Thursday, November 29, 2012

gift of reading

My cousin is married to an awesome lady named Lindsay.  She and her family seem to devour books like candy.  She has a blog all about helping kids learn to LOVE books and I have been so inspired by her.  I love this recent post that she put up on giving your kids books for Christmas.  I plan to follow every piece of her advice.  I’m going to find a way to get into a scholastic warehouse sale in December, have my kids pick out a bunch of books and then wrap them for Christmas.  I want to make books the bulk of our Christmas this year.  I want a house full of learning, so I guess I need a house full of books.  I almost want our house cluttered with books.  I am also going to make an early new years resolution and make sure my kids see me reading more than they see me on the computer or texting.  I want to read while they are around so that they know how much I love it. 

During hurricane Sandy we had a read-a-thon. (We had TWO days off, and even though it was silly since the storm didn’t hit us very hard, I was tickled to have my kids at home for two unexpected days!)   Everyone got their coziest things from their beds and all the books they could carry and the staleing ends of their Halloween candy and we snuggled up in the living room and read for a good hour or two while Peter napped.  It was fantastic.  I want that to happen more often.

Have I said on here that my very favorite part of being a mom right now is reading to my kids at night?  I love reading picture books to Peter and Em in their own rooms.  It’s short and sweet and they both are quiet and heavy on my lap.  But mostly, I love reading chapter books to the big kids. It is so calm, no one is mad (except when the chapter is finished and it’s too late to read on), we are all engaged and experiencing something together.  We have the greatest chats about such interesting things.  This is the one parenting task that Jeff and I fight over.  We each have our own chapter book we are reading and usually one of the books wins out over the other because it is at an especially exciting part, so that parent is the lucky winner of a nice quiet 30-60 minutes of reading out loud.

Lately we’ve been reading books that I have REALLY liked.  I’ve decided to start reading some of the classics that I want to re-read from my old school days.  The past few days we’ve been reading the first part of Little Women since they are so Christmassy, and my kids are loving it!  Even Charlie.  A few times I asked if I should skip past some parts that seemed a little tedious and confusing, but they both protested and said they thought it was ‘so interesting.’  I especially love Hazel’s comments.  During Little Women she has commented a few times on how the March girls are MUCH better behaved than our family and how she wishes we acted like them.  I love reading books that, through the stories, are teaching my kids things that they won’t take from me, no matter how many times I lecture them.  Stories written by someone else, read together, somehow sink in.  It’s magical.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to document a few of my favorite children’s books on here, for family history and for anyone else out there who is looking for good books.  It’s hard to have a book you love and not share it with others.  Books beg to be shared.

Here is a list off the top of my head of some of our favorites lately:

Bedtime board books:

Hug by Jez Alborough


This is Peter’s favorite book right now.  And I love it too because it has turned him into a hugger, and who doesn’t want their last baby to be so excited about giving out hugs!?  There are very few words, but such a sweet story of a little gorilla who needs a hug but can’t find his mom.   Heidi used to read this book to the nursery kids every week at church and then I copied her when I was nursery leader and we spent a good 3-4 minutes of nursery time hugging each other.

Goodnight Gorilla

Good Night, Gorilla

Most people know this one I think, but it’s one I’m going to save for my grandchildren.  Peter LOVES it right now.  I love how much there is to see and notice, and how every time I read it I see something new.  Peter mainly loves the page that’s all black with just the eyes.  His little eyes pop and he gives me an open mouth excited little smile every time we turn to it.  I think he is even getting the simple storyline. 

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon

Yes, I know, another classic that I’m sure you know.  But, another one that I need to buy 4 of to pass on to my grandchildren.  I’m falling in love with this book all over again with Peter.  There is so much to see and I love the poetry of it as it gets darker and quieter.  It’s calming to our souls.  The other night, right around bedtime,  Peter was playing with a little flashlight he had found somewhere and, because he wouldn’t let me take it out of his hands, we used it during story time.  We turned off all the lights and used the little flashlight to read the books.  The little circle of light that it projected was like a little spotlight on each of the objects in Goodnight Moon.  It made the book even cozier and sleepier and simpler and beautiful. 

