New! Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly is the third book in what is, in my mind, an early reader series that belongs in every school library collection. The early reader market is dominated by books aimed at kids who enjoy laugh out loud humor, namely Dr. Seuss, Elephant & Piggie and Fly Guy books. In contrast, Ling & Ting is a well-written early reader series for kids who enjoy reading stories about realistic, relatable characters.

Ling & Ting Twice as Silly

My favorite book in the Ling & Ting series remains book #1 — Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! — where we first meet twin sisters Ling and Ting. We learn that Ling has more self-control than Ting. Ting is exuberant and forgetful. When the two make dumplings, Ling closes here dumplings tight “so their money will not get away.” In contrast, Ting puts lots of meat in her dumplings “so that they will be very rich.” While these two sisters are not exactly the same, it becomes clear that they are best friends.

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly is a solid addition to the Ling & Ting series. Three books seems like the magic number of books that makes a series a series, and it’s great to see that we have a new early reader series on our hands. With Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly, fans of the first two Ling & Ting books have more stories to enjoy and an opportunity to get to know Ling and Ting better.

Here is an excerpt from Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly:

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly II

While the text of the Ling & Ting books sounds a bit stilted to adult readers, these books are perfectly written for kids who can sound out words but still have a limited sight word vocabulary. Author Grace Lin sticks with short sentences, uses lots of repetition, and includes illustrations to aid in comprehension. Lin does not extend the story with the illustrations but instead reinforces the information she is conveying with the text. The Ling & Ting books are divided into six short stories, with a punch line at the end of each. Beginning readers can start by reading one short story at a time.

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly III

The final, sixth chapter in each Ling & Ting book offers readers who have successfully read the first five chapters a special treat. In chapter 6 of Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly, Ling and Ting write a silly story that is a mixed up version of the five stories Lin has told us in the first five chapters. This final chapter reuses vocabulary that readers are familiar with from the first five chapters. Readers who have worked hard to sound out new vocabulary words in the first five chapters have the opportunity to practice rereading these words and are rewarded with lots of laughs.

The Ling & Ting books are exemplary early readers. They belong in the arsenal of all teachers and parents enticing emerging readers to read.

Recommended for: Ages 4-8. Kids who are learning to read and enjoy books with realistic, relatable characters. The Ling & Ting series provides the perfect challenge for kids who can read very simple early readers (e.g. the Biscuit series) but are intimidated by challenging early readers (e.g. the Frog and Toad series).

About Author Grace Lin

I had the pleasure of hearing author Grace Lin speak a few years ago at KidLitCon in New York City. With her newborn child in tow, she effortlessly gave a talk that was both understated and fascinating. Here is a short, four minute version of the wonderful talk that I heard, in which Grace Lin describes initially rejecting and later rediscovering and embracing her Chinese heritage.

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Celebrate International Book Giving Day this February 14th

International Book Giving Day is coming up soon: February 14th! (Yep, that’s also Valentine’s Day.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, International Book Giving Day is a day dedicated to getting books in the hands of as many children as possible. You are invited to celebrate…

1. Give a Book to a Friend or Relative.
Celebrate International Book Giving Day by giving a child a new, used or borrowed book.

2. Leave a Book in a Waiting Room or Lobby.
Choose a waiting room where kids are stuck waiting and there are few to no good books available. Purchase a good book, and deposit your book covertly or overtly in your waiting room of choice.

3. Donate a Book.
Wrap up a box of children’s books that your kids have outgrown and get them in the hands of children who could really use a book or two. Donate your books to your local second hand store, library, children’s hospital, or shelter. Alternatively, donate your books to an organization working internationally to get books in the hands of kids, such as Books for Africa.

A Bit Lost by Chris HaughtonOh No, GeorgeInternational Book Giving Day has unveiled this year’s International Book Giving Day poster! This year’s poster was designed by Chris Haughton, author of A Bit Lost, Oh No George! and Shh! We Have a Plan.

International Book Giving Day is a grassroots, 100% volunteer initiative. If you like the idea, please help invite people in your community to celebrate International Book Giving Day by printing this poster and posting it in your community in bookstores, libraries, coffee shops and other community gathering spots. Sharing this poster via social media is also a great way to help get the word out.

International Book Giving Day 2015 poster  - Chris Haughton

International Book Giving Day 2015 poster

Click link to download .pdf!

