To continue this week’s back-to-school theme today, those of us with school aged children share their experiences with summer reading and what books they were reading as they prepared for their big first days back to school. And if you missed Tuesday’s post check it out for book recommendations on hot topics for various grade levels, along with links to helpful resources like study guides, classroom lesson plans, apps and websites.
Getting our family ready for the first day of school was an equal mix of nerves & excitement (see photos). Since the boys are entering first and second grade, we didn’t focus on ‘back to school’ books as much as ones that were appropriate for their reading levels.
Emerson spent the week before school finishing up Invisible Stanley. The book he chose for completing the summer reading program at our library. He realized early in the summer that he can read chapter books on his own with Junie B Jones and a Little Monkey Business. It is so fun to see him grow as a reader.
Lucas was hard at work finishing up his summer challenge set by us so he could get a few fish and a tank for their bedroom. It was a mix of workbooks & reading. One of his workbooks was The Sylvan Fun on the Run First Grade Word Puzzles. The maze crazy puzzles were his favorite. He also enjoyed I Like Fish, a Margaret Wise Brown reissue coming out in the spring of 2014 as a Step Into Reading.
In August my one-year old strapped on her new backpack filled with school supplies and bravely ventured off to her first day of pre-preschool. Her teacher assured me that she stopped screaming bloody murder right after I walked out of the classroom — I think I’m still recovering. We prepared by reading a few of Mia’s new favorite board books. Open the Barn Door, Find a Cow is a fun way to practice animal sounds, which is a really important one year old skill, and it also has some pretty intriguing flaps. Grow Up! is part of an adorable series by Nina Laden and fitting for the occasion, and this oversized version of Pat the Bunny keeps her busy with so many exciting things to touch and feel.
Summer reading really had a lot of promise this year. The Seattle Public Library ran a great summer reading program where any kid who read 10 books would be entered in a contest to win breakfast at the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. It was motivating, but for how long? Well, let’s put it this way: one out of three read the 10 required books. The good news is that it was my youngest boy, who, much to his frustration, is a bit behind his twin sister in reading. They just entered first grade (today!) and while Ruby can read a picture book fairly fluently, Ezra is still struggling with words that need to be sounded out.
My oldest, who just started 6th grade, did not finish a single book. But I’m willing to place blame where blame is due: myself. I want Levi to be my middle grade reader. I want him to love what I loved at his age, read the books I’m reading now. More importantly, I want him to read what I don’t want to read so he can help me with my job! But that’s just not Levi. He reads video game guides and graphic novels. He loves Skylanders and Minecraft. So as I was browsing the Random House adult catalogs the other day I came across a biography of the man who created Minecraft. I decided to see if he’d like it. I downloaded the manuscript for him and handed it to him before bed. The next day he admitted he stayed up late into the night reading and had gotten through 20% of the book. This is not a book aimed at his age group, but it’s certainly subject matter he’s interested in!
So as we begin school, Ezra’s reading Ten Eggs in a Nest (a new Beginner Book for Spring with a great math tie-in, available in January), Ruby is learning the Pledge of Allegiance in Pat Mora’s new book about gaining US citizenship (out next April), and Levi is honing his Minecraft trivia. Here’s to a new year (and L’shana Tova to those celebrating the Jewish New Year today as well)!
We’d love to know what your kids read to get psyched about going back to school. Here’s to a great school year for all!
Whether you’ve been back to school for weeks or today is your first day, whether you’re a student, an educator or a parent, whether you’re in elementary school or high school, today’s RAoR post is a must-read! Below you’ll find a slew of wonderful book recommendations for various subjects and grade levels, along with links to helpful resources like educator guides, book discussion guides, apps and websites.
The Civil Rights Movement:
I Have a Dream Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
August 28th marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s legendary I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His words paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson’s magnificent illustrations make this a stunning celebration of that famous moment in history. Play the CD of MLK’s speech (included) before reading it aloud together with a child.
Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colon
In this moving picture book just out in paperback, author Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
September 15th marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteen Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the horrific event that inspired this award winning novel, one that appears on school reading lists throughout the country. The movie premieres on the Hallmark Channel on September 20th.
Learning to read with Rocket:
Rocket’s Mighty Words by Tad Hills
This is the latest Rocket book from bestselling author illustrator Tad Hills and it’s perfect for introducing early reading concepts to the littlest readers. Preschoolers watch the little yellow bird teach Rocket simple words, like n-e-s-t and m-u-d. And beginning readers will love practicing their new literacy skills alongside another brand-new reader-Rocket! It is an oversized board book so it’s perfect for sharing during storytime or lap time.
