Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Go Kentucky and Reading Rainbow and the Araboolies of Liberty Street

I am behind posting books on this blog, not because we haven't been reading (I've found some wonderful books lately!!!), but because I've let myself get behind. I need to fix that. I so want to make a difference in the world to inspire parents and kids to explore the wonderful world of children's literature

I've been inspired lately by three different occurrences that give me hope for the future of our children and the future of reading in this country.

The first is LeVar Burton's campaign to bring Reading Rainbow to more kids all over the country. See this article for details or to contribute.

I particularly love this excerpt from his interview on NPR (the question is in bold and LeVar's response follows):


On the way focus shifted from the love of reading to the mechanics of reading, and how that factored into the show's going off the air
Personally it was painful. ... Reading Rainbow is not about the rudiments or the fundamentals of reading. It's about the passion. It's about learning how to love the written word and developing a personal relationship with literature and having that be a part of your life, for the whole of your life.

The second thing was this article on a school district in Kentucky that is defying all expectations and getting rid of Standardized Testing in their schools (completely!) in favor of performance-based assessment. We just finished our standardized tests around here, and I think they are demoralizing, confusing, uninspiring and unable to help educators truly understand what kids know and don't know. Articles like this give me hope!

And finally, tutoring that boy I blogged about a little while ago is going so well. And it's going well because his mother is taking the time to really read out loud to him. She isn't just practicing reading with him, but she is reading out loud to him.

There is no substitute for this. No substitute in the world. Flannery's reading is taking off and it is taking off with flying colors. There is no coincidence that this is occurring as I am consciously reading to her picture books with more difficult language, more engaging stories, and a great deal more text per page. She loves it, and her reading is improving as a direct result.

As we bring our one-on-one time with our kids down to match their level, they will slowly, incrementally rise to meet ours.

It is a beautiful thing. It is an inspiring thing. We can make a difference in the life of a child by reading to them.

Here is one of this boy's favorite books I read to him in our last session—easily one of the greatest picture books of all time! Go check it out today!!!


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The Araboolies of Liberty Street by Sam Swoop.





Sunday, May 18, 2014

Arnie the Doughnut

I have a belief that I regularly get into arguments about. 

I believe that all kids can love reading. 

I believe that ALL kids can love reading. 

It happens when kids stop thinking of reading as reading (snore) and they start finding great stories. 

When they want to know the ending of those stories, they become readers.

I also think kids will fight and struggle to find out the meaning of words if they think their efforts will be rewarded with humor or meaning or love or adventure. 

I have the privilege of working once a week with a boy who should be in fifth grade but is reading on a kindergarten level for a number of reasons. I won't go into what those reasons are or why the school system has failed him, but it has, and he's been told again and again and again that he can't read. 

This boy can read. It's a struggle. He reads slowly, but he's also afraid to get the words wrong. I can see it when he looks up at me to make sure he's gotten something right. 

He is afraid. He has no confidence. 

But when I read ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT to him the other day, he couldn't get enough of that book, and he asked if I would leave it with him. 

Why? Many books by Laurie Keller are jam-packed with tiny little side-notes in goofy handwriting, and pretty much all of them are funny. This boy wanted to find out what every one of those tiny side-notes said. And he was going to read those side-notes to himself the best he could, struggling to find out the meaning of those words. 

He is motivated to read because of this great story. He is motivated to read because of the fabulous humor in the story. And he is no longer afraid, because he is not being labeled "bad reader."  No one is judging his reading ability at all.

That's what ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT can do for a kid.


For all ages!


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A deliciously imaginative story about friendship—from the author / illustrator of The Scrambled States of America.

Arnie was fascinated as he watched the customers stream into the bakery. One by one, doughnuts were chosen, placed in paper bags, and whisked away with their new owners. Some went by the dozen in giant boxes.
“Good-bye!” Arnie yelled to each doughnut. “Have a good trip!”
“This is so exciting!” Arnie beamed. “I wonder who will choose ME?”

