10 TIPS to Foster a LOVE of READING in LITTLE ONES

  1. Make bedtime storytime a nightly ritual.  I can think of no better way to associate reading with cozy comfort and love than to snuggle up and read with your child at bedtime. It was a nightly ritual/tradition at our house with at least three picture books read each night. As the kids got older and started reading on their own, bedtime reading continued to be a favorite tradition and my son even requested a special reading flashlight because he loved it so much (and so he wouldn’t keep his little sister awake as she drifted off to dreamland in the lower bunk).

2. Have a sunrise storytime. Both my kids loved this when they were little. Since I was up early too with my tea, when they came down for that first morning hug, we often kicked off the day by reading a picture book or two together before they wandered into the back room to play. My son’s favorite sunrise storytime books were the DK Eyewitness books. We both learned so much! My daughter preferred books about fairies and mermaids.

  1. Celebrate reading as a treat rather than a chore. If you treat reading and books as something special and wondrous – your littles will grow up with that mindset as well. This means avoiding the urge to set the timer or enforcing that they read a certain number of books each day. Instead, make reading time a special time to be treasured each day. 
  1. Let your kiddos catch you reading… and have books nearby (that interest them) so they can imitate you. Kids follow our lead – humbling but true. I’m certain one reason I’m a life-long reader is that as I child I saw my parents reading. This concept is so close to my heart that I wrote a whole post about it: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/do-your-children-ever-catch-you-reading/
  1. Take a weekly trip to the library. I wrote a whole post about this too: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/ten-tips-to-encourage-little-ones-to-become-library-lovers-for-life/
  1. Bring along a bag of picture books for long car rides as a form of old-fashioned or, as I prefer to call it, timeless entertainment.  These days, with all of our devices, it’s so automatic to let your kids mindlessly and endlessly plug into their favorite entertainment programs. May I suggest, instead, opening books and reading on the road?  Even if they can’t read on their own yet, they can “read” the story aloud in their own words.  Audio books that pair with picture books are another option. When they grow up, if they are at all like my kids, they will fondly remember the books they read on the road. Reading will become part of the trip!
  1. Participate in a summer reading challenge. My favorite is the Read, Discuss, Do Summer Challenge because it’s all about having fun reading, rather than about keeping track of hours etc. Some kids thrive on that, I’m sure, but for my kids, keeping track felt very much like school and my goal over the summer was to show them that reading was fun (and a treat in and of itself – hence tip #3).
  1. Go on a picture book picnic. This is as easy including a picture book (or several) when you pack a summer lunch to take anywhere. When the kids get hungry, unfurl the picnic blanket, feast on yummy sandwiches and have an impromptu outdoor storytime.

9. Host a weekly neighborhood story time on your porch (or backyard or wherever). Have your kids help you pick two or three books to read each week, then spread out a cozy quilt and invite the neighbor kids over for stories. Add lemonade, cookies and a craft and you’ll be the hit of the neighborhood! 

10. Go on a hunt for your local Little Free Libraries. Stop and read a selection from each one. For extra fun, have each child bring along a book to donate and let them pick one to bring home. (I love doing this too!)

INVITATION: It’s Time for the Read. Discuss. DO! Summer Challenge!

INVITATION! I’m so excited to be a part of a fabulous reading initiative geared to families, librarians, teachers and anyone, really, who enjoys reading picture books with their kids.

Created by founder and picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do! exists to help you extend the magic of story time beyond the last page by following three simple steps:

Read a book. 

Talk about the book. 

Do a simple activity inspired by the book.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or are on social media, you may already be familiar with Read. Discuss. Do! Since its inception in 2017, Rebecca has created 60 graphics like these, offering simple, fun suggestions for extending the reading experience with your child in three fun steps.

And now she’s supercharged the whole experience by launching a website with newsletter devoted to all things #ReadDiscussDo! providing a wonderful landing place for book-themed lists, reviews, activities and more. And she’s asked a team of us to help! (Can you tell I’m excited!)

And she’s kicking things off with a fabulous summer reading challenge doesn’t involve setting the timer or counting books. Rather, it’s about connecting with your little ones through reading together and doing fun book-inspired activities. Curious about this week’s challenge? Here’s a clue. It has to do with this! Find out more about the summer challenge here. Head straight to this week’s challenge by pressing here.

READ. DISCUSS. DO! with LITTLE EWE!