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
In the original picture book starring Rocket, kids can follow along as the little yellow birdie helps Rocket sound out words, then string them together to make sentences and before they know it they’ll be reading along with him.
Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Once kids have discovered the joys of reading, Rocket is ready to introduce them to the exciting craft of storytelling in yet another adorable picture book that is perfect for the classroom or as a family read aloud.
- Rocket downloadable poster.
- How Rocket Learned to Read app for iPad.
- How Rocket Learned to Read website with videos, activities, info about the author, and more.
Novels for kids ages 8-12:
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein creates a fun and exciting tale, set in a library with a cast of quirky characters and a mystery that readers will be racing to uncover. With a quick pace with short chapters, this makes a great family or classroom read aloud and the author has created a whole online component that kids can do in their own libraries (see link below).
Jump Into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall
Now out in paperback, this is an impeccably researched work of historical fiction, written by a former teacher and museum historian, with outstanding characters and great curriculum hooks (WWII, African American History).
- Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library downloadable study guide.
- Jump into the Sky downloadable educator guide.
Paired text for the Common Core State Standards:
The Common Core State Standards roll out in 2014 in most states, and one of the focuses will be on pairing or grouping works of fiction with informational texts.
Get kids reading with these two great series:
The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library is a kid friendly series that covers a range of interesting topics and is both entertaining and educational.
National Geographic Readers are cool, exciting and easy to read and they also cover a wide range of topics and reading levels.
Carl Hiaasen’s books for young readers (ages 10 and up) are hilarious, entertaining and thought-provoking. In Scat, kids can read about the panthers that inhabit the Florida Everglades, and then they can become experts on all things big cats by reading load of interesting facts in National Geographic Kids Everything Big Cats.
The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne is beloved by teachers and kids alike. Now with 50 fiction books in the series, and nonfiction companions to go with most, this is the ultimate paired text!
- National Geographic Super Readers website with downloadable posters and prizes.
- Seussville.com with games, printable activities, author study, and lesson plans for the classroom.
- MagicTreeHouse.com with games, printable activities, lesson plans and more.
Read it before you see it:
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
James Dashner’s bestselling dystopian thriller series has won the hearts of countless teens and adults alike and next year, readers can see it on the big screen when it hits theaters February 2014. But first they must read and discuss the books!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
With obvious curriculum ties (WWII and Holocaust), high schoolers should read this one before they see it in theaters on November 15, 2013.
Each month, we present a panel of book bloggers with a question relating to children’s books and we share their views here on the blog. If you missed last month’s post on books with strong themes of change, you can read it here.
This month, as summer winds down, kids go back to school, and the heat subsides (hopefully), I thought it would be fun to ask our blogger panel what books filled their lazy summer nights, their vacations or long weekends. Below you’ll find many great book recommendations from some very avid readers, so get ready to add to your to-be-read pile!
I’m on vacation right now! And I’ve just finished reading the new Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at The End of The Lane. Gorgeous writing, though I still prefer The Graveyard Book. Before that, I caught up on a classic I’d missed growing up, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
When I return, I’ll go back to reading middle grade and young adult, but on vacation I always try to read adult books.
- Joanne, My Brain on Books @JoanneRFritz
Somehow it always seems like books read in the summer become instant favorites. I think that must have something to do with lazy days and the joy of a late night read with no concern for the alarm clock! Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now had been near the top of my to-read pile for longer than I should admit. And what a read! It was that kind of book that you have to take breaks from every now and then because the story is so tough and raw and real. It was hopeful, sad, gut-wrenching, funny, and truly one of the best books I have ever devoured. I also revisited The Penderwicks, because it’s not really summer without those four girls!
- Carter, Design of the Picture Book @carterhiggins
I read a lot this summer, but some of my favorites include: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which I expected to love but still outdid my expectations; The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, officially the first vampire book I ever enjoyed and in fact I adored it; Run Like a Girl by Mina Samuels, a fantastic exploration of women and fitness; Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a hilarious satire with surprising depth; Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella, another light and hilarious story from the master of chick lit; and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, which lived up to all its hype and surprised me with its unpredictability.
-Rachel, Rachel Ann Hanley
My summer pleasure read is Marisha Pessl’s “Night Film.” I’ve been a fan since “Special Topics in Calamity Physics,” so I was very eager to give her new one a try. I’m only a few chapters in, but it’s living up to all the good things I’d heard! I love the suspense, the scrapbook/ find-the-clues-yourself techniques, and the hauntedness of it already. Now if only I can find a few hours on the deck before Seattle’s sun goes away…
-Tegan Tigani, tsquaredblog.blogspot.com
I have two favorite books from this summer. I listened to Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta and it was exactly my kind of story! I also just finished Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas and cannot say enough good things about it. I loved Throne of Glass but this one just blew me away!
