Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Mom, I want to read chapter books!!!"

Has your 6 or 7 year old ever asked you if they could read chapter books but they always bring home books like Harry Potter and Gregor the Overlander?  Those books are HUGE and most of the time the kids get so overwhelmed that they give up!  Do not fear!!  There are some really good "transitional" books for those kids who are ready to move from picture books to chapter books. 

A continually faithful series is Cam Jansen.  The chapters are short enough kids don't get get bogged down. And everyone loves a good mystery!!

Junie B. Jones books are sort of a controversy with some parents and teachers.  Junie B. is a sassy little girl (early books she is in Kindergarten and then 1st grade) who has horrible grammar.  A lot of parents don't like how sassy/smart mouth she can be, and a lot of teachers don't like her incorrect grammar.  I first heard of Junie B. Jones when I was student teaching.  My cooperating teacher read the series to her students.  When she would read out loud, the kids would correct Junie B.'s grammar; that's how the teacher handled it.  If you can get past the sassy talk and incorrect grammar, these books are SO FUNNY.  I don't read them out loud to my students much any more (because they read them aloud in most of the 1st grade classrooms) but when I do, I am laughing out loud with the kids.  If you are unsure if your child should read these books, I suggest checking out one from the library and reading it first.

 Clementine is a little girl a lot like Ramona.  These books aren't as long as the Ramona books, so they would be a good place to start.  Girls usually really like this series!

The Geronimo Stilton books are some of the most uniquely written books I've ever read.  They are so creative and funny.  The format of the text is unlike anything else I've seen out there!  Geronimo Stilton is a mouse who solves mysteries.  Girls and boys both like them.
 Thea Stilton is Geronimo Stilton's sister.  This series is fairly new.  They are just as funny as the original!
Hank the Cowdog books have been around for a while.  Hank lives on a ranch and fights crime!!  A lot of boys really like these books.

Judy Moody is another series where the little girl is similar to Ramona.  These books are usually a hit with my 2nd graders.
 Stink is Judy Moody's younger brother.  Again...a hit! 

The Magic School Tree House books are always a good choice.  Each book is based in a historical location...sometimes a real event, sometimes not.  What is fairly new is the "Fact Tracker" that they have started writing that goes with each book. It is a nonfiction version that tells about facts found in the fiction version of the books.
Let me start out by saying that I had to really convince myself to add this series to the list.  These books are full of crude potty humor (obviously), but boys LOVE them.  If you are having a hard time getting your son to read, you might try these books...if you can look past the stupidity!! 
The movie made these books more and more popular.  If you haven't read them, it's worth a try.  They are silly and funny.  I've found that both boys and girls like them.  

**All images are from

Monday, January 16, 2012

Books for Beginning Readers

Thanks to my friend January for the great idea for my next blog post!  Books for beginning readers.  Let me start out by saying that I've never taught kindergarten or first grade, which is when the foundation of learning to read is laid (other than at home, of course!).  I won't pretend to be an expert on beginning readers.  Please know that this list is based on what I have experienced in my classroom with stuggling reader who are still on the "beginning level" when they start second grade.

When you are searching for a "beginning" book for your child look for these things:
1. a lot of repetition
2. few sentences on each page
3. illustrations support the text (looking at the pictures as context clues is a great strategy for new readers!)
4. text will be slightly larger than on most picture books
A perfect example of this is the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by
Eric Carle.  There are SEVERAL other books in this series (Polar Bear, Panda Bear).  These books are also great books to talk to your child about making predictions. Asking questions like, "What do you think the bear will see next?"

On the same note, Eric Carle has many, many wonderful books for beginning readers. 

I am sure that MANY homes have this book on their child's bookshelf!  There is a second book called "Chicka, Chicka 1,2,3".
These beginning reader series of books are my absolute favorite!!!  There are TONS of them in the series and they are all FABULOUS.  I HIGHLY recommend any/all of them!

You can't go wrong with Clifford!!  This adorable dog has been around for years!  There are MANY, MANY, MANY books in this series!

A WONDERFUL series!!!!  Another one with many, many books in the series and a great book for making predictions and full of repetition!

 David Shannon is a wonderful author/illustrator.  Many of his easy picture books are for school-aged kids, but this series is fairly new and a great place to start when looking for beginning reader books.  As I was looking on Amazon for the cover, I noticed there have been a few more titles added to the series.

I hope these help to point you in the right direction!  Happy reading!

**All images are from

Monday, January 9, 2012

From When I Was Little...

