Monday, February 23, 2015

Tiny Monsters


What do you see in this picture? Beauty or terror?

For my three-year-old, walking through a butterfly rainforest was terrifying. Anything that moved scared her. Instead of being awed by the colors, she screamed at every butterfly she saw, certain that it was going to hurt her. No amount of reasoning or soothing could convince her otherwise. She finished our brief time in the exhibit in Daddy's arms, squeezing her eyes closed and hiding her face in his shoulder. Which was probably good because we passed a small dog on the lap of an old man in a motorized wheelchair at the end. And we all know how terrifying lap dogs are.

Wait, you didn't know that? In her world, they are. She ran away from a stone turtle on someone's lawn till she realized it was "just pretend." The huge T-Rex skeleton? Cool. Butterflies? Terrifying. She's also very afraid of monsters and wakes up screaming some nights because of monsters (aka shadows on the wall). I've tried telling her that there are no such thing as monsters.

Then one morning she told me that the night before she found tiny monsters on her pillow--so she smashed them! It's made me think. Should I stop trying to convince her that monsters aren't real? Because to her they absolutely are. That strange shadow on the wall at night is without a doubt a monster. And in a different guise, there are monsters that she will face in the world. Maybe it would work better to help her believe that she can beat the monsters in her life. If you see a monster, you face it, you smash it, because you are brave and you are stronger than the monsters you will face, both real and imagined.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dear...

Dear Storytime Librarian,

It is possible to read a story and carry your voice so a group of kids can hear you without using a high-pitched nasally half scream that terrifies my baby. I'd love to keep bringing my kids to storytime, but I don't want to scare my baby every week.

Thank you,
Concerned Mom

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Some Favorite Picture Books

To get kids excited about reading, it helps to have books they love. Here's a list of some favorites around our house.

Anything by Mo Willems. If you don't know who Knuffle Bunny is, if you're not friends with Elephant and Piggie, and if you've never had to stop the Pigeon from driving the bus, you're missing out. We love everything by Mo Willems. We always stop at his spot on the library shelf to see if there's anything new by him--or old favorites. A less known Mo Willems that my girls love is Leonardo the Terrible Monster.





King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently is a charming story about a boy who fights off dragons with his brother and friend. One of my girls has chosen this book every single night since we got it from the library.



Press Here by Herve Tullet was another favorite library find. Press the button and fun things happen with the dots on the page. I was surprised at how much my five year old loved reading and playing with this book. In an age where she's familiar with tablets and things really do change with the touch of a button, she had fun imagining along with this book.




We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. This book is best read by daddy with lots of enthusiasm. When she was only two, my daughter could recite this book along with him.




Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is my favorite picture book ever. My boy will be Max for Halloween some year.




Other books my kids love:

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Snowy Day by Ezra Zack Keats
Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
No, David! by David Shannon
Robert Munsch books
Look and Find books

What are some of your family's favorite picture books?

Monday, January 26, 2015

7 Tips for Raising a Reader

About a quarter of American adults don't read a single book in a year (statistic found here). My mom had six children--every single one of us are readers. We have very different reading tastes and some of us read more than others. I was the biggest book nerd and the one that went on to get a college degree in reading books (also known as an English major). But 100% of us read books as adults. That's no accident.

So how do you raise a reader? Some kids are drawn to books. I pretended to read before I learned how to read. As a child I would literally stay up for hours reading books under the covers. But for those who aren't, here are some things I've learned from how my mom raised me and how I'm raising my kids.



1. Own books. Your kids won't read much if there aren't books around. Books can be expensive, but they don't have to be. Yard sales, thrift stores, and library sales are a great place to find books for a dollar or two, often less for kids' books.


2. Let your kids touch the books. I certainly have books that are more expensive and that I keep up high, but for the most part, I let my kids handle books--even my books. Teach them from an early age how to treat books, but don't make books off limits for little hands. Of course, you should wait until they're old enough to know not to try to eat the book, but other than that, let them at it.


3. Read aloud to them. Read to babies, toddlers, and school aged kids. Read books as a family. My mom did this one really well--most days we sat together through a chapter of Little House on the Prairie or some other family-friendly classic. Once, my dad read a book to the family. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series to my oldest daughter before she turned two.


4. Give books as gifts. In the months leading up to Christmas, I look for books on sale or nice used books. Each child gets a stack of new books for Christmas. A present is exciting.