- Heidi, YA Bibliophile @hmz1505
We’d love to hear what you read over the summer, or what you plan to read over this coming Labor Day weekend. Have a safe and happy holiday!
Now and then we turn to a serious but necessary topic. I’ll never forget the day I was in a bookstore and a mom came in with a very specific request. The family cat had died and she was looking for a book to help explain it to a small child. Of course I jumped in and recommended The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst–I described the story and by the time I was done we were both a little teary. This incident helped me to further understand two things: it’s ok to be publicly sad when talking about the loss of a pet, and books help all of us to get through a difficult time. It’s important to let children, and adults too, know that it’s ok to love our pets and it’s ok to be sad when they pass on and most importantly it’s good to remember.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvad
Barney the cat has died, and the young narrator is sad, the whole family is sad. They have a funeral and everyone shares the good things they will remember about Barney. There is discussion about where Barney is now – up in Heaven or under the ground, one of the many questions kids will have. They only come up with nine good things and are a little stumped for a tenth……..eventually our young narrator fugures out number ten: “Barney is in the ground and he’s helping grow flowers. You know, I said, that’s a pretty nice job for a cat.”
The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jim Lamarche
In a story told with a delicate and graceful touch we see Tiger Rose, now grown old, saying her goodbyes to her favorite places and fellow creatures. She’s tired and knows it’s time to move on, and with a leap into the sky she does. Jane Yolen’s poetic touch in tandem with Jim Lamarche’s paintings makes this a reassuring way to talk with kids about the loss of a beloved pet.
I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
Hans Wilhelm tells the story of a little boy and his dog Elfie. They grew up together”, constant companions “but Elfie grew much faster than I did. Over time our boy notices that Elfie can’t do as much as she used to and the vet tells him that “Elfie is just growing old”. He knows that he loves her, and makes sure to tell her every night “I’ll always love you”, and later, remembering that makes him a little less sad.
Back to the question about what happens after our pets move on from our world, do they go to Cat or Dog Heaven? In these books, one for cat owners and one for dog owners, Cynthia Rylant shows readers what Heaven is like for their pets. It’s a wonderful joyful place where they can play and sleep and just be cats and dogs all day and night. A lovely and reassuring way to help children process the loss of their pet.
Desser the Best Ever Cat by Maggie Smith
The story of a cat named Desser, told by the little girl who loved him best. Desser and his little girl grow up together, he is her constant companion, he’s the one waiting for her when she gets home from her first day of school. But she sees that Desser is getting older and knows it will soon be time to say goodbye. Remembering all of the happy times with “the best ever cat” helps to keep him alive in her memory forever.
Up in Heaven by Emma Chichester Clark
This one may be the book that made me cry most every time I presented it. The story of a boy whose dog passes on, deals with not only the loss, but the idea of when he might be ready to bring a new dog into the family. It takes time, but eventually he knows that his old dog is in a better place and that it doesn’t diminish his love for, or memories of that pet if he loves a new dog, too. (The US edition of this book is out of print, but you can find a copy at your local library.)
Whenever I’ve sold a book about the loss of a pet to any of my bookstore buyers there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear a personal and sometimes heartbreaking story about their own pet–letting me know that love for our pets is universal, and I should never to leave the house without extra tissues .
Thanks for joining us today on RAoR, I hope these books are helpful to you whenever you need them. Please share your thoughts in our comments section.
We read them with a cat or dog,
On the beach in sun or fog.
Some kept neatly on the shelves,
Some we want all to ourselves.
Others still we need to share,
We just need books everywhere!
We all know that books are often one of the best things in our lives, if you’re reading this you are probably someone whose life wouldn’t be the same without books, just like us at Random Acts of Reading. To honor that attachment we all have to books, today we’re sharing an assortment of fun pictures of books and things inspired by books.
Thanks for joining us at RAoR today, we hope we’ve provided you with a laugh and some inspiration!
Please share your thoughts in our comments section.
Another month yields another crop of new paperback editions of some of our favorite books, you know you’ve been waiting for these! And bonus, some paperback originals from our friends at National Geographic, too. Get ready for a trip to the bookstore!