FUN RESOURCE! Did you know there are two Read. Discuss Do! graphics for my newest picture book, LITTLE EWE? Each one provides families, teachers, librarians etc. with a quick and easy idea to jumpstart meaningful interaction with a picture book – in this case LITTLE EWE!  I hope you will share the LITTLE EWE ideas with others using the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo. And if you want to find more activities like these but for other books, hop on over to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and search using the same hashtag. You will be delighted by what you find.

NOTE: The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities and is the brainchild of picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez.

PICTURE BOOKS and END PAPERS: Thoughts and a GAME!

There’s something magical about picture books. For starters, their size is just right for reading snuggled together your child or grandchild. And, when done well, the intentional intermingling of image and text to tell a story is sure to captivate both child and caregiver. Indeed, a good picture book can be enjoyed again and again – with new discoveries unfolding with each reading.  

For example, it wasn’t until our seventh or eighth reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK, that my daughter discovered the toothbrush sitting on the window sill and then we laughed and laughed at the idea of Noah brushing the animals’ teeth. Similarly, it was with great joy after several readings that she later noticed that Chipmunk’s Chocolate Shoppe in LOVE IS KIND sells organic chocolate which made Little Owl’s gift seem just that much more special.

And among the many extra little details I hope readers will notice in my newest release, LITTLE EWE, are the many opportunities for counting things like frogs on logs and spider webs!

Perhaps you and your little ones have also noticed extra little details and wonders as you read and re-read your favorite books.

Well, today, I’d like to share another little extra that I never paid much attention to as a child or even during my many years reading bedtime stories with my kids. I’m talking about the end papers. For those of you who aren’t as book geeky as I am, those are the papers at the very front and end of the book. One of half of these end-spreads are pasted to the front and back covers of the book and help to secure the interior pages which have been bound together and set in the spine of the cover.  

Now that I’m aware of them, I’m smitten! I mention them at school visits and I always begin the reading of a new book by investigating them. Sometimes they are plain, but more often than not, they have illustrations or designs. And when they do, those illustrations or designs connect to the story in some fashion. 

For example, the end papers of the popular KARATE KID (Running Press Kids, 2019), written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by Mark Chambers provide a charming clue that the book might just be about different karate poses! And the end papers of the delightful TEA PARTY RULES (Viking, 2013), written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by K. G. Campbell provide wonderful opportunity to predict with children just where this story will take place and what it might be about. 

Now, here’s a fun game to play your kids.  Have them find their favorite picture books and – before reading the book again – open up to the end papers and see if you they can figure out how the end paper illustrations connect to the story. To get you started, I’ve included a collage below with the end papers for four of my books. Can you guess which end paper goes with which book?  If so, what’s the connection?  Have fun! (Answers below.)

And the answers (but you still have to figure out the connection).

Have fun investigating the end papers of your favorite books and don’t forget that to make a game of figuring out the connections!

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST: Five Book-Themed Conversation Topics with Author Rebecca J. Gomez

Today I’m delighted to have talented picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez here in celebration of her newest release TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST, co-written with Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Hilary Leung and published by Scholastic. In addition to possessing delightful story telling skills, Rebecca has a knack for creating extension activities and discussion ideas to enhance any storytime. Today she’s sharing some ideas for fostering book-themed conversation with little ones after reading her book. The extra neat thing is that these ideas can be applied to almost any book. Take it away, Rebecca!

When I was a little girl, just about to start Kindergarten, my mother walked the short route to school with me so that, when the first day of school came, I could walk there on my own with confidence. I remember walking together down our street, making a left turn, and cresting a hill. From the top of that hill, I could see my school. It was simple.

So, on the first day of Kindergarten, with both parents at work and my babysitter tending my younger siblings, I set out to school on my own with confidence! But that confidence vanished when I reached the top of the hill and there was no school in sight! Fortunately, I was able to retrace my steps and make it back home, where I cried on the front stoop until my mother returned from work.

Rebecca as a child.

It was a frightening experience that I have never repeated since, though I have had plenty of scary moments in my life. That is something we can all relate to; being lost and/or scared is a universal human experience. That’s what makes TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST such a relatable book. And that relatability opens the door for lots of good discussions.

With that in mind, I’d like to share five discussion topics to help you get the conversation going with your kiddos after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST!

FIVE BOOK-THEMED CONVERSATION STARTERS


1. Start with something simple. What was your favorite party of the book? Why? 

2. Make a life connection. Talk about a time when you were lost and/or scared. How did the situation get resolved?

3. Discuss illustration choices. Why do you think the illustrator included images of spooky shadows and glowing eyes in the pictures?