For more information about International Book Giving Day and to connect with others around the world celebrating International Book Giving Day, see International Book Giving Day’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. #giveabook

Show your support for International Book Giving Day and invite others to celebrate by adding a badge to your blog or website!

International Book Giving Day 2015 badge

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New! Take Away the A

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There are many more alphabet books in the world than the world needs. Against poor odds, French authors Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo have created an alphabet book worthy of adding to any library collection. Take Away the A is a clever and beautifully illustrated alphabet book that does more than simply teach kids the letters of the alphabet; it makes word play and learning to sound out words fun.

Take Away the A is a clever and beautifully illustrated alphabet book that does more than simply teach kids the letters of the alphabet; it makes word play and learning to sound out words fun. | Delightful Children's Books

For each letter of the alphabet, author Michaël Escoffier has identified a pair of words that are only one letter removed from each other. For example, “BEAST” minus “A” is “BEST.” “BRIDE” minus “B” is “RIDE.” “CHAIR” minus “C” is “HAIR.”

These word pairings naturally lead to some absurd humor that is sure to please kids.

For example, “Without the D DICE are ICE.”

New! Take Away the A | Delightful Children's Books

…and, “Without the G the GLOVE falls in LOVE.” (I love that the glove has fallen for an octopus here!)

New! Take Away the A | Delightful Children's Books

Where a word pair fits too naturally, illustrator Kris Di Giacomo ups the absurdity level with her illustrations. For example, for “Without the B, the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.” Di Giacomo depicts a bride riding — not in a car — but in a ferris wheel.

New! Take Away the A | Delightful Children's Books

Illustrator Kris Di Giacomo has created a visually cohesive treat through her muted color scheme, texture and rats that show up in unexpected placed throughout the book.

Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo are not new authors, but they are new to the English language publishing scene. Both have published numerous picture books in French. During the past couple of years, five of their books have been translated to and published in English: Take Away the A, The Day I Lost My Superpowers, Me First!, Brief Thief and Rabbit and the Not-So-Big-Bad Wolf.

Take Away the A is loosely based on Escoffier and Giacomo’s French picture book Sans Le A. However, Sans Le A could not be easily translated to English. When this duo decided to create an English-language version of their book, Escoffier had to come up with entirely new word pairs, and Giacomo had to create entirely new illustrations.

New! Take Away the A | Delightful Children's Books

I look forward to seeing more English language books from Escoffier and Di Giacomo in the future.

What do you think? Have you read Escoffier and Di Giacomo’s books? Do you have a favorite author or illustrator whose books are translated into English?

Recommended for: Ages 4-8. Kids in pre-K through 1st grade who are learning to sound out words. In addition, more advanced readers will enjoy the humor and coming up with and illustrating their own word pairs.

Posted in Ages 4+, Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+, New! Nonfiction, nonfiction books | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Big Plans for 2015

In December, I graduated from the University of Illinois with a library science master’s degree. Post-graduation, I have been dreaming and scheming about what I would like to do with Delightful Children’s Books, and I thought I would share some of these plans with you.

peter sis mural

One of the highlights of graduate school was studying beside Peter Sis’s murals at the Champaign Public Library.

In 2015, I will be focussing on reviewing newly published books and updating existing booklists. In the past, I have focused on publishing lists of the best books on various topics, regardless of when the books were published. I may still add a new booklist from time to time, but my focus will be on reviewing newly published books and updated existing booklists.

I am an aspiring elementary school librarian, and, as such, I will be highlighting great books for elementary school students. In my mind, I am writing this blog for school librarians, elementary school teachers and elementary school parents/caregivers.

I do not plan to critically review every book published. Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal and Booklist have that covered. I also do not plan to critically review books being widely discussed elsewhere. Instead, I plan to highlight books that you may not hear about elsewhere that I am excited to add to my [future] library collection and recommend to teachers and students. I will focus on picture books, nonfiction picture books, early readers and graphic novels and may throw in an early chapter book from time to time.

I have more dreams and schemes, but the rest are less firmly pinned down. Suffice it to say that I am interested in…

  • how to motivate kids to read,
  • how to incorporate excellent, inspiring nonfiction texts into the curriculum, and
  • how to use technology to improve student learning…

…and these interests may be reflected in the content of this blog and associated Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest feeds if you stick around long enough.

