Monday, January 31, 2011

365 Days of Reading: Month 1 in review

As I suspected, returning to the "real world" after the holiday break proved to be a bit challenging on the blogging front, but I am happy to say that we've read to our kids every day, minus a day when the baby went to bed early. With Lady B, it hasn't been a challenge because she loves books and always asks to read them. The baby is starting to show interest but really can't sit for more than 5 minutes without wanting to do something else. That's completely typical for his age, and I've learned from experience that constant exposure to books will help him develop a love for them.

Some old favorites with Lady B continue to be the Knuffle Bunny trilogy. She especially loves to see how much Trixie has grown from book to book. Just last night, we noticed that Trixie is reading an Elephant and Piggie book on the airplane in Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion. After that, we set about reading every Elephant and Piggie book we have in the house. My personal favorite is Watch Me Throw the Ball!, but Lady B is still partial to We Are in a Book! . Another book she discovered yesterday that's been sitting on the shelf for quite a while is Kersplatypus by Susan K. Mitchell and illustrated by Sherry Rogers. I reviewed it here three years ago, and it was nice to pick it back up again and "kid-test" it. In other news, Lady B is truly enjoying "reading" to her baby brother, and he is so captivated by her. She has a few books memorized, so it's fun to watch her read to him. Last night, she surprised her daddy when he missed a word, and she corrected him. She's so much fun.

My personal reading has suffered a bit. I finished American Gods and have been engrossed in Washington: A Life. For the first time in a very long time, I haven't wanted to read anything else, but I'm only getting in personal reading time during my twice-a-week commute to work. Most nights, I crash into bed soon after the kids get to sleep. So, I'm sorry to say I haven't gotten far into the book, but it very well researched, and the narrative is very captivating unlike a lot of biographies.

For the month of February, I'm hoping to get in more personal reading time and of course continue reading to my kids every night.

The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chalk by Bill Thomson

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I absolutely love wordless picture books for so many reasons. They spark imagination, they take the pressure off of kids who are having trouble reading, and they can also help break the language barrier between kids and older family members who read in different languages.

Bill Thomson's Chalk is one of my new favorites. Three kids are walking toward a park on a rainy when they notice a bag of chalk hanging from a "ride-on" T-Rex.

They take the bag of chalk, and one of the girls draws a sun. Suddenly, the sky clears, and the sun shines brightly overhead. Another girl draws butterflies, and soon after, the kids are surrounded by fluttering butterflies. The boy in the group gets a bit adventurous with the chalk drawings, and the kids are soon running in terror from a ferocious T-Rex.

Bill Thomson's acrylic and color-pencil illustrations jump off the page and come to life. You see close-ups of the menacing T-Rex, looks of fear as the kids escape, and looks of pure exhilaration as the kids discover what they can do with the magical chalk.

This is a book that celebrates true imagination, and it's beautifully executed.

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books (March 2010) | Source: Review copy from publisher | ISBN: 978-0761455264

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Reading Challenge: Days 3 & 4

After being off from work for over a week, readjusting to the "real world" has been a challenge, but reading with my kids is important. I've built into our nightly routine since Lady B was a tiny baby, so now it's something we both look forward to at the end of the day. The kidlets have been super exhausted, and the baby went to bed soon after bath time tonight. So no reading for him tonight. We got a couple of books in last night. I want reading to be a fun experience, and I'm careful not to force it if the kids are tired or cranky.

However, unless Lady B is extremely exhausted, she asks me to read a book to her after bathtime and before bedtime each night. I normally let her pick out 3 books she wants to read; she usually begs for at least one more, and we often get half an hour of reading in each night. Tonight, she was pretty tired, so we read for about 15 minutes before she told me she was ready for bed. I'm sort of glad because I'm not a huge fan the book she picked out - The Big Green Book of Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss.