5. Visit the library. Even better than cheap, library books are free. Story times can be fun, but we go for the books. I let my girls browse the shelves and pick out things that appeal to them. I also look for things I think they'll enjoy. My oldest has recently discovered (by going to school) that some people speak a different language, so I found a book that has lots of different ways to say hello.

6. Create a reading space. We read everywhere, but we have a reading room (we're lucky now, but it can be a corner or a nook--once our books were at the end of the hall). In this same vein, create certain times for reading. Besides reading throughout the day, each girl gets to choose a book to have read to them before bedtime.

7. And last of all--READ. As in you, the parent. You don't have to read as much as I do, but don't be that statistic. Not everyone loves fiction, but find a topic that interests you, that will help you in your career or hobby. Read how to books, read magazines, read cookbooks, read newspapers. My dad was not a big reader, but he loved his Louis L'Amour and even though that's not my usual style, I read every single one he had while I was growing up. I cherish two Louis L'Amour books I have from his collection. Let your kids see you reading and talk about what you read.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Table Manners

We've been working on getting our children to say please and thank you more. So my husband has been saying, "Thank you for this awesome dinner you made, Mommy!" at dinner. I've tried to remember to thank him and the children for any help they did in getting dinner on the table.

It started catching on! All on her own, tonight my five year old said:

"Thank you for the awesome dinner, Mommy. I mean, it's not really that cool of a dinner, you know, but..."

Time to work on tact.

P.S. It was pasta salad. So it was not the most awesome dinner, but it was dinner. And her definition of an awesome dinner would actually be hot dogs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review: Paper Towns



I read Paper Towns because I've read John Green before. I like picking up books without knowing what they're about. And I loved the cover. Even though some of his other books are set in Florida, I was surprised to find that this one is set in Orlando and included many places I'm familiar with.

On the surface it's typical John Green fare--geeky high school boy is in love with hot, slightly crazy girl who does off the wall things and thus drives normal boy crazy. But I liked how the book reflected on how we see each other, how we construct other people to be who we want them to be.

On a road trip the characters play a game where they look in the cars around them on the highway and make up stories about the people inside them. Then one of the character says that the stories they make up tell you more about the storyteller than about the person in the other car. How we see others reflects who we are.

It reminded me a little bit of my daughter asking me who my mom was. I told her it was her grandma--I thought she already knew that. But she persisted, "No. Who was your mom when you were a little girl?" Grandma was grandma to her. And she could see her as her mom's mom, but couldn't imagine that she had once been a mom of young kids.

I do recommend this book, but fair warning--it is like hanging out with teenage boys and thus there is some crude talk. This is also the second book I've read in just the past few weeks that is being turned into a movie without me knowing that when I started it. So if you're going to see the movie, definitely read the book first.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Best Books of 2014



Ten minutes before midnight on December 31, 2014, I finished reading my 50th book of the year. I haven't read that many books since 2011. I didn't think I was going to make it, but the fireworks and music from other people's parties kept the baby awake, so I had time to read. Yes, I'm super cool.

Here are some of my favorite books from the year.

Best Read:
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
I read this for book club and had no idea what to expect. It was excellent and surprising. I highly recommend it. (I tried reading another Julie Berry book and couldn't get into it. I don't know if this one is way better than her other work or if I was unfortunate enough to pick one that isn't as good as her others.)

Best Reread:
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
I chose this for book club and enjoyed it again. I like Shannon Hale and I maintain that this is her best work.

Best Fairy Tale Retelling:
The Girls at the Kingfisher's Club by Genevieve Valentine
I love retellings of classic stories and fairy tales. But it's not often that I come across one as original as this one. Twelve Dancing Princesses makes 1920s speakeasies.

Best Older YA Read:
Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez
A fun thriller with some excellent writing.

Best Younger YA Read:
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
A father goes out to get milk for his kids' cereal and comes back with a silly story of what took him so long. I read this on my own, but look forward to reading it aloud to my kids sometime.

Best Nonfiction:
What If? by Randall Munroe
Scientific answers to ridiculous hypothetical questions. I'm not even that into science and I enjoyed it. I think someone who really enjoys and understands science would appreciate it even more.

Other Books I'd Recommend:
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

What were your favorite reads of 2014? I'm always looking for recommendations.