Thanks so much for reading Delightful Children’s Books and for commenting, connecting and discussing! Cheers to 2015!

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The Mock Caldecott: Who Doesn’t Enjoy a Good Competition?

This year, more than any other, it is hard for me to contain my excitement as I read about Mock Caldecott competitions being held in schools and public libraries. With Mock Caldecott competitions, kids are invited to select a winning book from a list of excellent picture books published within the past year. What a fantastic way to get children talking to each other about books. What a fantastic opportunity to have students think critically about what makes a good picture book. What lucky children and librarians to be part of such fun celebrations of excellent children’s literature.

I will soon graduate from library science graduate school, and I hope that 2016 will be the year that I get to hold a school-wide Mock Caldecott competition of my own.

Until then, I use Caldecott season to increase my own children’s enthusiasm for books and reading.

First, a little background information…

Mock Caldecott 2015: Inspire kids to read by inviting them to choose a Mock Caldecott winner!

The Caldecott award is the Oscar for picture books. The Newbery award is the analogous award for chapter books. Both are awarded each year by the American Library Association (ALA), along with several other ALA awards worth paying attention to including the Pura Belpre, the Coretta Scott King, the Geisel, the Sibert and others.

The Caldecott, Newbery and other ALA award winners will be announced on February 2, 2015, and — this is the best news — you can watch the Caldecott, Newbery and other ALA award winners announced LIVE with your kids. (Details will be available soon at this ALA website.)

If you are a teacher or librarian, this is a great opportunity to hold a Mock Caldecott (or Mock Newbery) award competition. Put your students in charge of selecting the mock award winners, and then watch live on February 2nd as the official winners are announced.

Here are a couple thoughtful posts that explain the nuts and bolts of setting up a Mock Caldecott competition:

Mock Caldecott 2014: What I Learned Last Year Edition by Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes

Mock Caldecott (Stage 1) by Matthew Winner, The Busy Librarian

As a parent, I make a point of reading as many of the Caldecott contenders as possible with my kids. I also select the Newbery contenders that my 9-year-old son might enjoy, check these books out from the library and give him the opportunity to read them. Last year he read ~5 of the books I checked out for him, including Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo which happened to win. This year, on February 2nd, the kids and I will once again be watching the award announcements live during breakfast and cheering for our favorites.

Our Mock Caldecott List:

  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen v.
  • Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea and Lane Smith
  • The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet v.
  • Gravity by Jason Chin
  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson v.
  • Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown v.
  • Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
  • The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia McLachlan and Hadley Hooper v.
  • Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and Lisa Brown
  • Quest by Aaron Becker v.
  • Draw! by Raúl Colón
Posted in Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | 3 Comments

Superhero Comics for Kids

Next up in my comics series — superhero comics. As previously mentioned, I am taking a comics advising course this semester, which has inspired me to write a series of posts in which I recommend my favorite comics for kids. Here are my top picks to share with young superhero fans.

superhero comics for kids

To match the expectations of young superhero fans, I have defined “superhero” narrowly. (i.e. Superman makes the list but not Lunch Lady). On the other hand, I have defined “comics” broadly to include picture books as well as comic books, comic strips and graphic novels.

You might also be interested in perusing Common Sense Media’s lists of recommended superhero television shows and superhero movies: Best TV Superheroes for Kids and Superhero Movies for Kids.

Batman & Robin Team Up!Batman & Robin Team Up! by Donald Lemke and Ethen Beavers. A fun, quick superhero adventure for preschool-aged  superhero fans. Batman & Robin Team Up! includes a subtle message about teamwork. This is one of four beautifully designed board books featuring Batman and Superman. Others are Batman is Brave!, Superman to the Rescue! and Superman Fights for Truth!. Ages 3+

Wonder WomanJKTmech.inddWonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess by Ralph Cosentino. A straightforward introduction to Wonder Woman’s origin and main super-villains. Costentino’s bold, comics-inspired illustrations make this picture book stand out. See also Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel and Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight. Ages 4+

Tiny Titans Welcome to the TreehouseTiny Titans: Welcome to the Treehouse by Art Baltzar and Franco. In these clever comic books, young Superhero offspring — many of whom resemble their parents — navigate elementary school. Tiny Titans comics feature fun, colorful artwork by Art Baltzar. To my 6-year-old daughter, several stories felt like they ended abruptly. She did not understand many of the jokes aimed at adults / true superhero fans. However, she still enjoys reading these comics because she is drawn to the colorful illustrations and entertaining cast of characters. See also Tiny Titans: Adventures in AwesomenessAges 5+ and their superhero-loving parents