It's a collection of six of Dr. Seuss's beginning reader books:
  • Great Day for Up! 
  • I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! 
  •  I Wish That I Had Duck Feet 
  •  Maybe You Should Fly a Jet! Maybe You Should Be a Vet!  
  • Wacky Wednesday  
  • Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog?
Tonight we read Wacky Wednesday, I Wish That I Had Duck Feet, and Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog? I'm hot and cold with Dr. Seuss. I absolutely love Green Eggs and Ham and Horton Hears a Who, but Oh the Places You'll Go makes me cringe, and The Cat in the Hat is just creepy.  Don't hate on me, Seuss fans. And I'm also hot and cold with The Big Green Book of Beginner Books. Wacky Wednesday is fun to read with a little one because on each page, you have to find wacky things whether it's a turtle stuck in a tree or a man driving a car from the backseat. However, as the book progresses, you're asked to find more and more wacky things until you have to find 20 things on one page. It may not be so bad if Lady B didn't get stuck on the numbers 15-20. So we go from 15 to 17 to 16 to "11-teen."  Tonight, she had fun on the first few pages, and then she said, "I'm too tired to find more wacky things. Can we read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet now?"

That particular book has a fun rhythm as the main character imagines what it would be like if he had duck feet, a whale spout, antlers, and more. I also love looking at the 1960's style illustrations, especially the boy's father who is always smoking a pipe. What I don't like about the book are the instances when the main character imagines using his new body parts to make the supposed bully Big Bill Brown jealous and to even knock him down at one point. I cringe at the message it sends that you can use your new "talents" to finally get back at a bully. It's then that I have to have a conversation with Lady B about how it's not nice to knock people down, etc. In any case, even though I'm not a huge fan of the book, she loves it, and I'm happy to read her the books she chooses.

Over the past two days, I've been doing my own reading when I've had time. I finished AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, and even though the book was a fast, interesting read, I'm not inspired to hike the trail. Camping for months, bugs, outhouses (or lack therof in many cases), injuries, etc. are not that appealing. Perhaps hiking a section or two would be better for me. :-)

I also read a good portion of American Gods on the train to and from work today, and it's really getting good. I also used the remaining value of the Kindle gift card I got for Christmas to buy Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. I suppose I'm on a bit of a nonfiction kick.

Oh - and I also have one teeny Kindle complaint. I miss flipping through books to find passages. I don't think I'll ever stop reading paper books. I have a long commute to work, and I love not having to lug around books and having the ability to pull out a small device and choose which books I want to read. But I do miss the touch and feel and smell of "real" books.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

365 Days of Reading - Days 1 and 2

So far so good on my challenge to read every day with my kids. We've had a lazy and rainy weekend, perfect for sitting inside and reading. I still feel kind of icky about referring to my children by name on the internet, so for now, they're Lady B and Lord X. Yesterday, Lady B and I read lots of books together.
Two of note include Mo Willems' We Are in a Book!, and Mary Pope Osbourne's Magic Tree House #45: A Crazy Day with Cobras.

 We Are in a Book! is the most recent of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books. In the book, Gerald the elephant and Piggie the pig realize that they are being watched and soon learn that the watcher is a reader and that they are in a book. They decide to make the reader say something out loud and choose the word "Banana!" As they begin to crack up over making the reader say banana, Lady B started snickering, which made me snicker until we were full on belly laughing. It's a super super book.
(Source of book: Purchased a personal copy)

We're just starting on our chapter book journey. I've read a few out loud to Lady B, and so far, she definitely enjoys listening to them. This is our second Magic Tree House book. This one, A Crazy Day with Cobras, is set to release on January 11, and in it Jack and Annie visit ancient India in search of an emerald that can help break a spell. We've only made it through the first chapter, but I'm a real fan of the Magic Tree House books, and this one is great so far.
(Source of book: Review copy received from publisher)

Now, with Lord X, I have board books scattered in easy-to-reach spots throughout the house. I can hardly get him to sit still for more than five minutes, but while he's playing I'll pull a book out and read the words. He's still in the "book-eating" phase which is why I continue to be a huge proponent of board books. A favorite he loves is The Very Hungry Caterpillar; he especially loves poking his fingers through the holes in the food the caterpillar ate through. He loves the book so much that he will have a caterpillar-themed first birthday party. I'll attempt to make a caterpillar cupcake cake. Anyone have a good cupcake recipe? Lady B has specifically requested chocolate cupcakes.
(Source of book: Purchased a personal copy) 

