GUEST POST: Exploring PICTURE BOOK LAYERS with Children

Did you know picture books have multiple layers?  Those of us who write them are aware of this because it plays into how the story unfolds.  But children might not be aware of this. With that in mind, I’m delighted to share a wonderful post written by artist, teacher and children’s writer, Kathy O’Neill as she delves into the multiple layers of picture books with tips for using those rich layers to spark curiosity, faith in God, and a love of reading in our littlest ones.

And in the super special department, guess which book she features with examples of activities that delve into each rich layer? Little Ewe (Beaming Books, 2021)! Thank you, Kathy and thank you, Sally Matheny, for hosting her.

Read the post here and while you are there be sure to further explore Sally’s terrific faith-based website, chock full of bookish and educational posts for families. Kathy O’ Neill also has an engaging blog with posts to help children discover God through art history and nature.

10 Things to LOVE about BOARD BOOKS!

In celebration of fostering a love of reading in even the LITTLEST ones, here are 10 things to LOVE about BOARD BOOKS!

  1. Board books can be read in one sitting, but also enjoyed again and again.
  2. With stiff cardboard pages, board books are extra durable, perfect for the toddler age set. 
  3. They can also be wiped down if they get spit up on, or licked, or chewed, or held with sticky fingers (all of which happened in our house when the kiddos were little).
  4. Board books can be read with your little ones on your lap, all cozy and snug. 
  5. Board books foster good pre-reading and speaking skills because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc. 
  6. Like picture books, board books are a magical intertwining of text and image (though sometimes they have no text at all!)
  7. Board books are an engaging introduction to littlest ones to the joy of reading.
  8. Board books can be enjoyed and treasured by all ages. 
  9. Board books make great baby shower gifts – especially paired with a cute stuffy or onesie.  
  10. Smaller than a picture book, board books are the perfect size to stuff in your stroller, purse, or diaper bag so you can have story time on-the-go at the park, in the car, at the restaurant etc.

Did you know that I have four board books out with the fifth releasing in October? Request them at your library or order for yourself today. They include Goodnight Ark, Goodnight Manger, Love is Kind, Bunny Finds Easter and my newest Happy Birthday Christmas Child which releases in October and is available for pre-order now.

READ, DISCUSS, DO! Snack and a Story with LOVE IS KIND

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.

And this summer we are launching our second annual summer reading challenge. Each week features a fun reading theme with suggested books and ideas for engaging with books in creative and kid-friendly ways. Jump in whenever! Download the printable calendar (plus bookmarks) here.

In the super fun category, this week’s theme is Tasty Treats and, as part of the fun, Rebecca has put together a delightful Snack and a Story post featuring LOVE IS KIND. Thank you, Rebecca!  Here’s the link so you can check it out.

TEN Things to LOVE about Children’s Magazines

In celebration of fostering a love of reading, here at 10 things to LOVE about children’s magazines.

  1. Children’s magazines can be read in one sitting or enjoyed in bits and pieces, again and again.
  2. Children’s magazines introduce young readers to fiction, non-fiction, poetry and more, in a short, engaging format.
  3. A brand new issue arrives at your doorstep or inbox each month.  (Something my kids always looked forward to.)
  4. Children’s magazines foster good reading skills by incorporating text and image to engage young readers.
  5. Children’s magazines foster not just reading, but also writing and drawing, because most include a section where children can send in illustrations or short writing pieces. (My son had his first joke published in a children’s magazine when he was eight!)
  6. Children’s magazines can be read with your little one on your lap, all cozy and snug, or independently.
  7. Children’s magazines are a light, portable alternative to a book, when you need a quick something for those grab-n-go moments.
  8. Children’s magazines are a great “comfort” read when you and your child are sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s or doctor’s office. (That’s where I read my first Highlights for Children when I was five or six.)
  9. Children’s magazines are wonderful for pre-readers and beginning readers because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc. Many even include games or puzzles.
  10. They’re also wonderful mentor writing texts for older readers looking to write their own narrative fiction, poetry, how-to pieces, non-fiction reports and more.