ShazamShazam!: The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith. A superhero/fantasy adventure story starring Captain Marvel (i.e. Shazam). When Captain Marvel is not busy fighting evil forces, he is a young homeless boy named Billy. Shazam! features an engaging storyline, sympathetic characters and the fantastic cartooning skillz of Bone-creator Jeff Smith. Bonus: Billy’s young sister Mary saves the day — much to the delight of my daughter. Ages 6+

The Incredibles_Family MattersThe Incredibles: Family Matters by Mark Waid and Marcio Takara. A series of comics starring a family of superheroes — The Incredibles — first introduced in the Pixar movie. These comic books feature fantastic characters (e.g. Mrs. Incredible’s superpower is being able to do multiple things at the same time) and artwork. The Incredibles — clad in red — jump out from predominately blue and beige backgrounds. The stories seem aimed at parents, as much as kids, and are thus fun for parents to read aloud. Ages 6+

Boys of SteelBoys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ross MacDonald. A picture book biography about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — the two shy teenagers who created Superman. Siegel and Shuster grew up during The Great Depression. Boys of Steel describes the characters (e.g. Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers) that influenced Siegel and the characteristics that set Superman — the very first superhero — apart from past storybook heroes. See also Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Nobleman and Ty Templeton about the creation of Batman. Ages 6+

Superman AdventuresSuperman Adventures (Vol. 1): Up Up and Away! by Mark Millar. The first book in the Superman Adventures graphic novel series. The Superman Adventures series features excellent storytelling by Mark Millar. This series is my pick for turning a kid not previously interested in superheroes into a superhero fan. See also Batman Adventures and the Justice League Adventures series. Ages 7+

The Amazing Spiderman_An Origin StoryThe Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story by Rich Thomas et al. One in a series of picture books explaining the origins of several of the Marvel superhero characters: Hulk, Captain America, X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine and The Avengers. These picture books feature lush illustrations and comic-like panels. Ages 7+

SidekicksSidekicks by Dan Santat. A humorous, action-packed graphic novel with a very fun plot. When Captain Marvel begins to lose his superpowers, he decides to hold auditions for a sidekick. Unbeknownst to him, his pets secretly start honing their superpower skills to prepare for the sidekick auditions. Ages 8+

 

Superman_The Silver Age DailiesSuperman: The Silver Age Dailies 1959-1961 by Jerry Siegel et al. One in a series of Superman comic strip anthologies. Publisher Library of American Comics is publishing anthologies of all of the Superman comic strips that ran from 1939-1966. These comic strips are products of their time. Set in the late-1960s, these black-and-white strips feature predictable clashes between the unstoppable Superman and various super-villains. Ages 8+

Batman_The Brave and the BoldBatman: The Brave and the Bold by Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett and Dan Davis. If you are looking for superhero comic books that are age appropriate for young readers, then the Batman comic books are your best bet. These comic books feature predictable plots and lots of crime-fighting action. Batman fans should also take a look at Batman Adventures, a graphic novel by Kelley Puckett and Ty Templeton. Ages 8+ 

SuperGirl_Cosmic Adventures in the 8th GradeSuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade by Laundry Q. Walker and Eric Jones. The SuperGirl comics focus on teenager Kara Zor-el’s struggles as the new 8th grader in school. Kara is regularly, and often inconveniently, called to fight crime. Ages 10+

 

Marvel Adventures_Spiderman_The Sinister SixMarvel Adventures: Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Sinister Six by Kitty Fross et alThe first in a series of collections of the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man comics. In Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Sinister Six, Peter Parker is a shy high school student who is bitten by a mutant spider and transformed into Spider-Man. The Marvel Adventures Spider-Man comics are aimed at middle school and high school students but will also appeal to upper-elementary school students if you are comfortable with some of the insults aimed at Peter Parker by his fellow students. Ages 10+

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5 Comic Strip Anthologies for Kids

I am excited to be taking a comics advising course this semester with Professor Carol Tilley of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. For this course, I am reading through various types of comics — comic strips, superhero comics, graphic novels, manga etc. — in a systematic, if a bit rushed, way. This post is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts in which I share some of my favorite comics for kids with you.