Here are my sister and my favorite books from when we were younger.  I remembered a few, but thanks to Becky's steel trap memory, here are ALL of the most loved books in our house from "back in the day." 
 This book, for some reason, has a major place in my heart.  I can remember my heart aching when Harry went home after his big adventure and his family didn't recognize him (because he was so dirty!).  Harry was so sad and I was too!  I've bought this book for several friends kids, but the one that we read was only printed in black, gray, and white!!
This book...I can hear my mom, right now.  Sitting on Becky or my bed, and in her best Grover voice BEGGING us not to turn each page.  As we did, her voice (excuse me, Grover's voice) became more and more pleading..."PLEASE DON'T TURN THE PAGE! There is a MONSTER at the end of this book!"  What a great memory!!!
 My mom read most (if not all) of The Chronicles of Narnia books to us.  Becky might have been to young to remember, but I know I do!

Big props to my sister for remembering these next two books.  We read them ALL the time.  What I remember most about this book (after seeing the cover it all came rushing back to me!) was how absurd the story line was. Even when I was little, I remember thinking "This is crazy!" And that's exactly why I loved it and couldn't read it enough!!!

 Doesn't the cover alone make you want to read this book??  This story, even though I knew it wasn't/couldn't be true, was magical to me.  The entire time, I can remember thinking, "But what if....just what if it could really happen??"
My sister and dad have a special bond over these books.  My dad doesn't love reading, much like my sister growing up.  However, something about this series of books made them the most avid readers when they were in their hands.  They would read these together and laugh and laugh.

 I called my mom to see what books she remembers reading to Becky and I when we were little.  My mom didn't even stop to think.  This first book flew off of her tongue like she read it yesterday!  It is a sweet counting book about a family of rabbits. 

A classic...what more is there to say??

My mom said that she owned this collection of Beatrix Potter stories before Becky and I were born.  She read all of the stories to us several times.
STILL a beloved character today!  I picked this cover specifically because I remember it!  Who doesn't love the silly but so genuine character that is Amelia Bedelia??

What were your favorite books growing up???  I'd love to hear about them!!!

**All images are from

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Favorite...Illustrator

When it comes to "easy picture books," the illustrator has just as important a job as the author.  My favorite illustrator is David Catrow.  I don't know how many books he has illustrated, but it's A LOT.  His illustrations are HILARIOUS. They bring a funny book to an entirely new level.  When I read his books to my students, I am constantly stopping to throw my head back and laugh because of his pictures.  The books that I have read, that he has illustrated, are great for young kids up to elementary. 

Here are a few of my favorites:
I read this book on the first day of school every year. I have several copies of it in my classroom.  That's how much I love it!  Molly is a little (tiny!) girl who isn't going to let her height stand in the way of being herself. She even uses her differences to change the school bully! 
This is another book that I read the first few days of school.  This little girl likes herself the way she is...even if she had a green nose, or pointed spine, or blue teeth! 
I ALWAYS read this story to my class around Christmas.  It's so funny and the kids LOVE it.  Murry has to step in as Santa for the night, after an elf accidentally knocks Santa out cold! 
David Catrow has illustrated several poem books by Alan Katz.  They are a FABULOUS team.  All of these poems are HILARIOUS and they are written to the tunes of different songs. The title of the poem from the cover is supposed to be sung in the tune of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."  This is the first of two books.  The second one is called "I'm Still Here in The Bathtub."  They also have a great book of poems about Christmas called, "Where Did They Hide My Presents?"  LOVE THEM!!!!

**All images are from

"How Do I Make My Child Love To Read?"

On the way home from school, I was thinking about the blog that I posted yesterday.  I was thinking how the books that I mentioned were all chapter books and how a lot of parents probably think that those level of books won't really apply to them right now because their kids aren't even school age.  In my first post, I talked about what ignited my passion for children's literature.  But what I didn't talk about is how I have ALWAYS been an avid reader.  I attribute that to two things: 1. My kindergarten teacher.  Not only was she an amazing teacher (according to my parents...I don't remember the academics part so much), but I remember how she loved us.  It was the first time I realized that someone other than a family member could love you.  She made learning to read fun.  And second, (this, I am positive, is the most valuable piece in the puzzle that causing my love of reading.)  My mom read to me from the womb.  And I don't just mean that she read to me (and my sister) every night.  The love my mom had for reading and books was translated in how and what she would read to us.  When she read, she used voices. When she read, she had the best inflections and expressions.  She would read to us ALL THE TIME.  I remember my mom reading The Hobbit to my sister and I when I was 8 years old (Becky would have been around 4).  In the summer, my mom always took us to the library.  My mom never complained when Becky or I asked her to read "Harry the Dirty Dog"  or "There's A Monster At The End of This Book" over and over and over.  Each time she used the same funny voices and expression...just like it was the first time we'd ever heard it.