SPREADING BOOK LOVE: A Gift Book for Wilbur

Before we got a dog, an early morning walk was basically a solitary affair. But when our pooch, Sophie, arrived everything changed. Soon I was meeting all the dog-owners in the neighborhood and learning all the dogs names. There’s Poncho, Archie, Munchkin and Rocco; Maverick, Hazel, Todd, and Trixie; Luna, Delilah, Max, Stella, and … Wilbur.  

Wilbur is a friendly boxer and Sophie and I often stop to say hello to him and his owner on our morning strolls. One morning, while Wilbur and Sophie were greeting each other, I asked his owner, a nice retired fellow, if Wilbur was named after the famous pig from Charlotte’s Web

To my astonishment, he had never heard of the book! I think I may have gasped, but then I gushed about what a terrific read it was and how it was the story of a special friendship between a spider named Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur. I explained that had been one of my childhood favorites and how my kids had loved it too.  And I assured him, that just like his own Wilbur, he would most assuredly love Charlotte’s Wilbur and that he should read it if he had the chance. And that was that.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was visiting my dad. We were thinning some bookshelves, and what should I find but an extra copy of Charlotte’s Web! And that gave me and Sophie an idea. We would surprise Wilber (and his owner) with a little gift.

First, Sophie, wrote a note:

Then we wrapped the book and note in tissue paper and placed it in a bright pink gift bag so they’d be sure to see it. Finally, we tiptoed up to their front door and dropped it off:

We haven’t seen them since, but when we walked by later in the afternoon, the bag was gone.  Maybe we’ll see them today and then I will pop back and let you know if they liked it. One thing I do know, for sure — Sophie and I loved the joy of giving it!

Happy Monday, all!

Read, Discuss, Do! Guest Post: The JOY of Reading TOGETHER (A Childhood Memory and a Challenge)

When Rebecca Gomez, founder and creator of Read, Discuss, Do! asked me if I’d be part of the team here, I was thrilled. For starters, I love the Read, Discuss, Do mission to help families and educators thoughtfully extend story time through the simple three-part formula reading a story, using that story to spark conversation, and then taking action through a meaningful activity.  

But, for me, the connection runs deeper because reading aloud together was foundational to my own reading experience as a child. Learn more as a reminisce about the joy of reading aloud together witha loved one – my mom- and how this relates to the wonderful mission of Read, Discuss, Do! I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

BLESSINGS upon BLESSINGS: LOVE IS KIND Brings Comfort to a Kindergartner… and the Mother’s Note Brings Joy to the Author (me!)

Last week in the comments section to a post I had shared on Facebook about Feeling Blessed by a Bouquet, a kind young mom left a thoughtful comment, which blessed my day in a extra-special way.

Here are her words, shared with her permission:

Laura, not related to this, but I just wanted to tell you how much joy your book “Love is kind” brought into my daughter’s life. Last year you came into her Kindergarten classroom for the reading and we purchased an autographed copy that day. It has become her favorite book! I cannot tell you how many times she re-read it during the lockdown and then during the months of remote learning. She really connected with it and it gave her comfort during these difficult months. Thank you!”

It’s almost like this mom was reading my mind because her message to me about the impact one of my books has had on her daughter was just what this heart needed.  In fact, I was so moved, that I responded to her Facebook comment with this:

Thank you for telling me this. You made my month! This past year has been so difficult – and especially for the kids. I’m glad to know the book provided comfort. That, I know, would make Little Owl very happy!

And then after some more thought, the next day I added this: 

I’m still so moved by your sharing this. May I have your permission to quote your kind words in post about one never knows the impact ones words/book can have and an encouragement to keep writing and speaking from the heart…I was feeling a bit in a writing slump and your comment really, as I said, made my month!

Her answer: “Of course!” 