5 Comic Strip Anthologies for Kids

If you are the parent of an elementary school student, you are likely aware that comics and books with cartoon illustrations are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. I am thinking of Elephant & Piggie books, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the Pokemon series and more.

For children who enjoy reading comics, this is an exciting time to be a young reader. There are many more wonderful comics being published these days than there were even five years ago. There are comics being published in a variety of genres, from realistic fiction to action adventure to memoir to fantasy. There are comics being published in a variety of forms, from comic strips to comic books to graphic novels to web comics.

If you are lucky enough to live near a library with an up-to-date comics collection, I hope my posts will help you navigate the 741.5 section of your library. If, on the other hand, the 741.5 section of your library is sparsely populate, my posts may suggest titles for you to purchase or request via interlibrary loan.

Please, chime in and share your favorite comic strips for kids in the comments below.

Mickey Mouse_Race to Death ValleyWalt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” by Floyd Gottfredson. Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic strips are predominantly adaptations of Mickey Mouse animated cartoons. Like the animated cartoons, these comics are full of fast-paced — frenetic even — action and absurd humor. Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” is the first in a series of recently published anthologies of Mickey Mouse comic strips. Ages 6+

Garfield at LargeGarfield at Large by Jim Davis. The Garfield comic strips are popular with kids largely because the humor is simple enough for kids to understand. (After all, nothing ruins a good joke more than having to ask an adult to explain the joke to you.) Most of the jokes in Garfield revolve around the fact that Garfield is lazy and has an insatiable appetite. Garfield also spends a good amount of time subverting his owner Jon’s authority. Ages 6+

Calvin and HobbesCalvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. A step up in sophistication, Calvin and Hobbes appeals to many of the same kids who enjoy Garfield. Like Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes incorporates quite a bit of physical humor and features a main character — Calvin — who is constantly getting in trouble. The Calvin and Hobbes comics are exceptionally well drawn and full of wisdom that kids will appreciate on an entirely new level as they grow older. Ages 7+

MuttsMutts. by Patrick McDonnell. The Mutts. comic strips feature a friendship between a dog named Earl and a cat named Mooch. Mutts. is slower paced than Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes and may appeal to a different set of readers. To understand the humor in the Mutts. comic strips, kids must know a little bit about dogs and cats (for example, that cats impulsively climb trees and that dogs are loyal to their owners). Mutts. is an excellent choice for animal lovers and for kids who enjoy friendship stories. Ages 7+

It's a Big World, Charlie BrownIt’s a Big World, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz. As with sitcoms, the Peanuts comic strips become fun once readers become familiar with the Peanuts cast of characters: Charlie, Sally, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy and the gang. The Peanuts strips feature characters that readers will be able to relate to. The humor is fun and clever. You could introduce kids to the Peanuts characters via one of the classic Charlie Brown holiday television specials. Ages 8+ 

We squandered a rich opportunity… More than 95% of kids in this country read comics on a regular basis.

-Prof. Carol Tilley, from her TED talk “Kids Need Comic Books” when speaking of the crackdown on kids’  comic book reading in the 1950s

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How to Raise a Reader: 5 Tips for Parents

When my son Jack was in preschool, he read Charlotte’s Web aloud fluently to his classmates. When he was in kindergarten, he began disappearing into his room for a few hours every afternoon to read. My son is known for being a reader — for having his nose in a book. He is a kid who devours books.

Friends see my son, and they ask me from time to time how I did it. How did I raise a reader?

How to Raise a Reader: 5 Tips for Parents | Delightful Children's Books

My friends have expressed a variety of concerns about their kids’ reading habits. “My kid is not interested in reading. He only wants to play Minecraft.” “My kid only reads X, when I know she is capable of reading Y.” “My kid is lazy. He only wants me to read books aloud to him.”

I am hesitant to give my friends advice largely because I think my son sets the bar too high. Reading is his thing. I do not know why some kids are passionate about reading while others are passionate about playing hockey or building with legos or following ants around the backyard. I do not think there is anything I did or anything my friends could do to ensure that reading would become their kid’s favorite hobby. I have two more kids coming down the pipeline, and I do not expect reading to be their favorite hobby. Instead, I look forward to seeing what they become passionate about.

