Travel Buddies for Family Reading


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “The Busy Librarian”.

It’s summer break and the Winner family is gearing up for vacation and we’re bringing along some of our best pals to make sure our bedtimes away from home are as home-like as possible.

Booklight? Check.

Pengiun stuffed animal friend? At the ready.

Book pals? Sounding off!9781442435827

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe
This book is the an exceptional read aloud, especially for bedtime. Monkeys are set loose in the book and, just as things are getting way out of hand, a plan is hatched. The energy and anticipation of what will come next is enough to wear any young one out, and the satisfying ending eases you into a place of restfulness. This one will probably be read every single night. And throughout the day.9780763675189

The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
This wordless story has more characters and interwoven plot lines than Game of Thrones, and that’s a very good thing when it comes to bedtime favorites. Choose a character and tell his or her story aloud as you follow the character through the day and throughout the day’s adventures. My son never seems to pick the same character to start out, but always ends up switching over to his favorites by the end. I’m talking about you, kind witch looking for those strange mushrooms!


George by Alex Gino
My wife and I are both reading this book, but we’re reading it separately. It started out that way because I couldn’t wait another moment to start reading this story of a boy who identifies as a girl and wants nothing more in the world than to be cast in the lead role of Charlotte in her’s school’s production of Charlotte’s Web. Read this story of a transgender youth feels immediately like you’re sharing in something very special. Something that not everyone will understand or agree with or find the same value there in, but one that’s important because of the way it challenges us to think about others through the lens of diversity. The subject matter is actually very personal to me and it’s one that I hope finds a home with just the right readers, both young and old, as I think it’s a very important story to tell. My wife and I read this book almost as a book club with one another, discussing the story daily throughout different points of our day when George was on our minds. I’ve found myself reading excerpts aloud to friends and I’m hoping to do the same over vacation with some of our extended family members.


Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Now here’s a book we’ve actually been saving just so that we could read it aloud together. My wife and I read aloud The One and Only Ivan, Katherine’s Newbery-winning story of a gorilla who lived out most of his life in a shopping mall, and the moment the advanced copy arrived on our doorstep we knew it would be something worth setting time aside to enjoy aloud as a family. There’s an imaginary cat. There’s a family on the verge of losing everything. And there’s a boy in need of a friend. I think we’ll be quick to fall in love with this one.

No matter what books you invite along on your travel plans this summer, I hope you’ll consider sharing them with all of us.

Keeping Children’s Minds Engaged With Summer Reading Programs #FamiliesRead


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Balancing the Chaos”.

 Now that it is summer, we’ve gotten out of our typical routine of homework and after school activities. With my children’s current addiction to the iPad and more particularly Minecraft, I’ve decided it’s time to re-implement family reading time with summer reading, especially with the National PTA’s Reading Challenge coming up.


Just before school let out for the summer, I let the kids choose a couple of books from the their teachers scholastic book orders, many of the selections geared toward summer reading. Now when I think they have had too much screen time, we pick out a book and take turns reading.

We were given a series that I have been wanting to purchase for over a year, The Magic Treehouse Series. These amazing books take you on a historical adventure through time – perfect for my littles’ imaginations. I decided to introduce my oldest the the first book, “Dinosaurs Before Dark”, and we dove into the story, waiting to see what happened with the Magic Treehouse, surprised that the characters, Jack and Annie were transformed to the prehistoric world. In reading this book together, we seemed to bond a little more through imagination. At the end of each chapter, we stopped to talk about what we’d do if we’d discover a dinosaur. I love having these types of opened question with my kids and seeing the spark in their eyes as their story unfolds.


Even though we have a lot of fun things planned for the summer, as displayed on our Summer Bucket List, I’m certainly planning on continuing reading with the family during the summer. Did you know that nearly 40% of parents say their children do not spend enough time reading for fun? Approximately 73% of children get ideas from their parents for books to read for fun – and my kids are certainly the example. I don’t think they’d ever pick up the Magic Treehouse on their own, unless it involved Minecraft.I was thrilled to find out that the National PTA is kicking off a Family Reading Challenge this summer. During the month of July, the National PTA will empower families with tips and activities that encourage ongoing reading. They are challenging you to share photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how and why reading together is a fun and treasured family activity.

Want to join in on the National PTA’s Family Reading Challenge? Find out about the program, sign up and more via this website: National PTA Family Reading Challenge.