And I so share these words today as both a reminder and an encouragement for me and for you to keep writing – or developing whatever special talents you’ve been gifted – with the knowledge that, just as surely as Little Owl helped one little girl face a difficult time in her life, your story or gift will surely also impact others in ways that, most often, we will never know. 

Happy writing and creating… and connecting!

FUN NEWS! Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse is an Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee!

The nominees for the 2021-2022 Iowa Goldfinch Award, which is given annually by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, have been selected and DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE made the list! For the complete round up of nominees plus links to the book trailers for each click here

According to the official description, the four-fold purpose of the Iowa Goldfinch Award is to:

To encourage children to read more and better books.

To discriminate in choosing worthwhile books.

To provide an avenue for positive dialogue between teacher, parent, and children about books and authors.

To give recognition to those who write books for children.

The Goldfinch Award is special because it offers school kids an opportunity to choose the winning book and to suggest books for the yearly reading list.

Delores and Fernando are delighted to be included and can’t wait to have their story shared and talked about by Iowa school kids!

If you live in Iowa, please ask your library, school or bookstore to provide books and voting materials etc. for this award. What a neat chance to be a part of celebrating reading in this special way!

And now, just for fun, here is the book trailer for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. Enjoy!

GUEST POST: Five MORE Tips to Foster a Love of Reading in Little Ones with Picture Book Author MINDY BAKER

On Monday I shared 10 Tips to Foster a Love of Reading in Little Ones. At the end of the post, I invited readers to share other ideas. Picture book author Mindy Baker responded on Instagram with such thoughtful additions that I asked her if she’d be willing to share them with you all today. She said yes! Mindy Baker is an educator (who really knows her stuff!) as well as the author of one of my favorite Christmas picture books, MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (Zonderkidz, 2018) about a mouse whose small act of faith on Christmas Eve sparks a chain reaction of hope and love, demonstrating that even the smallest creature can make a big difference. Now, without further fuss, enjoy FIVE more tips to foster a love of reading in little ones. And afterwards be sure to check out and sign up for Mindy’s new mini-magazine. (See link at end.)

FIVE MORE TIPS TO FOSTER A LOVE OF READING IN LITTLE ONES

by Mindy Baker

  1. Make sure to have a kid-sized bookshelf or reading area where books are in reach and accessible. 
  2. Change the themes of the books kept in your reading area periodically to keep it interesting.
  3. As you read, ask questions to engage your little one.
    • I wonder what will happen next in the story? 
    • I wonder what the main character is thinking?
    • How do you think the main character feels? 
    • Can you find the _____?  (Ask about something in the illustrations)
    • Point to the ______? (Name something that the child could point to)
    • What color is the ______? (Name an item in the illustrations)
  4. Don’t force your child to sit through a long book they don’t have the attention span for…remember, you don’t have to finish every page of every book!
  5. Use a silly character voice and make sound effects as your read…the sillier the better! 

Author Bio

Mindy Baker, author of Mouse’s Christmas Gift, Zonderkidz 2018, resides in Indiana with her family where she is a high school Spanish teacher. She is a contributor for the new Read, Discuss, Do! website www.readdiscussdo.com as well as the website www.christianchildrensauthors.com. Through her writing, she hopes to plant seeds of truth in the hearts of her readers. Her goal is to help you connect with the kids in your life through books and quality time. You can connect with Mindy at www.mindybakerbooks.com.

Instagram: @mindybakerbooks https://www.instagram.com/mindybakerbooks/

Facebook: @mindybakerbooks  https://www.facebook.com/mindybakerbooks

Twitter: @mindybakerbooks https://twitter.com/MindyBakerBooks

Pinterest: @mindybakerbooks https://www.pinterest.com/mindybakerbooks/_saved/

Special offer!

Mindy has a new mini-magazine that offers book reviews, book activities, and links to play ideas. Opt in by going to the homepage of her website and signing up or by clicking on this link.

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!)