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.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with Amanda Cleary Eastep about her debut TREE STREET KIDS SERIES

Today I’m delighted to have long-time editor and debut middle grade author Amanda Cleary Eastep here to share five fun facts about the first two books in her debut TREE STREE KIDS series, illustrated by Aedan Peterson, edited by Marianne Hering, and published by Moody Publishers. Here’s the official description per the publisher’s website:

The Tree Street Kids live on Cherry, Oak, Maple, and Pine, but their 1990s suburban neighborhood is more than just quiet, tree-lined streets. Jack, Ellison, Roger, and Ruthie face challenges and find adventures in every creek and cul-de-sac—as well as God’s great love in one small neighborhood.

And here’s the book trailer:

Now enjoy as she shares five fun facts about the first two books in the series. My favorite? Fact #4. I just love how Amanda, inspired by her daughter, wanted to include fun facts throughout the story and how the books’ designers figured out a creative way to do that. What great team work!

Take it away, Amanda!

Five Fun Facts about Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang (Tree Street Kids series)

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

1. The idea for Jack vs. the Tornado (book 1) was inspired by my childhood experience with two tornados.

The main event, although not the most frightening, happened when I was about 12. My family of four lived on five acres in the middle of an endless expanse of cornfields. Tornadoes are common in the Midwest, and we were used to the blaring warnings that would burst onto the TV screen in the middle of a favorite show. Thankfully, we had a basement to hunker down in. One night, the storms were especially bad, and a twister touched down–right on top of our barn. The small chicken coop only yards away was untouched, as was our house.

Amanda’s childhood farm after the tornado. The barn was destroyed!

2. Henrietta, Jack Finch’s pet chicken, wasn’t in the original draft of Jack vs. the Tornado.

After I submitted my “final” draft to my editor, Marianne Hering, she said, “This book needs an animal. Kids love animals.” And she was right (that’s why authors need editors!). My dad had a favorite chicken that loved to sit on his lap and be petted. So Henrietta was born! Er, hatched. After I tossed her into the mix (not the Shake ‘n Bake kind), her presence in the first chapter raised the stakes. Jack’s care for her helped develop his character and deepens the readers’ empathy for him.

Amanda as a girl with her dog. Notice the chickens in the background.

3. The Hunt for Fang (book 2) has LOTS of animals.

By book 1, Jack is settling into his new neighborhood in the suburbs. As he’s making friends, he’s also making some “enemies.” Not only does he have to deal with the neighborhood bully, Jack has to protect his new puppy and his friend’s cat from the local wildlife, an animal living in the nearby forest preserve that Jack has named Fang. The main theme of this book is stewardship of God’s creation, so there’s a fun mix of everything from frogs to dogs.

4. Both Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang have Fun Facts too!

I love to research, and my daughter, who has an MA in environmental biology, is always spewing interesting facts. Jack’s little sister Midge does the same thing! Ellison likes quoting Bible verses and literature, and Roger is always ready with historical background. Sooo…throughout the books I’ve included Midge’s Phenomenal Facts, Ellison’s Bookmarks, and Roger’s Riveting Histories. I didn’t want these fun facts to end up as footnotes though. Moody’s designers came up with a cool idea: each fact looks as if it’s handwritten on a notecard and “taped” onto the page.

5. Books 3 and 4 will be here in Summer 2022!

Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang both released on April 6, 2021. The next two books will come out together as well. Book 3 is tentatively titled Lions to the Rescue! and book 4 is a mystery (literally and literally).

AMANDA CLEARY EASTEP is not related to Beverly Cleary but wishes she were. She is, however, a children’s author, and the Tree Street Kids is her debut series (Moody Publishers, 2021 and 2022). Her children’s writing has been published in LadybugThe Friend, Sunday school curriculum, and at Story Warren. She’s contributed to Christianity Today, Think Christian, and many other print and online publications. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she leads writing workshops at her local teen center. 

Amanda is also the senior developmental editor at Moody Publishers in Chicago, working closely with nonfiction authors to help shape Christian books in the areas of Christian living, church and ministry, and personal and spiritual growth. 

You can find her on the web at:

Website: treestreetkids.com or amandaclearyeastep.com

Twitter: AmandaICleary

Facebook: /amandaclearyeastepauthor

Instagram: book_leaves

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: GOODNIGHT ARK Painted Rocks

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 GOODNIGHT ARK, my rollicking, yet ultimately soothing story about Noah trying to put the animals to sleep on at the ark! 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 Jane Chapman’s delightful renderings of the animals aboard Noah’s Ark, these painted rock animals are easy to make and fun to display.

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, ARK and marvel at all the different kinds of creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included the illustrations. 
  1. Have your child find an unclaimed rock.  Examine that rock together with creative eyes.  Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, ARK again. What animal could it be transformed into?
  1. Using acrylic paints (so you can display your rock outside and the paint won’t wash off in the rain),  let your child paint their rock to look like their chosen creature. Tip:  Apply paint without diluting with water.  Let one color dry before adding another.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Take a picture of your child’s finished painted rock and send it to me. With your permission, and I will double check to make sure I have it, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

And here’s the story time (just in case you didn’t get a chance to watch it live.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan in Celebration of the Release of her Debut Picture Book MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3!

Today I am honored to have debut picture book author Gretchen Brandenburg McClellan as my guest in celebration of the recent release of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, illustrated by Grace Zong and published by Peachtree Publishers.  It’s the story of a class saying goodbye to their beloved teacher – a perfect book for this time of year!  Thank you so much for joining us, Gretchen. Let’s get started – with my questions in blue to match your delightful cover.

Question #1: What inspired you to write Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3? 

For many students, school is their ground. Their sense of security is rooted in the geography of the school–knowing that Ms. A’s room is there and Mr. B’s room is across the hall. (Many very young students believe teachers live at school!) I’ve had students who were heading off to middle-school ask me through tears if I would still be in my room the next year. They needed to know that this part of their lives was stable as the tectonic plates of their lives shifted.

This connection to the geography of the school inspired me to write Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3. Originally, Mrs. McBee was leaving to move to a new school, but my editor and I decided to expand the possible reasons why Mrs. McBee might be leaving by not being specific. Teachers leave for so many reasons: to have babies, to return to the university, to move to a new school or away from the area, to change careers, to care for themselves or family members who are ill, or finally to retire. All of these moves are bittersweet.

Around the time I was writing this book, a dear friend and former co-worker was dying of breast cancer. She had to say good-bye to her own elementary classroom and her students to her. I was able to share the sale of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 with her and my decision to dedicate my book to her. It brought us both a bittersweet joy, knowing she wouldn’t live to see the art or the book in print. A memorial library has been established in her honor at Hathaway Elementary in Washougal, Washington where we taught together. I look forward to adding Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 to her shelves. I am sure she would love it!

I always love hearing the stories behind a book’s dedication. How very special that you decided the book to your dear teacher friend. I’m sure that means a lot to her family.

Question #2: Did you always want to be a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writing journey?

My journey writing for children started with motherhood. I was passionate about reading and passionate about the kinds of toys I provided my kids. I was just as passionate about the toys I didn’t want them to have. At that time, I was involved in an advocacy group in my area that promoted creative play called SNAP—Support Non-Aggressive Play. I read a picture book by Charlotte Zolotow called William’s Dollabout a boy who wanted a doll, much to the disapproval of his father. I couldn’t find a picture book that addressed the concerns that so many of us in SNAP had about violent toys. So I decided to write one. My manuscript, Joseph and His Toys,f eatured a boy who was not allowed to have violent toys and the creative ways he found to feel a sense of power and control over “bad guys” and find a sense of justice. At a local book fair, I met children’s author Erik Kimmel and asked him how to submit my book for publication. He told me to join SCBWI, get the manuscript in the mail, and focus on writing my next story. At that time I didn’t intend for there to be a next story. But I was a goner. I fell in love with picture books and writing picture books and both have been my passion ever since.

Question #3: Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 is your debut picture book.  How does it feel to be “post-publication”? What do you like best about this exciting new stage?  

The joys and challenges of being a debut writer are still unfolding, and I expect more surprises along the way as I go through my debut year. The best part of this new stage is sharing my book with children in schools and bookstores. In schools I ask teachers to select a student who needs a little sparkle in his/her life to pass on a little magic wand to, and when I start my presentations I say, “Somebody must have a magic wand out there, because my dream is coming true right now.” The child is delighted to hold up the wand and I am just as delighted to explain how the dream of being an author isn’t complete without having kids to share books with.

I am also having a blast writing and improving my presentations and activities that go along with the book. At first I felt like I was working on a Masters in Anticipatory Anxiety and was really apprehensive about the public/performing life of being an author. But I’ve switched programs and now am heading straight to my PhD in excitement and joy. I love being an author and presenter!

Ha! Love that Masters in Anticipatory Anxiety and I think your magic wand set up is absolutely brilliant. And I’m so happy to hear that you’ve almost earned that delightful Phd!  =)

Question #4: As a former reading specialist, what three tips would you give parents for keeping the love of reading alive over summer? 

 Three tips for keeping the love of reading alive over the summer are 1) join the summer reading program at the public library, 2) have books available everywhere for kids to read, including the car, bathroom and tent and 3) share books together regularly. I firmly believe that children should be read aloud to through grade school for a multitude of reasons, including their development as readers, because reading comprehension doesn’t catch up with listening comprehension until about sixth grade. Reading aloud has so many positive effects on family relationships too. And it is so much fun! The health of the audio book industry attests to the pleasure of hearing a story read aloud. Who hasn’t wanted to keep on driving to finish a chapter or remain sitting in the driveway to listen to just one more?

These are wonderful suggestions. My daughter’s in sixth grade and we still love reading aloud to each other!  

Question #5: What’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  

I am very excited about three picture books releasing in 2018. I’m Done!, illustrated by Catherine Odell, is about an impulsive and playful little beaver who finally learns what it means to be done (Holiday House, Spring 2018).  When Your Daddy’s a Soldier, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is the story of a brother and sister whose father goes off to war (Beach Lane, Fall 2018).  Button and Bundle, illustrated by Gillian Flint, tells the story of first friends whose world is disrupted when one moves away, but who find a way to preserve their special world of play even though they are miles apart (Knopf, Fall 2018).

Thank you so much for joining us, Gretchen.  It’s always fun to share in the joy of a debut book release!

IMG_8515e edit-1 (2)BIO: Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools as an author. She just celebrated the release of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, illustrated by Grace Zong (Peachtree) and looks forward to the release of three more picture books 2018. She is an active tribe-member of SCBWI and writes chapter books and middle-grade fiction as well.  

Gretchen grew up as a global nomad, daughter of a career Army officer, and lived on three continents.  She has settled in Camas, WA where she lives with her husband, cat and dog, stunt squirrels, nomadic neighborhood chickens, and celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. Children will find a home in her heartfelt books about community, courage and compassion.

When she isn’t writing or teaching, Gretchen can be found playing word games, hiking in the woods, x-country skiing and attending plays.  Please visit Gretchen at gretchenmclellan.com for more information about her books, events and author visits. 

GUEST BLOG: Reading At Lakeside Chautauqua

IMG_0572I am guest blogging today over on The Front Porch, the official blog of Lakeside Chautauqua. We’re headed to this lovely Ohio treasure next week to enjoy a relaxed week with family – including cousins! I will also be doing a special Christmas-themed story time at Green Gables (pictured above).  My topic today?  Reading!  So, grab a cup of coffee (or tea as I prefer) and head on over to the Front Porch. The breezes there are wonderful and the post, I hope, is inspiring.  Happy Thursday!

SCBWI Summer 2016 Reading List is NOW AVAILABLE!

Summer-Reading-List-banner

HEADS UP  ON A GREAT NEW RESOURCE FOR PARENTS, TEACHERS and KIDS!

The Society of Children’s Book Writer and Illustrators (SCBWI) has put together a SUMMER READING LIST for 2016 which includes books of all genres from SCBWI  authors and illustrators, including front list and backlist titles. Per their description “This is an opportunity to find that book that a kid or teen will enjoy and can engage with the fun and adventure of reading. Authors and illustrators from close to your hometown to those around the world are featured on the List. The Lists will be published bi-annually this year in the Summer and Winter.”

Here’s the link.  ENJOY!