Seven Simple Tips to Develop a Love of Reading in Your Child


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “My Best Laid Plans.”

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I recently quizzed my kids on some impromptu thoughts on their dad. It was for a gift to him.

Some of their responses were, of course, hilarious. How are you and Dad different? “He has bigger bones!” my son quipped seriously.

Some answers were sweet. What would you change about Dad if you could? “Nothing,” my daughter said firmly. “He’s perfect the way he is.”

They both agreed that if he was a character, it would be one from Star Wars, though they could not agree on which one. My son adamantly stated it was Darth Daddy, while my daughter was sure it was Obiwan Dadobi.

But something very interesting caught my eye. Both of them agreed wholeheartedly that they loved reading with their Dad.

How are you and Dad alike? We both love reading!

How do you know Daddy loves you? He reads to us!

What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? Read!


I hear that we are ‘lucky’ in this respect. Both of our children are voracious readers.

My daughter started reading at the whopping age of two. My son took a little longer. He was more interested in defeating villains and crashing cars into walls. But at about five he, too, developed an insatiable appetite for written words.

Perhaps there is a bit of luck and genetics at work, but there is also some hard work invested in their appetite for books. In the process, I have learned a few things I would like to share with you.

In celebration of this summer’s PTA Family Reading Challenge, here are some very easy and tangible steps you can take to encourage your children to love reading.

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  • DON’T FORCE IT. A love of reading cannot be forced upon a child. In fact, as any parent can tell you, trying to force a child will only draw a battle line in the sand. Instead, try some fun ways to entice your child to pick up a book on his or her own. It’s sort of like getting them to eat broccoli—it’s an acquired taste.
  • IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY. We read to our children from the time they were in the womb. From the day they were born we read to them several times a day. Reading to a child from an early age, even when they cannot understand the words, creates a sense of bonding and togetherness that they will continue to associate with books for the rest of their life.
  • READ OFTEN. Books and reading time have been an integral part of their childhood. We read sporadically throughout the day with them, but my husband and I both read a chapter to each child at night. Read together, and read often. Reading is a learned love.
  • READ IN FRONT OF THEM. Even when my son showed no interest . . . no, especially when my son showed no interest in reading, we made a point to read in front him often. We would all cuddle on the couch and ignore him with our noses buried in books. Then we would purposefully laugh aloud, show each other pictures, and exclaim loudly about the content. It didn’t take very long before his insatiable toddler curiosity had to come see what all the fuss was about.
  • CHOICES, CHOICES, CHOICES. Keep a variety of books, magazines, and other reading materials scattered around the areas where your children play. It’s important to make sure that you choose a variety of materials which might catch your child’s attention. You never know what might nab his or her interest. Go ahead! Max out those library cards and scatter those books around the surfaces of your house. Eventually, something will captivate them. Better yet, take them to the library and let them load up a bag with whatever their hearts desire. It is much easier to get them to read something they chose than something you are nagging them to read.
  • DON’T CRITICIZE. If your child loves comic books, go with it. Or perhaps it is a magazine with their shiny pages that gets their attention. Time to subscribe! Don’t worry so much about what your child is reading, but rather that he/she is reading.  Once they establish a habit, they will eventually broaden their spectrum.
  • LEAD BY EXAMPLE. One of the most important factors in passing on a love of reading to your children is leading by example. Turn off the television, put away the video games, and pull out the books. Read alongside them. Read to them. Laugh aloud. Discuss your newest finds in front of them. But for goodness sake, just read!
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In our home, reading together is one of our greatest, most treasured activities. Reading is a special time of bonding and companionship, not a chore.

There is nothing more satisfying than walking into the room and seeing my family all snuggled down in comfy blankets with their noses buried in a great book, their imaginations exploring some far away land. They are the precious  memories we will all cherish for the rest of our lives!

I hope that these tips get your children on track for a lifetime of reading and that your family, too, can experience the pure  joy of reading together!

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Check out my new fantasy fiction release: The Crystal Keys: Champion of Destiny

National PTA Family Reading Challenge and Blog Party #FamiliesRead


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Cherry Blossoms the Blog”.


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I love to read. I have spent countless hours in my life with my nose buried in a book. I get lost in what I’m reading. My imagination takes flight and I am off living the story. Reading is like living in someone else’s imagination. Getting to experience something that we might never be able to do in reality. It’s the best.