Now for me - I'm trying to make more of an effort to read for myself this year. Last year, I'd be so tired at the end of the night that I'd fall asleep after having read five pages. I got a Kindle for Christmas and have it loaded with some classics and other books. My reading habits are odd, and I'm normally working on five or six books at a time, reading whatever I'm in the mood for. So, right now, I'm reading two nonfiction books:

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller - This is the author's narrative of his thru-hike of the Appalachian trail. He decides to quit his mundane office job to hike the entire trail. He goes by the name of AWOL during his hike and records his trials, struggles, and rewarding moments on the trail. I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book, and it's a super fast, exciting read. I bought the Kindle edition of this book because I'm a lifelong resident of VA and have been on the Appalachian trail in various places in VA. I'm not certain I'd ever want to hike the entire trail. I'm not a fan of roughing it. However, even though AWOL suffers a few injuries and hikes through bad weather more than a few times, I find his motivation inspirational. He also does a great job of describing the other hikers he meets along the way, and I'm finding myself hoping to read of more encounters with certain hikers.
(Source of book: Purchased the Kindle version) 

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Inspired to learn more about Washington after a fall visit to Mt. Vernon, I downloaded this book to my Kindle. I'm only in the early stages of his life where he has just inherited Mt. Vernon from his brother, but so far, it's been a detailed and engaging read. I often find that biographies are hit or miss, but Chernow's narrative is compelling, and I'll continue to read more.
(Source of book: Purchased the Kindle version) 

I'm also reading two fiction books:
American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman
I'm sort of ashamed to admit that the only work of Gaiman's that I've read is The Graveyard Book. Since reading that book, I've been following his blog and tweets and have wanted to delve more into his books for adults. I thought I'd start with American Gods because it's the one I see most people referring to when they talk of Neil Gaiman. I'm about three chapters in, and am loving it so far. It's dark, strange, and has a lot of supernatural activity - right up my alley.
(Source of book: Purchased the Kindle version) 

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Now that I have my Kindle, I couldn't resist downloading a free copy of this book. I absolutely love the story, and now that I can highlight and make notes without destroying a book, I'm really enjoying digging through and marking my favorite passages. I'm also trying to find words to explain why I love this so much and why it affects me the way it does, so maybe I'll share some of my favorite passages as I come across them.
(Source of book: Downloaded the Kindle version) 

So, that's what we've been reading over the past two days. Tomorrow, it's back to the real world, and it will be more of a challenge to continue reading every day, but I'll make every effort to do it.

The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

365 Days of Reading

Wow - it's 2011. This year marks 11 years of living and working in the DC area, 13 years of togetherness with the hubs, and eight years of marriage. Also this year my kids will turn one and four, and The Well-Read Child will turn four in November. You know, this year has been challenging, especially after returning to work as a mom of two. But after long days of working, dinner, bath time, and everything else that comes with the job, my favorite part of the day was snuggling with my kids reading books.

My daughter is almost four now, and reading with her has turned into a super fun and rewarding time. I started this blog in 2007 because I wanted to capture memories of reading with her. Along the way, it turned into something more - I found a community of people who were just as passionate as I was about reading with kids and literacy, I started receiving books in the mail, and through reading other reviews and posts, my TBR pile grew tremendously. Somewhere along the way, I seemed to forget my initial purpose for the blog, and I'm finding that I'm forgetting special reading moments with my kids.

New Year's Day always marks a time when I'm setting new goals for myself, and my mid-February, many of them have fallen by the wayside. This year, I'm only making one resolution -  to read with my kids every single day and to also read something for myself. I want this blog to be a record of this. I hope to share what I'm reading, funny stories, questions, and comments. I want it to record 365 days of reading with my kids.

Cybils Shortlists Announced

Happy New Year everyone! Today, the shortlists for each of the 11 categories in the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (Cybils) was announced. Check them out here. There are some really great books on here. Kudos to all of the panelists for your hard work!