While it seems unrealistic to suggest that you can raise a child whose number one passion is reading, I do believe that every child can be a reader.

how to raise a reader: 5 tips for parentsThe first step in raising a reader is to expand your view of what a reader looks like. While you may have enjoyed reading Newbery award winning books as a child, your child may not. Making your child read a Newbery award winning book could discourage rather than encourage your child to read. Some readers love comics and graphic novels. Other readers enjoy fantasy series. Still other readers pour over issues of Dog Fancy magazine. Being open to the type of reader your child could become is an important first step in supporting and encouraging your child’s reading.

As a parent and future children’s librarian, I am very interested in what parents can do to help motivate children to read. The following suggestions are based on research as well as my experience working with kids.

1.  Make sure kids have access to books they truly enjoy. 

This is my number one suggestion. Unless you are an exceptional parent who is already taking regular trips to the public library and supporting your kids’ reading choices, focus your efforts here.

This tip sounds so basic. Yet, it can be difficult to implement in practice. It can be difficult to find time to make it to the public library. It can be difficult to support your kids’ reading choices when your kids choose books that make you cringe.

For most families, the best way to ensure that your kid has access to books is to visit the public library. If you haven’t been to the public library recently, take a trip this week. When you visit the library, make a beeline for the children’s section. Introduce your child to a children’s librarian, and ask the children’s librarian if they can help you find a book or series of books your child will enjoy.

Your child might be interested in one of these popular series…

12 Popular Children's Book Series | Delightful Children's Books

anything by Kevin Henkes
Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Elephant & Piggie by Mo Willems
Judy Moody by Megan McDonald and Peter Reynolds
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
Ruby Lu by Lenore Look
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows
National Geographic Kids Almanacs
Babymouse by Jennifer Holms
Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Next, the books kids truly enjoy component.

In the past, I have found it surprisingly difficult to support my kids’ reading choices. Biases against certain subjects (e.g. dinosaurs) and genres (e.g. fantasy) have cropped up that I did not realize existed until my kids expressed an interest in checking these books out.

I have worked hard to overcome my biases because research shows that kids read more when they choose which books they read.

Here is the four step program I have used to support my kids’ reading choices. I began with step one and slowly, over the past few years, have progressed to step four.

Step 1. Let my children check out the books they want to check out — even if the books involve dinosaurs or dragons.

Step 2. Resist the urge to roll my eyes when my kids pick out cringe-worthy books.

Step 3. Enthusiastically congratulate my kids for finding books that they are excited to read at the library.

Step 4. Notice when the most recent book in my kids’ favorite series is published, and check the book out for them.

2.  Do not bribe your kid to read. No pizza. No toys. No extra TV time.

Research shows that when kids are given external rewards, their internal motivation to read declines. Apparently, in kids’ minds, if an adult is bribing them to read, reading must not be an activity worth doing for its own sake.

In the short term, bribery works. However, if you bribe your kids to read, their interest in reading is likely to decline after the bribes have dried up. To become a competent reader, kids need hours of practice reading. Kids are unlikely to practice reading for the hours necessary to become competent readers unless they enjoy reading.

Note: Bribing kids to read may not be entirely bad if kids are rewarded with books or if the bribery is an instrumental part of a program that successfully creates a culture of reading in a school or community.

3.  Create spaces where kids have books available and nothing else to do.

book boxPsst… Do not tell my kids, but I do this a lot. I’m pretty sneaky. I bring books with us to hair appointments, doctors’ visits, piano lessons…anywhere the kids might be stuck without anything to do. I keep a box of books in the car that the kids can read when we are zipping from one place to the next. (The kids are not allowed to play video games or watch movies in the car unless we are driving for more than two hours.)

In addition, we try to set aside time each night to read and relax before bed. There are nights when bedtime reading doesn’t happen, but most nights it does.

Warning! Do not suggest that your child read. Suggesting that your child read could backfire. Simply let your child know that books are available.

4.  Help kids find books about subjects they genuinely want to learn about.

Show kids that books are sources of useful information. If your kid has a new pet or a favorite hobby, check out a good book about the topic. If your kid wants to learn to cook or fold paper airplanes or draw cartoons, show your kid that you can find great information on these topics in books. If your kid is about to take their first airplane ride or visit a friend in the hospital, check out books on these topics.