4. Talk about the story’s resolution. Mack and Rig were able to find their way once they were together again. Why do you think being together made a difference?

5. Life application! What might Mack and Rig have done differently in order to avoid getting separated? What should you do if you ever get lost? 

BONUS!!!

Here are a few activity ideas to try after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST:

1. Set up a track and have a race with your own toy trucks or cars Even better, set up your own version of Rugged Ride Park!

2. Draw a map of your neighborhood or a favorite playground.

3. Print and color this coloring page.

Have fun with your TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST story time!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca J. Gomez has been writing stories and poems for kids since she was five years old. She also loves to hike, draw, and play games with her husband and their three children. She also coauthored What About Moose? and Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks with Corey Rosen Schwartz. She is also the author of Federico and the Wolf. She lives in Nebraska, but you can visit her at rebeccajgomez.com.

Happy Reminiscing with Brock Eastman’s BEDTIME ON NOAH’S ARK

I have a special place in my heart for Noah’s Ark themed stories. Indeed, one of my very first childhood writings was a retelling of Noah’s Ark. It’s written on pale green lined paper in second-grade print, includes crayon illustrations… and is very dramatic. Later, when my own kids were little, I loved reading Lucy Cousins NOAH’S ARK with them. We even had the matching puzzle and enjoyed assembling it and naming all the animals. And even later, when I was inspired to write a bedtime story about being scared during a storm, the ark became the setting for my rollicking, yet ultimately soothing rhymer, GOODNIGHT, ARK. 

So, as you can imagine, I was very excited this week when a fun new Noah’s ark themed board book sailed on to my porch.  Written by Brock Eastman and illustrated by Lee Holland, BEDTIME ON NOAH’S ARK (Harvest House Publishers, September 2020) offers young readers and their parents a fresh take on this iconic bible story – this time with a bedtime routine theme.  

There are three things I especially enjoyed about this book. 

First, the sweet cartoon-like illustrations are warm and inviting with oodles of animals doing fun things – like brushing their teeth and putting on their pajamas. As a parent, I can see lots of opportunities to engage little ones in simple counting and naming games. 

Second, I really enjoyed Brock’s use of similes throughout the board book text to describe the bedtime routines of the animals.  My favorite might be “hop into your pajamas like a kangaroo” with “stick your tongue out like a giraffe” (when brushing your teeth) as a close second.  Rich, fun language like this not only warms little ones’ ears to the vividness of words, but also provides fun opportunities to play some fun “_____ like a ____” games.  

Third, this simple, fun story was a sweet reminder to me (and probably to parents everywhere) of how special bedtime is.  Having a nightly routine, like the animals do in Brock’s story, really does lay an important foundation in the growing up experience. Those seemingly simple nightly habits not only foster good dental and hygiene habits, they also set the stage for important unwinding techniques to treasure for a lifetime like reading before bed and laying the joys and concerns of our day releasing through prayer.  

Writing this post sparked fun memories for me of bedtime at our house when my kids were little. I must have been doing something right because bedtime was never something my kids complained about or tried to delay. In fact, they sometimes even asked to go to bed early.  Why?  Because, just like in Brock’s story,  bedtime at our house was a special, cozy time involving bubbles and bath toys, toothpaste and brushes, bedtime stories and sometimes even a couple of before bedtime games… and always ended with prayer and a song.  

I suspect that if my kids were still little, this little board book would quickly have become a favorite. Happy reading!

Learn more about Brock Eastman and is books here.

[Note: Thank you to the the publisher for a sneak peek at the book which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: Pass It On Kindness Pots Inspired by LOVE IS KIND

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I will be hosting Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Here’s the schedule:

This week’s story time features LOVE IS KIND about Little Owl who wants to show his grammy how much he loves her by getting her chocolates, but the quest proves much more difficult than he ever imagined! I do hope you will join me! You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog. 