10 Minutes till Bedtime

10 Minutes till Bedtime

I liked this book the first time I read it, but it has grown and grown and grown on me until now it is my favorite bedtime board book of all time.  Just wait, you’ll see.  There are so many little details to giggle at and notice and look for.  It can be liked on so many levels.  Peter can find Elmo and motorcycles and bananas and strollers in it.  You can spot scenes and other characters from other Peggy Rathmann books.  You may not be wowed the first time you read it, but after the umpteenth time you’ll be hooked.  I think books that can be read over and over and over again and still entertain the parent are like gold because there is a stage where your child just wants to read the same book every night. 

10 Little Babies

Ten Little Babies 

Very simple and sweet, with the most adorable illustrations.  And the last page makes me tear up right now (read about that back here).


Picture Books for Em:

Leonardo the Terrible MonsterLeonardo, the Terrible Monster (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))









This has been a favorite for a while now.  It’s funny and touching and teaches kids about friendship and empathy in such a simple funny way.  I love my pal, Mo Willems.

Time to say Please by Mo Willems (we have to say that whole phrase when referring to this book with Em. Somehow the title isn’t complete to her without the authors name attached)

Time to Say "Please"!

Em has this book memorized and is always sitting on the couch reading it, or reciting it at the right times.  It teaches manners in such a funny, cute way.  I love it, even though the message doesn’t seem to be sinking in for Em all the time.  One of these days it will (I hope).

Dr. Seuss – Horton Hatches the Egg and the Pale Green Pants – These are two of our favorites right now, but really, you can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss (unless you’re reading If I Ran the Zoo which is WAY too long for a bedtime story in my opinion).

The Little Brute Family

The Little Brute Family

Oh how I love this story.  The pictures are so funny to me and the story is charming and teaches such a cute lesson about how passing on little nice feelings can change a family. 

Hazel’s Amazing Mother

Hazel's Amazing Mother (Picture Puffins)

My sister gave this to me when Hazel was born.  Now it is one of Emmeline’s again and again books.  She especially loves how Hazel has to eat all of her doll Eleanor's treats since Eleanor can’t open her mouth.  It’s about the power of mother love, which is always a good subject.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble



Funny and touching and perfect for kids (and parents) in the Why? Why? Why? stage of life.

The Happy Lion

The Happy Lion

A classic that will always have a place in my heart.  I remember reading this to Hazel when she was about three and it was the first book with a real plot line that we both equally enjoyed.  I remember feeling so bogged down by reading board books that had little plot and mostly were about pointing out pictures and building vocabulary.  Then we read this from the library and I had this awesome realization that reading to my kids could be entertaining to me too!

Chapter Books for Hazel and Charlie

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Just starting this one, not sure how it’s going to go.  Will it be too much for them?  I remember LOVING it as an 9th grader. 

The Chronicles of Narnia – Oh how I love these books.  We still have one left to go to get through the whole series.

The Mysterious Benedict Society – we just finished this a few months ago.  It took us a while to get through, but we were all pretty into it and it spurred some great discussions.

Understood Betsy – we are reading this one right now, and it’s super interesting to me and to them.  Kind of a random book, and not my favorite writing ever, but some interesting parent/child issues to discuss.

Red Pyramid -  Jeff and the kids just finished this one, about Egyptian Gods and poor me didn’t get to read to them for a few weeks since everyone was so into it. 

Ida B – You MUST listen to this one with your kids.  It is so well read and so fun to listen to and talk about.  A real girl power book that talks a lot about the heart.

Little House Books

Hazel’s Favorite Books Lately that she’s reading on her own:

Horrible Histories – we picked these up at museum gift shops in England.  They’re funny and easy to read and teach kids the gruesome details of British History.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle – I haven’t read any of these, but Hazel says I must, and I really should because they are giving her all kinds of solutions to my parenting dilemmas.  I guess Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has tricks to solve most problems. 

Ivy and Bean

I can’t get her to read the American Girl books, but have heard that they are great.  She says they’re too girly.

Charlie’s Favorite Books that he’s starting to read on his own:

The Boxcar Chidlren –  Charlie had to read all through the first one of these on his own as homework.  It was rough for him, but he did it and now he is on his way downhill.  He hit the mark where suddenly reading isn’t so much of a chore.  He’s starting to want to read, which is delighting me to no end. 

My Father’s Dragon – this was Jeff’s favorite at Charlie’s age so, since Charlie idolized Jeff, it is now his favorite

Magic Treehouse – I know these are not high art, but they are full of interesting facts that Charlie just loves.  Especially the ones about wars and ninjas.

Ok, I could go on, but have to go get the kids from school.

Please add your all time favorites to my list.  I’d LOVE to get some more ideas!

Happy Holiday Reading/Book Gifting!


  1. I could write a BOOK in response to this wonderful post, but I need to backawayfromthescreen, so all I'll say is get Mrs. Piggle Wiggle ASAP! My parents could always tell when I was reading and re-reading those - my laughter rang out across the house! xo

  2. I too love books and can't help but buying more and more! Here are two I had to recommend:
    The Twenty-One Balloons is a novel by William Pène du Bois, awarded the Newbery Medal. The story is about a retired schoolteacher whose ill-fated balloon trip leads him to discover an island full of great wealth and fantastic inventions (info copied from Wikipedia). Your Charlie would love it! And I recently found Betsy and Tacy (not Tracy). This delightful series is written by Maud Hart Lovelace between 1940 and 1955. The books are written at progressively more difficult reading levels as the characters age. They follow the adventures of Betsy Ray and her friends and family from the time that Betsy turns five until she is in her early twenties. They take place in the very late 19th and early 20th centuries. (again copied from Wikipedia). Hazel would enjoy them (at least the earlier books in the series. I thought they were so delightful. Thanks for your post. Kirstin

  3. My 9 year-old daughter loves Roald Dahl, especially The BFG. Her other favorites are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. She's trying to read Ella Enchanted right now, but it's a little too difficult, so I'm going to have her read that one aloud to me so I can help her when she gets confused with the plot. My 7 year-old son loved Danny the Champion of the World and is now reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. I occasionally have my kids read poetry to me or I read poetry to them, just so they can be familiar with different ways of writing. We are getting our children Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling for Christmas and at some point, I'd love to get the original Winnie the Pooh stories -- they are so funny and sweet!

  4. Great books, Saydie. We LOVE Horrible Histories, and if Charlie likes those, I bet he would love Horrible Science. You can get them in a box set just like Horrible Histories, and they have fantastic titles like Disgusting Digestion, Bulging Brains, and Evolve or Die. My kids love to pick one up and read for half an hour here or there. I also just discovered Horrible Geography that we might have to try for Christmas...

  5. Books I suggest: anything by Diana Wynne Jones, the Dear America books, books by Brian Jacques, the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Ballet Shoes.

  6. We listened to almost every Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book in the car while driving around last year. We loved them. After you read them, you may have an unaccountable urge to give your child a name like Juniperberry.

    Hazel might like to try The Mysterious Benedict girly girls there. Just an incredibly clever girl with a bucket.

  7. Love your post Saydi! And I LOVE lindsay's blog, too! The scholastic warehouse sales are the best. If you go early, they have build a can fill an ENTIRE box of books for $25.00! Jacksons very favorite picture book right now is, Pete the Cat and His Grooy Button. It is very fun.

  8. Fabulous post! So could you give me a list of books your kids want for Christmas?

  9. We have loved "Where the Red Fern Grows". An amazing, amazing story. I also read "Wonder" and my 3rd grader is reading it now. Your mother liked it and it brought a lot of good discussion. I love good books.

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  11. What is your cousin's blog?



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