Two things I love most in this world: Books and Children

Two things I love most in this world: Books and Children. So, I decided to form a blog that combines those two. If you're looking for information specifically about raising or teaching children, go to my other blog, The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection. However, for interesting tidbits about books for or about children, you've come to the right place! So sit back, grab a cup of tea or coffee, and enjoy the ride into the world of children's literature.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Ways to Encourage Children to Read Summer Book Lists

Summer time is here! Sun, fun, swimming, barbecues, camping, fishing, and .... da da da daaaa....summer reading lists. What? Your kids don't want to do the required reading before fourth grade? They have better things to do than read a book when the sun is shining and the fish are biting? The latest research shows students who read at least 4 books over the summer maintain or even increase their vocabulary and reading skills. Here are some ideas to help your children appreciate the value of reading during the summer, even if their incoming teacher did not send them home with a list of books.
  1. Model. If I could offer only one way to encourage kids to read, it would be to read yourself. I have fond memories of sitting in my back yard with my mother as she read her novel and I read my library book.
  2. Create a summer reading club. Invite others in the same grade and reading level to come over once a week to discuss the book they're reading. It doesn't have to be the exact same book! In fact, having all the kids read different books will encourage the others to pick up that book, as well.
  3. Keep a chart. Have your children make a chart of the books they have read. When they have finished a book, they can add a sticker to their chart. They will love seeing the progress they made. I'm not an advocate of competition, but it helps to see if you're beating your sister in the race to the end of the chart!
  4. Read aloud. Your childen will get just as much out of a book if you read aloud, even if they are perfectly capable of reading on their own. This will motivate them to continue the story long after you have finished reading them the first chapter.
  5. Make it fun. Each time your child finishes a book, put another star on a dark blue poster board. Have fun making constellations, which will encourage the completion of a number of books. For extra fun, see if you can categorize the books into the constellations - books about bears for ursa major, for example.
  6. Join the library reading incentive program. Most local libraries have incentives for summer reading. Find out what your library does for the children in your area.
  7. New words wall. Make a treasure hunt of new words. When you child comes across a new word, help him or her to define the word, then post it to your word wall (refrigerator door?). Encourage use of the new words throughout the summer.
  8. Encourage variety. Try to get your children to read different genres: Fiction, nonfiction, biography, science, history, mystery, etc. Categorize the books they read so you can see where their interest lies.
  9. Make your own list. Kids love to have control over their own lives. (Don't we all!) So, instead of simply using the school's suggested reading list, intersperse that list with your child's own list of books. Go to the library and get some ideas. Look online for book reviews for children. Or shop at yard sales for great summer reading bargains.
  10. Reward. This is way far down the list because I don't think children should receive monetary or food rewards for a job well done. However, if this is the only way to jumpstart your children's summer reading, then offer a small monthly reward - ice cream treat, $1 on a debit card for each book read, or set of three books for younger readers (to be used at the end of summer), etc. As an alternative, if there is a movie based on the book, tell your kids you'll take them to see the movie when they finish the book! Compare notes after the movie.
Books will open your child's world to a new dimension. Remember to "catch 'em being good." If you find your child reading a book, wait until he puts it down, then give him a pat on the back for reading for the past half hour. Positive reinforcement goes a long way to encouraging a continuation of that positive behavior.

And I would be remiss if I didn't recommend my own books for children (and one from a friend):
  • PreK-2nd grade: Ducklings in a Row - Will Duck 10 ever get to lead the line?
  • Grades 3-8: Woody's World - The story of one boy's efforts to help his family during The Great Depression. Based on a true story.
  • Grades 2-6: Somebody Cares! - A young girl plans a very special birthday party.
  • High school: Crash into Me by Al Borris - Four misfit teens on a suicide mission discover the meaning of life.
Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Underdog stories

I LOVE underdog stories where the kid who is less than perfect ends up on top by the end of the story.  In fact, my favorite movie as a kid was called The Underdog, however, I can't find it on, so that might not have been its title.  The message is the same, though.  Good triumphs over evil and the weak become strong.  Great lessons for today's children.

Here are ten underdog books and movies summarized for you by our friends at  I added some hyperlinks in case you'd like to read them for a warm fuzzy feeling:
  1. The Tortoise and the Hare – One of the oldest underdog stories known today comes from Aesop’s renowned fable the Tortoise and the Hare. Just about everyone has heard the tale of this classic race where the hare is so overly confident in his ability to win that he decides to take a nap while the tortoise finishes the race as he sleeps.
  2. The Ant and the Grasshopper – Another of Aesop’s well known fables is the Ant and the Grasshopper. The big carefree grasshopper spends his summer singing and playing while the industrious little ant is doggedly preparing for winter. When the weather turns cold and bitter, the tiny ant is prepared to endure the long winter season while the grasshopper is left cold and hungry.
  3. David and Goliath – Even older than Aesop’s fables is the story from the Bible of David and Goliath. David is a young lad armed only with a slingshot who takes on the giant Goliath. Although the giant is armed to the teeth and clad in body armor, the stone from David’s slingshot finds the one unguarded weakness of Goliath and hits him in the temple killing him instantly.
  4. The Little Engine that Could – What child hasn’t heard the story of the Little Engine that Could? While all the other engines gave excuses as to why they couldn’t pull the train over the hill, the littlest engine just kept saying “I think I can, I think I can” until he achieved his goal.
  5. Rocky – More recently movie makers have found new ways to expound on the underdog theme. The Rocky series of films are a classic example of this. The unknown boxer Rocky Balboa takes on the heavyweight champion Apollo Creed and although he loses in the first movie, he does beat him in Rocky II. The rest of the series pits the Italian Stallion against various opponents he must struggle to defeat.
  6. The Karate Kid – Inspired by the success of Rocky, the Karate Kid is another movie series that is based on fighting, though this focuses on a martial arts theme instead of boxing. These movies are motivating to kids because they show that fighting dirty is not only wrong, but may not be successful either.
  7. Star Wars – What kid wasn’t enthralled with the classic underdog story set in outer space? Star Wars pits the mere human Luke Skywalker against the evil Darth Vader and the Death Star. With the help of his alien friends, Luke gains the ingenuity and skill to overcome insurmountable odds.
  8. Forrest Gump – Although he might not be the brightest crayon in the box, Forrest Gump is an inspiration to kids of every age. We all have our personal deficiencies, but can rely on our redeeming qualities to see us through.
  9. Rudy – This is the story of a kid whose ultimate goal is to play football for Notre Dame. Rudy has to overcome the daunting obstacles of his dyslexia and physical size, but manages to win the hearts of those around him to achieve his dreams.
  10. Braveheart – The historical movie about the 13th century Scottish warrior William Wallace doesn’t end well for him, but his bravery and determination live on after his death. Robert the Bruce motivates his army by invoking Wallace’s memory and goes on to win freedom for Scotland.
It’s so important for children to learn that even though life is not always fair, everyone has something to contribute and can achieve greatness with determination and effort. A world where everyone has a guaranteed outcome would be boring and uninspiring. That’s why these underdog stories are so enduringly popular. We all love the idea that anyone can achieve the impossible dream, or at least surpass others expectations.

Happy reading!