At first glance, Arnie looks like an average doughnut—round, cakey, with a hole in the middle, iced and sprinkled. He was made by one of the best bakeries in town, and admittedly his sprinkles are candy-colored. Still, a doughnut is just a doughnut, right?

WRONG! Not if Arnie has anything to say about it. And, for a doughnut, he sure seems to have an awful lot to say. Can Arnie change the fate of all doughnuts—or at least have a hand in his own future? Well, you’ll just have to read this funny story and find out for yourself.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Summer I Saved the World... in 65 Days

I did not expect to like this book. But I did.

Perfect for girls ages 12 and up. You will finish this book inspired. At least, I did!


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It's summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother's busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn't know what "her thing" is yet, it's definitely not shopping and makeup. And it's not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
   This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she'll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.
   In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things may not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Stowaways

Occasionally we find a book that everyone wants to listen to out loud. I'm not talking about audio books, I'm talking about mom-reads-a-chapter-or-so-aloud-to-basically-everyone-depending-on-who's-around books.

Calvin is the one who insists on hearing from this book. Shaemus and Flannery have been there for most installments. Mary and Lucy have dropped in and out, but if they're here, and they know I'm reading, they wander in and they stay until I'm done.

The Stowaways is a great book reminiscent of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.

Ages 7 and up.


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The Stowaways aren t like the other Weedle mice. They are inventive and curious, they go on adventures, and they are much too clever for their own good. In fact, everyone knows that Grampa Stowaway was killed in a trap on one of his adventures. So who would want to associate with a family like that?
   There s something else about the Stowaways. They keep secrets. Rory has made friends with a bird their natural enemy and his twin brother, Morgan, dreams of sailing away. But Gran has the biggest secret of all and Rory has discovered what it is. If Rory and Gran act on their suspicions, will they be heading for disaster? Or will it be the greatest Stowaway adventure of all?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Imaginary Veterinary

Shaemus loves these books. THE LONELY LAKE MONSTER is book number two in the Imaginary Veterinary series. THE RAIN DRAGON RESCUE is the third book, it's coming out in June. He gave a slight shriek when he saw the second book in the library.

Ages 7 and up.




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Pearl Petal and Ben Silverstein can't wait for their first official day as apprentices of Dr. Woo, veterinarian for imaginary creatures. That is, until they are tasked with clipping the sasquatch's toenails. Gross!

Then Pearl spots a monster in the lake behind the hospital. Even though they were told not to leave the building for any reason, Pearl sets off for a closer look, with Ben trailing cautiously behind.

The outing goes awry when Ben is captured by the creature and held hostage on an island in the middle of the lake. It's up to Pearl to hatch a rescue mission. Will she save the day or cement her reputation as the town troublemaker? And will the hospital's secret patient be able to help?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Love Among the Walnuts

Another Jean Ferris book today. This book was pure pleasure. Pure absolute romantic fun. If you liked Much Ado About Grubstake or Once Upon a Marigold, you will LOVE this. And your kids will too.
(Your older kids).

New results show that kids have an average of seven or eight hours of screen time per day. This includes texting, surfing the web, instagramming, watching TV, playing video games, etc...

Please don't let this be the case in your house. Empathy comes from reading books. Aesthetic enjoyment comes from quiet thinking. Lives change because of books.

Give your kids books. Buy your kids books. It will, in the end, make all the difference.


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Sandy Huntington-Ackerman's life becomes increasingly complicated when his bungling, moneygrubbing uncles try to shanghai the family fortune by poisoning a birthday cake. Luckily, those conniving uncles prove yet again that they can't do anything right. Instead of bumping off the whole family, they put Sandy's mom and dad and their pet chicken into mysterious comas. Sandy joins forces with his loyal butler and a wise and wacky nurse to save his parents and squelch his uncles' felonious high jinks.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Much Ado About Grubstake

We love this book. Love, love, love it. It's simple. Fun. Romantic. Clever. Mary read it for the first time and has a new favorite. Give this to your daughter craving a sweet, quick, but intelligent read.


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Ages 12 and up.