I say all of this to let you know that I FIRMLY believe that it is never too early to saturate your child's world in books...any and all sorts of books.  In my 11 years of teaching, I get the same question over and over, "How do I make my child love to read?"  My first question to them is, "Do you like to read?" and 95% of the time, their answer is no.  I tell them that not all students will love to read and that is just the way they are wired.  I do tell them, however, LEARNING to read and LOVING to read are two different things.  And no matter how much they push their child to read for fun, it won't work...and really all it will cause is frustration for everyone involved.  I don't ever remember a time that my mom made me read to her (I'm sure there were times that I had to for school).  I do, however, remember when I asked if I could read to her. 

As I type this, I think that I need to rephrase my earlier statement.  My mom didn't create a love for reading.  My mom created a love for stories.  She would use her voice to make it all come to life.  And I knew, from day one, that I couldn't wait to do that on my own.    My mom didn't push books down our throat...she made it something that we craved each day.  THAT is what I use in my classroom every day to help students love to read. 

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when parents come back to me, years later, and tell me that their child found the love of reading in my classroom.  I know I'm not a mom.  I know I don't have to get my child to read 20 minutes each night because that's what the school requires.  But I do have 22 seven and eight year olds-every day-some who are scared of books because reading is hard for them.  Some who are good readers, but just have no desire to pick up a book.  I take it as a personal challenge to show each of them the love of stories.  And by learning how to read or picking up a book, they can enjoy those stories too.

When I started this post, it was going to be a few sentences about my mom and the love of stories.  Guess I had more to say than I realized!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Favorite

My love for children’s literature started my junior year in college. We were given the assignment: read 200 Caldecott medal winners and honor books and write a summary for each. As enormous as this assignment was, it ignited my passion for children’s literature. I use the word passion because that is exactly what it is. It’s more than a love or a desire. Passing on this passion for reading is what fills my heart with joy. There is nothing better than hearing a child say, “Are you going to read us a book now?? PLEASE???”
So here I am…starting this blog, to pass on my passion for books to you, that you might share it
with your child.
It would only seem fitting to start a blog about children’s books with my favorite author. That man is Roald Dahl. He has written many, many books…most of them for children. Here are my top favorites-ones I ALWAYS read to my classes, each and every year.

The BFG: A Big Friendly Giant befriends the orphan Sophie. Together they work with the Queen of England to rid the world of “human bean” eating giants! The BGF is my favorite character that Roald Dahl created. He is loving, honest, kind, and gentle. I’ve always said that if I have a daughter, I’d like to name her Sophie because of this book.

Age: Amazon says that the book is for kids 7 years old and up. I think most 7 year olds would have a hard time reading this on their own because of the “silly” way the BFG talks.

The Witches: If you allow your child to read/watch Harry Potter or don’t mind them reading about magic, then your kids will LOVE this book!! A little boy (Roald Dahl never gives the main character a name) and his grandmother take a vacation to Norway for the summer. While the little boy works on training his white mice to do tricks, he runs into a room full of witches!! Can the little boy and his grandmother rid Norway of the Witches?? Read to find out!

George’s Marvelous Medicine: This might be one of my very favorite books that Roald Dahl wrote. It is always one of the favorites of the students, as well. George has a very grouchy and angry grandmother. One day when George’s parents are away, he decides to replace his grandmother’s medicine with his own marvelous concoction!!! The results are stupendous!!

Age: This is one of Roald Dahl’s “mini-novels.” (not sure what the technical term for that is!). It is a MUCH easier read than the first two. Most 7-8 year olds could read this book on his/her own fairly easily.

Side Note:

1. Many of the Roald Dahl books refer to an adult drinking beer or whiskey. It is never an detail in any of the books I have read. It is more of a mention – like you and I would say “a glass of wine with dinner.” Not an “issue” in my opinion, but I know that many parents would like to know that it is mentioned.

2. Most of Roald Dahl’s books are great read-a-louds for children 6 and up. Because Roald Dahl grew up in Wales, Norway, and England, his sentence structure and grammar usage can be unusual. (Example: “Whipped cream isn't whipped cream at all if it hasn’t been whipped with whips, just like poached eggs isn't poached eggs unless it's been stolen in the dead of the night.” ― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”)

3. Not all of his books are for young kids. The book Revolting Rhymes is a book of poetry that is geared more towards junior high age kids. As with any book a child is going to read, it’s a good idea to read it first!

So there you have it! Some of my favorites! 

**All images are from