Now for the craft:

Inspired by Little Owl, who extended love and kindness everywhere he went, today’s craft is to paint a little kindness pot, plant a seed or small plant in it, and then spread love and kindness by giving it as a gift to someone. Here’s what you and your child need to do:

  1. Read LOVE IS KIND and think about all the ways Little Owl was kind and loving.
  1. Purchase a small pot or find one around the house. Using Lison Chaperon’s colorful illustrations as inspiration, encourage your child to decide how they will share the themes of LOVE and KINDNESS on the pot’s exterior.
  1. Using acrylic paints (so you can water the plant and the paint won’t wash off),  have your child paint their pot Little Owl style. Tip:  Apply paint without diluting with water.  Let one color dry before adding another.
  1. Add a little potting soil and either a seed or a small plant.  Press soil down gently so plant/seed is properly secured in the pot. Water lightly.
  1. Finally have your child “pass on” a little kindness and love to someone by delivering their “Pass It On Kindness Pot” to someone special.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Before giving away the “Pass It On Kindness Pot”, take a picture of your child’s finished pot and send it to me. With your permission, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

And here, in case you missed it, is the story time!

The 2020 ANNA DEWDNEY READ ALOUD AWARD: Celebrating Books that Spark Compassion, Empathy and Connection

(Read to the end for a fun LOVE IS KIND connection.)

Per the official description “The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award is given annually to a picture book that is both a superb read-aloud and also sparks compassion, empathy, and connection. The award commemorates the life and work of author/illustrator Anna Dewdney, and celebrates her commitment to reading with young children and putting books into as many little hands as possible.”

This year’s award goes to author/illustrator Oge More for her picture book THANK YOU, OMU!

I love this book. My kids are big now, but it’s just the kind of story I would have read to my kids over and over again. It would make a wonderful addition to any book collection.  It is also a Caldecott winner and the illustrations are amazing.

Here’s my quick description: Omu has created a delicious stew and its mouth-watering aroma fills the neighborhood. Soon all sorts of visitors stop by for a taste and Omu gladly shares.  But, when it’s finally time for her dinner, she discovers the pot is empty!  Will she go to bed empty-bellied or will compassion and generosity prevail? 

You will have to read the story to find out.

You can also hear the author herself read it live this coming Friday, May 8th at 3pm ET as part of Children’s Book Week on the Every Child A Reader Facebook Page.

Now, the little bit of fun news – with a LOVE IS KIND connection:

Though not the winner, LOVE IS KIND is named as one of five honor books for this year’s award.  Isn’t that neat? Little Owl thinks so. Here’s the link to the official announcement

Hooray for stories that foster love and joy and connect us to others!  And hooray for the magic of reading aloud with children! Happy Monday! 

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE Read by Author LAURA SASSI

Looking for a virtual STORY TIME with the author?  It’s very unusual for publishers to grant permission to do these kinds of storytimes. It’s their way (and mine too!) of doing something special for families and kiddos at this time when the world is topsy turvy and we are all sheltering in place due to the pandemic. I’m grateful to Sterling Children’s Books for providing this opportunity to share my favorite opera-themed picture book – DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE – as part of Sterling Storytime! It’s available for viewing (for a limited time) on their Youtube Page. If you have a copy, grab it now so you can read along with me. Then, get ready to sing and be silly!

Fun little back story: My 15 year-old filmed me reading the book on our front porch and I think she was a little embarrassed at how dramatic I was being. Her embarrassment turned to teen mortification when a passerby applauded after the finale. Delores, however, was delighted!

Extension Activities: Here a couple of links to extension activities to do post-reading. Enjoy!

Diva Delores Coloring Page and Writing Prompt

Feathered Fan: A Read. Discuss. Do! Craft

Teaching Respect with Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

NOTE: The Sterling Story Time featuring DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books, is no longer available. But the good news is the book is still available at book stores and at your local library. If they don’t have it, you can request it, for which we would be most grateful. Happy reading! =)

EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Read Aloud by Laura Sassi!

One of my JOYS over the past couple of months has been learning to read EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Zondervan) in Spanish so that I can read it at bilingual school and library visits (all of which have now been temporarily canceled). For the first step, my ADORABLE dad, who speaks Spanish fluently, sent me little video tutorials so I could listen and then read on my own with his voice in my head. Here is a sample of one of his sweet tutorials:

The practice schedule intensified when my publisher invited me to do a Facebook Live! Story Time on their Facebook Page. I said yes, of course, but I still had a lot of practicing to do, so Dad and I began a lovely evening pattern of connecting via FaceTime at 8:45 pm so he could listen to me read through the story and then give feedback. It was extra precious because – due to Covid-19 – we’ve both been having to shelter in place – he in Virginia and me in New Jersey.

The EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Story Time aired on April 1st (no kidding!) and it’s now on Youtube as well. I thought perhaps you might enjoy reading along with your copy (or ordering one if you don’t yet have one) as I share this story about the many ways love can be extended to others. Here it is: