The Depth Held in These Pages

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I’ve had a couple of interesting observations today – well, interesting to me, anyway. I have been reading the interviews of several children’s literature professionals (agents, editors, book reviewers) and a common question asked is: “what drew you to an interest in children’s books?” And, not surprisingly, they most often answered: “reading as a child” or listed a favorite childhood book. So, I asked myself the same question. “When did I truly know that I wanted to write books for kids? And Why?” While I have always enjoyed writing, I never took the option seriously until my adult years. And, ironically, I wasn’t a big reader as a child. I do remember several picture books and my awe at “A Wrinkle in Time”, but I didn’t begin to devour books until much later. And my interest in books for the very young never really blossomed until I had my own children.

So, I decided to examine my current passion a little more deeply. To do a little self analysis, you could say. Walking over to the bookshelf in my studio, I spotted several new books, some written by new friends in this wonderful kidlit community. These books bring great pride in my fellow authors and a feeling of hope.

And then there is the section of “old” books – books that I have had since my own girls were young. Just picking them up sends a wave of warmth and bitter-sweet emotion through my body.

I’ve decided that picture books, to me, hold a significance far removed from the stories themselves or even the illustrations. These books hold memories. Memories of hours spent with my two precious daughters perched on my lap, often squished into a chair much too small for three human beings. I remember my inability to turn the pages because my arms were trapped, hearing their gasps and feeling their bodies tense as the conflict rose in the story.

These books also bring me back to a day several years ago when I was struggling to declutter my house. My husband found me sitting on the basement floor, crying softly as I flipped through the pages of these books. The solution, to him, was simple, “well, just keep them if they mean that much to you.” The conflict was, of course, much deeper than that, for me. Those years are gone and will never return. But I still the memories.

I kept the books and continue to read them as I attempt to break into the writing business myself. I know, now, that my desire to write books for families reaches far beyond simple stories. I am attempting to create a conduit for new memories, memories that will, I hope, last a lifetime for others.

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Today I have the honor of featuring Dianna H. Aston. Dianna is the author of several books, many of which have received high honors. Her 2009 book, Moon Over Stars was read by President Obama and the First Lady at an inner-city school in Washington D.C. You can watch the video HERE. Needless to say, her books are enchanting.

When I began this Monster Journey, Dianna was one of the first to jump on board. I am honored to say that she has inspired reading all over the country as part of this challenge to raise kids who “devour books and hunger for knowledge.” Please visit her website, read her books, and keep this journey going. She also offers school visits and critique services.

Take a look at some of the places Dianna has shared her stories in the past couple of months. Thanks, Dianna!

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Stay tuned for more great photos from Dianna H. Aston.

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Attitude Adjustment

Ruth

“You HAVE to read half an hour every day.”

“You’re NEVER going to be a good reader at this rate.”

“Don’t forget to do your reading today. You HAVE to finish your reading log.”

“Quiet down, or I’m going to turn off that television and MAKE you read.”

“We don’t have time to read tonight. It’s late.”

Tell the truth. Do any of these sound familiar?  How many times has “reading” taken a backseat or become a punishment? Someone needs an attitude adjustment – and it just might be you! Developing a positive attitude about reading starts early, but it’s NEVER too late to start.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes. What do they want?  Attention, to stay up later, to get something at the store? That’s a good place to start. A few easy steps can go a long way toward changing attitudes.

Attention: Every child craves attention. In our busy lives it is often difficult to take the time to give our children the attention they need. BUT… all it takes is fifteen minutes a day to read to your child. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. Make it a priority to end every day with a few quality moments. You won’t be sorry.

Staying up late: Make books a reward, not a punishment. What child wouldn’t jump at the chance to hide under the covers with a flashlight and a good book? Use a fun timer to signal end time. Allowing them to indulge in this simple pleasure while viewing it as a treat will have a positive effect on their attitude about books. And, it just might make bedtime a little easier.

Goodies:  Every kid wants something at the store, right? Why not make your “treat” a book?

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Sharing Ideas

I’ve discovered, over the years, that teaching is all about stealing. What? Okay, let’s call it sharing. The sharing of ideas. The creative ideas for inspiring our kids are abundant and the internet has made it easy to access. I have developed a pinterest board of links, inspiration, book lists and more… just for you. I have to admit that I haven’t had time to investigate them all and I continue to add to them daily. Please take a look and comment below with your reactions and own ideas.

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Pinterest Board

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How to Make Children’s Books Part of Everyday Language In Your Family By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Your kids can probably sing songs off the radio word-for-word. They might be able to quote commercials from TV. But do they quote from their favorite books on a regular basis?

I love that in recent years pieces of children’s books have become part of our everyday language. Before J.K. Rowling put her stamp on children’s books, none of us knew what a Muggle was. Now, it’s common language.

Children’s editors and agents are always looking for books that they describe as “re-readable.” The ones that kids want to reread over and over again. They don’t tire of them because they have something special thing about them.

Why Would I Want My Kids Quoting Children’s Books?

1)      Books can give you connections as a family.

I can still hear my mother’s voice when I read THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK. What can be better than everyone sitting around the table making up new verses to IF IT’S SNOWY AND YOU KNOW, CLAP YOUR PAWS? That’s what we were doing in a recent snowstorm because that book was stuck in our heads.

2)      It shows kids that reading can be fun!

Instead of memorizing their favorite commercials, they are memorizing books (or parts of books). A goat that’s jealous of a unicorn in UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT by Bob Shea makes for hilarious reading and even better quotables in my house.

3)      It helps kids develop language skills.

If they are hearing books and enjoying them as pre-readers, then it will make reading something they WANT to do. CHICKEN CHEEKS by Michael Ian Black is a book about butts. It’s hilarious and short. At least if your kids are talking about butts, they’ll be using alliteration and rhyme to do it. They are learning language without realizing it!

I’d also recommend Shel Silverstein poetry for a bit of wordplay. My favorite poem to quote is “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too” from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS.

Our Family Favorites

CHICKEN CHEEKS by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes is the butt book I mentioned before. So hilarious my son wants to always share it with his Papa.

CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat is another book that we quote around our house. And we steal words from it and chant pieces of it with my kids’ names substituted in for Crankenstein. 

IF IT’S SNOWY AND YOU KNOW IT, CLAP YOUR PAWS by Kim Norman, illustrated by Lisa Woodruff is great fun for the winter. You can help but sing along because it’s pitch-perfect.

NAKED MOLE RAT GETS DRESSED by Mo Willems worked its way into our everyday language because who doesn’t think the words “naked mole rat” sound funny. Every time our toddler gets in the bath, we call him a naked mole rat. 

TRUCKERY RHYMES by Jon Scieszka takes familiar songs and makes them about trucks. It’s another singing one that you won’t be able to get out of your head.

UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT by Bob Shea is a recent favorite of ours, but we can’t stop quoting it. We also change the words around to fit our family. 

FRIENDS’ FAVORITES

I asked some of my children’s literature loving friends (who also have kids) what some of their favorite quotable books were. Here’s what they shared with me.

CAPS FOR SALE Esphyr Slobodkina

CURIOUS GEORGE by H.A. Rey

ONE FISH, TWO FISH, RED FISH, BLUE FISH by Dr. Seuss

MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL by Virginia Lee Burton

PETER RABBIT by Beatrix Potter

STEPHANIE’S PONYTAIL by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

 

PLEASE SHARE

What are some of your family’s favorite books? Are there books that your kids quote? We are always looking for some good reads at our house. Please share them in the comments.

Bio: 

Marcie Flinchum Atkins is a fourth grade teacher by day. She writes for children in the wee hours of the morning and tucks in her own wee ones at night with a few quotable books. Marcie is a writing coach at kidsarewriters.com and writes about the writing life and how to use mentor texts to teach kids how to write at www.marcieatkins.com. She has a MA and MFA, both in children’s literature, from Hollins University.

marci

 

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For the Love of Reading – It’s a Date!

Giselle reading

There’s no denying that time management is an issue for everyone. Evenings are divided between dinner, sports, after-school activities, jobs, homework …. the demands are overwhelming. Finding even a moment for one more task isn’t easy. At the risk of subjecting you to another parenting guilt trip, I hope that you take this challenge seriously – plus, I’m willing to bet you’ll actually enjoy yourself.

Fill in the blank in this sentence: I want my child(ren) to feel _____ when reading. How did you answer: Joy? Confidence? Curiosity? Satisfaction? I’m sure you didn’t say frustration or self-doubt. Unfortunately, frustration and self-doubt is a reality for far too many children when it comes to reading. The good news is, we CAN influence these reactions and attitudes in our children with little effort or time. I’m not talking about reading instruction or even homework, I’m talking about having fun with your child.

What would you say if I told you that you could help your child(ren) to move further toward the Joy end of the spectrum – in 15 minutes a day? What if I told you that these minutes could help make your child’s life easier, forever, and strengthen your relationship with them at the same time? Children who struggle with reading suffer every day. Encouraging a positive relationship with books can go a long way toward ensuring a healthy attitude about reading and writing and an increase in self-confidence.

The earlier you start the better, but it is never too late. Like diet and exercise, it is a habit that takes commitment and resolve to accomplish. You won’t always feel successful. You will miss a day here and there. And you will have to kick yourself into gear once in a while, but don’t give up. Just do it as often as possible. If you only have 10 minutes, no problem. It takes about 5 minutes to read the average picture book.  No guilt – no fear – Just do it!  Spend some quality time with your child(ren) and enjoy every minute of it.

Family Book Dates only requires few minutes a day. It is a time that everyone looks forward to – because it is hyped as a treat – a special part of the day. If you’re already doing this, great, hopefully you can find some ways to improve upon your practices.

Here are a few suggestions for starting or improving a Family Book Dates at your home. There is no denying the importance of improving your child’s reading level and abilities, but that’s a post for another day. This is, instead, about making books an important part of your family life.

Many of the suggestions below will be discussed in more detail in later posts. You can also see our Pinterest site HERE for more ideas and book lists.

·         Hype it up – make Family Book Dates a big deal (never use reading as a punishment)

·         Let your child(ren) choose the books whenever possible

·         Provide a variety of books: fun, poetry, informational, picture books, chapter books, etc.

·         Choose books that fit your child(ren)’s interests/hobbies/curiosities

·         Give them the opportunity to read to you – if they like

·         Encourage them to share their thoughts

·         Incorporate fun techniques: read out loud together (choral reading), you read & they repeat (echo reading), act out scenes, etc.

·         Play with the pictures (I Spy; Find something that starts with specific letters; Predict what will happen next, etc.)

·         Don’t push too hard during Family Book Dates – this is a time for fun, quality time, not instruction.

Please comment below – we would love to hear your strategies and/or struggles so we can help each other.

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