I know that reading helps little kiddos. Not only does it open up their minds to new and exciting adventures, it actually makes them smarter. Reading to your kids and encouraging them to have the desire themselves has actually been proven to raise testing scores.

I have shared my love for reading with my own children and I feel I have started them on a love affair of their own. My ((almost)) five year old has already taken off reading and is doing awesome. It is so fun to watch her reading books to her little sisters. Even my three year old can look at a book and tell you the story through the pictures. We’ve read the books enough together that she can put it together by looking at the pictures and using her memory for the story line. She can “read” it using her imagination alone.


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One of my favorite books as a child was from the Sesame Street series called, “Don’t Forget the Oatmeal!”. My mom used to read it to me with different voices for each Burt and Ernie and all the rest. She always emphasized certain parts and when I read it to my kids I find myself doing the same thing. Every time one of them brings me that book to read, I think of my own Mother and my heart melts a little.

My family has joined the  Family Reading Challenge this summer. We’re excited to spend time cuddled up together to tackle some enormous piles of books. Take the challenge with your family! Keep those little minds going all summer long. #FamiliesRead


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Join the National PTA’s Family Reading Challenge Blog Party #FamiliesRead


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Mommies with Cents!”

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Reading has always been a love of mine.  Finding the time these days is hard but I want my children to understand how fun reading can be.  They love going to the library and my 8 year old loves reading his subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids.  Last summer we started reading the Harry Potter series digitally as well as some of the Magic Treehouse series.  They loved it.  Sometimes we’d take pillows up into the play structure for a few chapters and sometimes we’d snuggle up in LoveSac after a long, busy day.  My kids look forward to this time together.  We haven’t selected any books yet this summer but some I’ve been considering a few that were favorites of my own growing up:

  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Stuart Little
  • Boxcar Children series
  • Little House on the Prairie series
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing

Which chapter books do YOUR kids enjoy?

Here are some useful facts from the scholastic reading report:

  • 61% of low-income families in the U.S. have no age-appropriate books in their homes for children.
  • Good reading habits have a greater impact on a child’s reading skills than household income.
  • Nearly 40% of parents say their child does not spend enough time reading for fun.
  • 73% of children get ideas from their parents for books to read for fun.
  • Where parent engagement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average.

Join me in the PTA Family Reading Challenge!  You can win prizes!  Find out more at

#FamiliesRead with Innovative Ideas for Today’s Digital Learners


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “The Innovative Educator.”

Kids these days. They’re re-wired with a need for constant attention and engagement. They could never do what we did: Sit for hours locked in our room or under a tree with a single book.

And that’s okay.
Don’t knock em. Join em. Help em. Even learn from em.
Nearly 40% of parents say their child does not spend enough time reading for fun but when you take social media into account you realize that is simply not true. Today’s digital learners are not only reading like never before, they are writing too using social media. And that’s a great thing. More and more research shows this is an effective  way to increase literacy among our youth.
Here are some ways we can harness the power of social media to inspire reading (and writing!) and join families everywhere as part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge using social media.
Look with your child at Facebook timelines or pages of some of their favorite people. Read the posts. What kind of posts get the most likes, shares, comments? Read some of your child’s own posts? How could they be more engaging?
Are the images and captions showing the best selves of the person holding the account? What picture is being painted. What are some things you like about how this person is representing him or her self. What could be improved. What have you learned to consider for your own account?
Find some people your child looks up to. Read their Tweets. Which are favorited the most? Which have the most retweets or interactions. What makes a Tweet popular? Reply to, retweet, favorite some of those Tweets.
If you think the children in your world need to brush up on their digital literacy before taking the dive into some of these activities, Common Sense Education has online games students can dive right into to do just that.
DIGITAL PASSPORT (8, 9, 10 year olds)
Young people learn critical skills related to digital safety, respect, and community playing a fun, interactive game that addresses key issues facing kids in today’s digital world.
DIGITAL COMPASS (10, 11, 12 year olds)
Digital Compass gives kids the freedom to explore how decisions made in their digital lives can impact their relationships and future.
Teaches digital citizenship through student-directed, media-rich activities that tackle real-world dilemmas. Teens learn from peers’ experiences then create collaborative projects that voice their ideas for making smart choices.
In the 21st century children are reading and interacting with text in ways never previously possible. Parents and teachers can take advantage of this enthusiasm and ensure students are reading and writing effectively even outside of school hours.

Why We Love Reading #‎FamiliesRead‬

FRE_logoofficialThis post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Savings Mania.”

Photo Credit: Savings Mania

Photo Credit: Savings Mania

As a family, we love to read. Whether it is Cam reading a LEGO magazine (like above), or a book or a magazine, it’s a great way to relax and be transported to a different place.

My son first got hooked on reading when he started reading the Wimpy Kid books. After that, he read the Percy Jackson 5 series. And this summer, he has started reading The Martian, which will be a movie in theatres later this summer.

I love to read fiction books, historical fiction, and non-fiction. I read about one book a week, I am always downloading books. Some of my favorites include The Outlander Series and the Philippa Gregory books.

Did you know?

  • 61% of low-income families in the U.S. have no age-appropriate books in their homes for children.
  • Good reading habits have a greater impact on a child’s reading skills than household income.
  • Nearly 40% of parents say their child does not spend enough time reading for fun.
  • 73% of children get ideas from their parents for books to read for fun. Where parent engagement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average.

So be sure to check out the PTA Reading Challenge this July!

Summer Reading for All

FRE_logoofficialThis post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “From Meredith to Mommy”.

We’ve been doing our summer schedule for almost a week now, and we’re just about getting used to it. The girls aren’t having a “crammed with camps” summer, but they’re also not having a “do nothing” summer, and that’s an adjustment for me. Madison has some sort of activity every day – a 30 minute sports clinics or a swimming lesson, and she’s in an intensive dance program that mimics her school year commitment. Reagan is taking lessons for the first time, and she’s keeping up with her gymnastics as well.

This is all great. Madison is thrilled to be back to dancing, and I love that they’re outside daily in the pool or on the tennis court, but it is definitely busy. We’re not keeping up with the school schedule we had over the year, and the girls are crashing at night, often before I even make it out of the room. When we do have down time, they’re reaching for the iPads. Most of those games are educational, but they’re not exactly what I’d like them to be doing with their time.

So yesterday Madison and I went through her room and made two piles of books. A pile that she can read to me, and a pile that I can read to her.

It’s fascinating what she put in the pile that I read to her. About a year ago I started reading the Little House books with Madison. We started with Little House in the Big Woods, and we read right through, stopping after The Long Winter (when Laura was a bit more grown up). After we stopped a few months ago, we moved into some other novels.

So it was surprising to me that in addition to the Rainbow Fairy and Never Girls and Magic Treehouse books that we’ve had sitting on the shelf, Madison added Little House in the Big Woods right back to the pile. I love that she’s already found the pleasure in re-reading an old friend, finding new things she missed the first time, getting excited as she anticipates her favorite parts.

Both girls are still at an age where they tear through their books at various times during the day, and we save the majority of the read aloud time for bed. But this summer, I think this might be our down time during the day – the moments when we need to sit in the shade and take a break from the running and swimming and dancing – instead of at night, when they can’t keep their eyes open to listen to an entire chapter.

Books Your Kids Will Love #FamiliesRead

FRE_logoofficialThis post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Happy Home Fairy”.


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Reading is a habit that is HIGHLY encouraged in our home.

You can find books in almost every room!

When the boys were babies I kept books on the changing table for them to look at while I changed their diapers.

There are a ton of books in a bin that sits between the boys’ carseats for them to read while we’re running errands (you can read about that HERE – it’s a lifesaver!).

We keep a basket of books on the floor next to our kitchen table that we will often read during dinner if Daddy has to work late.

Plus they are allowed to choose one book for me to read to them every night before bed alongside our Bible reading.

Most nights I will even find piles of books stacked next to the toilet where the boys have their routine #2 sitting before bath – ha!

Having books around is great not only because there are 100 million reasons why reading helps kids grow academically, but also because reading together as a family is magical and creates memories I know my boys will remember forever.

Today I want to share with you a few of the books that our family has enjoyed over the last couple of years in hopes that maybe your family will love them too.


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The End (Almost) by Jim Benton

This book is about a bear named Donut who is told the story is over and he has to leave, but he doesn’t want to.  You will laugh at all the antics Donut tries to pull in effort to keep his spot in the story going.