5.  Avoid labeling kids as bad readers. Instead, help kids think of themselves as competent readers.

Research has found that when kids begin thinking of themselves as bad readers, their interest in reading declines. They stop putting forth the effort needed to read challenging texts. When reading, they give up faster than do kids who think of themselves as good readers.

You can help your child think of themselves as a competent reader by banning terms like “struggling reader” and “reluctant reader” from your vocabulary.

In addition, to help your child feel like a competent reader:

  • Make sure your child has books available to them that are easy for them to read. It is also fine to let your child read challenging books. But, make sure that your child sees that there are lots of great books available that they can read well.
  • Avoid comparing siblings’ reading abilities or friends’ reading abilities.
  • Invite your child to read to a younger child. Focus on the reading skills your child has acquired. E.g. “Wow! You used to not be able to read ______, and now you can!”

I would love to hear about your experience encouraging your child to read:

  • How do you fit it trips to the library?
  • What makes it difficult or intimidating to go to the library?
  • What is your biggest challenge as you try to raise a reader?

Please, share in the comments below!

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Posted in All Ages | Tagged | 18 Comments

The 2014 ALA Award Winners: The Tip of the Iceberg

The ALA award winners were just announced yesterday, including the Caldecott winner (Locomotive by Brian Floca) and the Newbery winner (Flora & Ulysess by Kate DiCamillo).

The most popular question bantered around since the announcements has been: Did the Caldecott and Newbery committees get it right?

With all due respect to the award committee members, my answer is no.

Journey

Journey by Aaron Becker was predicted by many to garner the top honor.

The Caldecott and Newbery committees could not possibly have gotten it “right.” These two committees were charged with impossible tasks.

The Caldecott committee was charged with identifying “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” The Newbery committee was charged with identifying “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

These committees were tasked with identifying the one best picture book and the one best chapter book published within the past year…as if it were possible to identify such books…as if the ALA committee members have some direct line to the children’s book gods.

There is no one picture book that is definitively better quality than any other picture book published within the past year. Locomotive by Brian Floca is not that book. Journey by Aaron Becker is not that book. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown is not that book.

Duncan

A spread from Journey of a Mixteco, a graphic novel by Duncan Tonatiuh. Yesterday, Tonatiuh won Pura Belpre honors both as an illustrator and author for Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. Tonatiuh’s illustrations are inspired by pre-Columbian art from the 12th century.

Children’s books are works of art, and, like all art, individuals’ responses to individual works vary dramatically. I can divorce my assessment of a book’s quality from my personal response to the book to some extent, but not completely. And, I do not believe that the Caldecott and Newbery committee members — as smart and knowledgeable and professional as they are — can do so completely either.

Serving on two Cybils award committees (both for nonfiction children’s books) illuminated for me how differently individuals react to children’s books. Both times I served as a Cybils judge, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of my fellow judges. Yet, each committee member on the Cybils committees I served on walked away from the process knowing that several of their favorite books would receive no recognition at all.

In the field of Caldecott and Newbery contenders, the echo chamber effect gives those following the discussion the illusion that it is possible to narrow the field down to fifteen books or so that really were the best quality books published within the past year. But, absent the blogosphere banter, if each children’s book critic were left to evaluate these books independently, we would collectively identify many more than fifteen books worthy of being considered Caldecott and Newbery award contenders.

This all goes to say that the books recognized yesterday represent just a small fraction of the excellent books published within the past year. For those of us in the business of finding the right book for the right kid, it seems so important to seek out excellent books that were not recognized by the Caldecott or Newbery committees:

To that end…

A few of my favorite books published this past year that did not receive recognition yesterday:

How Big Were DinosaursHow Big Were the Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge. How did others miss this gem? How Big Were the Dinosaurs? is a tour-de-force in the children’s book world, combining dinosaurs + humor + fantastic illustrations by Lita Judge. Perhaps others mistakenly assumed that there are enough books in the world about dinosaurs. In my view, Judge brings something new to the table. How Big Were the Dinosaurs? is both entertaining and informative and pitched perfectly for elementary school students. Ages 4+

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer BerneOn a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky. This beautifully designed book introduces young readers to Albert Einstein and celebrates curiosity in a way that will be appreciated by readers of all ages. See my full review here. Ages 5+

