

Cybils

I’m Judging the Cybils!

I’m really excited to be judging Graphics (as in graphic novels) for the 2013 Cybils! What am I excited to read? Graphic novels that tell a great story, get kids excited to read, and have beautiful illustrations doing some of the heavy lifting of storytelling. I’d also love to discover more graphic stories for younger kids and especially some geared for girls. Graphic novels are my secret weapon for reluctant readers. I’ll be excited to share them with you … eventually!

Please meet my esteemed colleagues for round two. You can also follow them on Twitter. We are not allowed to blog on the short list that Round 1 judges will come up with until after the awards are announced but expect to hear more about great graphic novels from me shortly after that.

Want to nominate a children’s book for the Cybils? That will be coming up shortly!

 

2013 Graphics Judges

Second Round

Emily Mitchell, Emilyreads
@emilyreads

Debra Touchette, Adventures in Reading (Also blogs at Guys Lit Wire)
@threelefthands

Michael Kahan, No Flying, No Tights

Mia Wenjen, Pragmatic Mom
@PragmaticMom

Maria Selke, Maria’s Melange
@mselke01 Read more…