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Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter

This is BY FAR Happy Baby’s favorite book EVER.  There is a monster named Larry who tells the readers not to push the image of a big red button on each page.  But, of course, you eventually push it and some crrrazy things happen.


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Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Anything by Mo Willems is amazing and hilarious.  We love Knuffle Bunny as well as the recent discovery of the Elephant and Piggie books.


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Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Our school librarian read this to Happy Baby’s class the week before school let out and he has talked about it ever since.  We picked it up at the library yesterday and have already read it 30 times.  It is about a mommy dog who asks her puppy to bark, but instead he quacks and meows and even moos.  She takes him to the vet and some really funny events unfold.

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The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

This book is Happy Buddy’s favorite.  Probably because it has the word ‘Boo Boo Butt’ in it that cracks him up EVERY TIME.  B.J. Novak really delivers a smart, clever and hysterical story that will have your family rolling on the floor with giggles.

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Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham

Finally, this book is about a moose who wants to be a part of his friend Zebra’s alphabet show, but when M comes, the part is given to the mouse and Moose FREAKS out.  It is so funny.

What books do YOUR families read?

– Julie 🙂

National PTA’s Family Reading Challenge Blog Party


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Books in the Burbs”.

When I was sent an email about the National PTA Family Reading Challenge Party, I was super excited.  Reading has always been an important part of my life, and I attribute my love of reading as helping me through graduate school! Why? Because there were so many books I had to read and being a non-reader, I would probably still be trying to get through my first year!


A couple of years ago, I wrote about my favorite childhood author, Judy Blume: “Thank God for Judy Blume!”  It’s quite fitting that Judy Blume also just came out with a new book this month!  As I reflect back on Judy Blume, I’m also reminded of the love for reading I was able to experience with my own children.

While I was pregnant, my husband would read Dr. Seuss books to our little boy (in utero).  It was our family reading time, and it was special.  We were lucky.  Books didn’t have to compete with gaming systems, smart phones, and the internet.  So, when my sons were young, it was easy to pull them away from the tv and have reading time.  It was our nighttime ritual: baths, brush teeth, tuck into bed, read a story or two, then end with prayers.  As our sons grew older, they still loved being read to, so we moved up from Dr. Seuss to The Chronicles of Narnia.  Now, my sons have moved on to Dystopian fiction, still love comic books and superhero novels, and have found their niche in reading.


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Our daughter loves Story Time! She reads 2 Bible Devotionals and 1 book of her choice.  Usually, it is a tale about Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious.  These are stories I did not grow up on, but I have certainly enjoyed getting to know them, through her eyes.  She loves reading and as she reads more, her reading improves, too. I have found that reading a physical book is much easier than reading an e-book for her.  She prefers the tangible experience of seeing the pictures, turning the pages, holding a large book, and has an endless supply of self-made book marks that she has made-with some being in the shape of a Peter Pan hat….hmmmm, maybe her brothers have influenced some of her reading, too! They both take turns reading with her, too, which not only helps them stop and take time to relax, but it also helps strengthen the relationship they have.

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Reading is such an important part of our life, and I am so grateful for the libraries that have storytime during the summer, the crafts and activities they offer to incorporate reading, the books that come out with a kid movie (Frozen anyone?), and the many benefits reading has provided our family.  Below are some of those benefits:

1.  Time stops:  For a short time, nothing else matters.  No deadlines to think about, tv shows or gaming is not a priority, and phone calls aren’t answered.  It’s our family time, it’s sacred, it’s special, and it’s the one time we have in our day to push the pause button.  It’s about reading a story and finding out what happens at the end.  My daughter is still in early readers, but she loves them and we do, too!

2.  Family bonding: It’s so sweet seeing a bunch of adults crammed onto my daughter’s princess sleigh bed, listening to the story.  We get to talk about life issues, too: peer pressure, emotions, what happens in the story, and learning to apply what we read to how we choose to live- especially when reading a Bible Devotional.

3.  Improvement: As my daughter reads, her language skills have improved, her speech has greatly increased, and she is developing better confidence about herself.

So, those are a few benefits we have discovered when having Story Time with our daughter, my sons’ little sister.  However, I know there are many more benefits to reading as a family!  While my family and I each have our own reading tastes, it is nice that for a brief moment, we all are reading something together…no matter how short the time we have together.

I’d love to know how you incorporate reading into a family reading time, or ways you would like to!