The Boy Who Loved MathThe Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham. This book introduces kids to mathematician Paul Erdos, which, to be frank, does not sound like a subject with much kid appeal. However, Heiligman does a fantastic job of hooking kids. She incorporates neat math facts and quirky (and completely true) details about Erdos into this biography. Pham’s illustrations are stunning and incorporate math concepts throughout. Pham sets a new bar for quality of endnotes by an illustrator. For those interested in reading more, see Betsy Bird’s full review here. Ages 6+

Five books that I am excited to read that won ALA awards aside from the Caldecott and Newbery awards:

The Watermelon SeedThe Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli. I am always on the lookout for excellent books for kids who are just learning to read. The Watermelon Seed won the Geisel Medal yesterday. This book features humor (I am told) and irresistible illustrations. It is a book that I will definitely check out. Ages 4+

Knock KnockKnock Knock by Daniel Beatty and Bryan Collier. This book has been on my radar for some time. Illustrator Bryan Collier received the Coretta Scott King award for this book. Collier’s illustrations are always fantastic. That said, the subject matter, about a child whose father suddenly disappears, is what really makes me want to read this book. Julie Danielson reviewed Knock Knock here and shared illustrations from this book at Seven Imp here. Ages 4+ 

Pancho Rabbit and the CoyotePancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh. Duncan Tonatiuh received Pura Belpré honors both for his illustrations and for his writing. That alone makes one stand up and take notice. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote is a modern fable about the immigrant experience. I enjoyed reading about this book and watching Duncan Tonatiuh’s TED talk at his website here. Ages 5+

Better Nate Than EverBetter Nate than Ever by Tim Federle. I want to read this book for several reasons. First, the cover makes me smile. Second, the storyline — a boy runs off to New York City with dreams of making it big on Broadway — is one I would have enjoyed reading as a kid. Author Tim Federle has danced on Broadway, a good background for writing about this subject authentically. Third, there are not enough books written for kids of this age range with characters questioning their sexual identity. This book received award recognition from multiple committees, garnering an Odyssey award and a Stonewall book award. Ages 9+

P.S. Be ElevenP.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. This work of historical fiction focuses on the relationship between three sisters. P.S. Be Eleven won the Coretta Scott King book award. I plan to read this book’s prequel — One Crazy Summer — first. One Crazy Summer garnered a Coretta Scott King award, Scott O’Dell award and Newbery honor in 2011. Ages 11+

With regards to the books that did win…

  • I was happy to see Splash of Red by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet win a couple of awards yesterday, namely a Schneider Family Book Award and a Sibert Honor.
  • I would not have chosen Locomotive for the Caldecott. While it was nice to see a nonfiction book win and Floca’s illustrations are formidable, in my view Floca’s writing falls flat. I would love to see Floca, with his amazing illustration skills, collaborate with another writer. Ditto for Kadir Nelson and Don Brown. (Note: Brian Floca, Kadir Nelson and Don Brown all seem to be doing fine without my input. See exhibit #1: Floca’s shiny new Caldecott.)
  • It was interesting to see two books that I thought of as contenders for children’s book awards — Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels by Tanya Lee Stone and Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool — receive recognition from YA award committees.

What other books are worthy of recognition?

  • What excellent children’s books were overlooked by the ALA committees?
  • After perusing the full list of ALA award winners, which books are at the top of your to read list?

Please, share your favorite titles below!

Posted in Ages 4+, Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+ | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

International Book Giving Day 2014 Poster Unveiled

International Book Giving Day is coming up soon: February 14th! (Yep, that’s also Valentine’s Day.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, International Book Giving Day is a day dedicated to getting books in the hands of as many children as possible. You are invited to celebrate…

1. Give a book to a friend or relative;

2. Leave a book in a waiting room for children to read; or

3. Donate a book…or a box of books…to your local second hand store, library or nonprofit organization.

International Book Giving Day has just unveiled this year’s International Book Giving Day poster! This year’s poster was designed by Hungarian designer and illustrator Mariann Maray.

Please, help invite people in your community to celebrate International Book Giving Day by printing this poster and posting it in your community in bookstores, libraries, coffee shops and other community gathering spots. Sharing this poster via social media is also a great way to help get the word out.

International Book Giving Day 2014 posterInternational Book Giving Day 2014 poster (pdf)

For more information about International Book Giving Day and to connect with others around the world celebrating International Book Giving Day, see International Book Giving Day’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Posted in All Ages | Tagged , | 4 Comments