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. by Marjorie Priceman
In this perfect companion to Marjorie Priceman’s How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, our baked goods inspired traveler and her dog stay a little closer to home but still manage to have an exciting and informative adventure. This time they trek “from New Hampshire to Hawaii, from Alaska to Texas—in search of the coal, cotton, clay, and granite they need to create all their baking tools.” Fun for the whole family, but don’t be surprised if you’re hungry for pie when you’re done reading this one!
Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Barry Moser
I must admit, I was first attracted to this picture book on the basis of Barry Moser’s amazing artwork. Once I read the first few pages, however, I was immediately captivated by Denise Doyen’s clever rhymes and inventive wordplay reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. This is a wonderful read-aloud, but not for the faint-hearted, as it deals with the fears we all have about the night and dangers lurking. –Tim
In the Bag! by Monica Kulling
Three volumes in the Great Idea series are now available in paperback. Monica Kulling has a gift for writing about history and inventors and making it fun. In these three books you can learn about the humble beginnings of things we couldn’t live without today–the Kodak camera, the flat bottom paper bag (my favorite!), and the steam engine. Check out our recent guest post from Monica here.
National Geographic Readers: Amelia Earhart by Caroline Gilpin
National Geographic Readers: Anne Frank by Alexandra Zapruder
Two new biographies from National Geographic Readers that highlight important historical figures. In Amelia Earhart young readers learn about the fascinating life and legacy of this pioneering pilot and adventurer, whose disappearance over the Pacific in 1937. And in Anne Frank they about the brave and tragic life of the young girl whose diary kept while in hiding from Nazis is one of the most important and insightful books of the World War II era.
You’re looking for something fun, funny and maybe just a little bit educational you say? Well National Geographic has just what you’re looking for! If you took the perennially entertaining “Mad-Libs” and added science and nature themes this is what you’d have, and in full color. Never a dull moment, perfect for your next car trip, low tech camping adventure or just to keep everyone amused on that next rainy day!
The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau
Max lives in a normal village, normal except on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays everyone stays safely in their homes, doors locked and windows shuttered, because strange and unpredictable things happen on Wednesdays. On this particular Wednesday Max looks out the window and sees something, something this curious boy can’t resist looking into….So begins a wacky, perilous adventure. Will their sleepy little village and Max ever be the same again? Read and find out.
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Georges and his family have downsized, moving from a house to an apartment after his Dad loses his job. He’s recently had a falling out with his long time friend, and it seems like Georges whole world is getting smaller. The he meets Safer, a new neighbor and life starts to get interesting. Safer is a self-proclaimed spy and he let’s Georges in on his “activities”, they make a good team, there are mysteries to solve and secrets that will be revealed for both of these new friends. This is a gentle story that packs an emotional punch from the author of the Newbery Award winning When You Reach Me. Perfect for sharing with your whole family.
That’s Creepy by Crispin Boyer
Creepy is not just a Halloween theme, there’s creepiness in the world all year round! National Geographic and Crispin boyer have outdone themselves to bring you this volume of “all things creepy”–here’s just a sample: “how do you separate fact from fiction? Do haunted houses, spooky ghosts, and UFOs have a place in history, or is it all just a bunch of hooey? Crawling with spine-tingly facts, eerie anecdotes, and fun information, this book is all about everything creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky.”
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Fairy Tale retelling are all the rage these days and Kill Me Softly doesn’t disappoint. “When Mirabelle runs away from her godmothers to Beau Rivage, the city where she was born, she hopes to discover answers about her parents’ tragic death. Instead, she finds a group of unusual teenagers, each with a fairy-tale curse. In this strange seaside city, scenarios from fairy tales are played out over and over, and Mira has her own part in the drama: she’s a “Somnolent,” doomed to prick her finger and fall into an enchanted sleep like Sleeping Beauty. The problem is she’s not interested in the charming (but slightly boring) “prince” who is fated to be her romantic counterpart. Mira is much more attracted to suave, handsome Felix, who bears a curse he can’t, or won’t, explain to her.”Sarah Cross turns a fairy tale into a thriller and you just might find yourself staying up late to find out what happens next.
Shift by Em Bailey
What a perfectly creepy thriller this book is. Imagine the new girl comes to town, she has a bit of a sketchy background and seems to have an ability to transform herself chameleon-like into the spitting image of her BFF of the moment. Then imagine that she wants to be your BFF. Nothing wrong here, right? You’ll stay up late with the lights on reading this one. Don’t miss it.
Thanks for joining us today at RAoReading, we hope we’ve given you some great suggestions to add to your list for your next trip to the bookstore!
Please share your thoughts in our comments section.