10 Excellent Books for the New School Year

The year was 1985. My family had just moved to Nigeria, West Africa. While my parents were moving back to the country they grew up in, this was my first time there. I do not remember the move as traumatic, I remember it as exciting and right…except for school. I was terrified of starting school.

I was beginning second grade and this would be my third school in three years. My nerves were raw, my stomach roiled, and my emotions were a chaotic disaster. I could not identify it at the time but the shortness of breath, the accelerated heartbeat, and the feeling of overwhelming panic I experienced were the beginning of many years of mini-panic attacks. On paper, there was no reason for my visceral reaction to the start of school. My teacher was the kindest, most gentle teacher at the school. My classmates were accepting and fun. My environment was adventurous and freeing. But my emotions did not care. I was held hostage by fear, panic, and worry.

Over the years, I learned ways to subdue those waves of emotional struggle. But they never fully abated on each and every first day of school. Even through college I would walk through my schedule the week before school started just so I knew exactly where I was supposed to be at each point.

If at this point you are feeling the need to set up a GoFundMe page for my therapy, don’t worry. I am okay. See. I was a happy child. (Or maybe I am just working on perfecting my side eye. Just kidding, I was happy.) I went on to become a teacher. In a school. That shows progress, right?!

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The beginning of school invokes a visceral reaction in all of us. My own school age children are evidence of this, one is thrilled, counting down the hours, one is in denial, one is nervous and worried.

No matter which kind of school you attended, we all understand the nerves, the excitement, the apprehension, the “no, I don’t want to’s” that come with the beginning of each school year. As with all things in life, there are books to help with that. (Yes, you are right, I did already do a back to school list last year. These will be different books, I promise.)

What Do You Do With a Problem (Kobi Yamada) – This is one of my favorite new picture books. It gives an excellent analogy about resilience and problem solving even when you feel unable. This book would be perfect for the child feeling overwhelmed by the thought of starting school.

I’m Smart (Kate McMullan) – Following in the great tradition of the other “I’m…” books, I’m Smart introduces us to the school bus and the excitement involved in getting children to school.

K is for Kindergarten (Erin Dealy) – Not only is this a fantastic alphabet book about going to school, it also includes very cute ideas in the margins.

School’s First Day of School (Adam Rex) – We have all experienced the first day of school as children, but what does the first day of school feel like to the school building?

How To Get Your Teacher Ready (Jean Reagan) – This book is by the same author of the How to Babysit a Grandpa/Grandma books. It is a very funny story about the beginning of school.

Llama, Llama Misses Mama (Anna Dewdney) – Sometimes even when your fifth grader is happily sprinting off to her classroom, she needs to be reminded that it’s okay to miss her mama! (Not that I would know!)

Milk Goes to School (Terry Border) – Milk has a rude awakening when she gets to school and realizes that not everyone thinks she’s the creme de la creme her parents have told her she is. Everyone needs a little comic relief to calm those jittery nerves.

The Name Jar (Yangsook Choi) – This a is beautiful, important story of acceptance, learning about each other, and creating a welcoming classroom environment.

My Name is Maria Isabel (Alma Flor Ada) – Names matter. As teachers, we have to be careful to honor the importance of  a name.

The Hundred Dresses (Eleanor Estes) – This is an excellent book about bullying and the power of standing up for one another.

I will just be over here taking deep breaths and practicing every relaxation technique I know while I live, vicariously, through yet another first day of school. May all of their first days be filled with joy, acceptance, and a renewed love of learning.

 

 

In Defense of Buying Everything on that School Supply List, When You Can

My family is officially in the single digit countdown to the new school year. The emotions accompanying said countdown range from elated enthusiasm to deepening discouragement to nagging nervousness. (See what I did there? Don’t worry, it’s completely acceptable and not at all cheesy to alliterate as long as your writing about school. Yeah, let’s go with that!)

That’s how the kids feel. As for myself, I am, unsurprisingly, unprepared.

Woefully so:

  • There are backpacks to replace or clean.
  • Lunch boxes to assess and then replace or clean.
  • School clothes to appraise based on summer growth spurts or summer destruction.
  • Shoe sizes to reevaluate.
  • Manners to re-instill.
  • Brain drain to repair.

But all of that pales in comparison to the weight of responsibility that is school supply acquiring. I had to dig through mountains of “to be filed” papers from the end of last school year to find three separate school supplies lists.

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Let me tell you, school supply lists times three make for a very long and expensive shopping trip. In years past I have been known to have a spreadsheet with all the supplies needed along with the store offering the best deal on that item. It is a time-consuming but thoroughly enjoyable process. The subsequent store to store shopping, not so much.

Every year while I am out shopping for school supplies, there is a dull roar heard throughout the store of parental complaints. Parents are bonding on a level unseen since Kindergarten graduation over the atrocity that is the communal school supply list. You will hear no end of, “Why should I have to buy supplies for the whole class?” “I shouldn’t have to spend my hard-earned money on someone else’s child?” “The school should be providing all of this for the classroom.”

While it is nice to hold on to the ideals that the school districts can give schools budgets large enough that they are able to provide Kleenex and pencils for the classrooms or that every child can equally contribute to the classroom necessities, it is simply not the reality. We complain about school districts not filling the classroom with glue sticks and dry erase markers, but then complain about our taxes being raised to increase funding to schools. We complain about having to spend any out-of-pocket money at our own jobs, but have no problem leaving teachers to do the same. We complain about having to buy school supplies for the whole classroom rather than just our own child, but never get to know each other enough to find out what incredibly difficult life circumstance our neighbor is going through that may be preventing them from contributing “equally.”

The fact is, like we tell our children and students every day, life is not fair. And a little perspective goes a very long way. To that end, I suggest visiting an amazing website called DonorsChoose.org before embarking on your school supply finding endeavors.

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DonorsChoose.org is a site where teachers can post their classroom needs and anyone can donate funds to purchase those items. Take a minute to scroll through these teachers’ requests. It is a humbling and sobering experience. You can search by geographic location or greatest need or nearest deadline. Any way you choose to search the needs posted, you will be surprised by what teachers are up against when it comes to furnishing their classrooms.

So now, when I am standing in line thinking about how much it is costing me to help furnish my children’s classrooms, I think about those teachers’ requests. I think about the teachers who don’t have enough books for their students. I think about the teachers who don’t have enough notebooks and pencils. I think about the teachers who don’t have any playground equipment for their students at recess. Perspective is a powerful thing. It is something I sorely need when I feel like grumbling about my purchases of extra crayons and post its.

My challenge at the start of this school year is to not only graciously and generously (there’s that alliteration again!) give to your own child’s classroom needs, but consider taking it a step further and sponsoring a teacher’s dream on DonorsChoose.org. It will come as no surprise to you that many of the requests are for books.

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5 Best Apps for Tracking Reading

This week I have been challenged. It was not actually a new challenge, but one I was pushed to realize I had not followed through on at all. Not unlike determining our family would try one new recipe a week, or deciding that the chore charts would actually be put to use, or no longer drinking carbonated beverages. It is a recurring problem I have, the whole “follow through” thing.

Lately, I have a growing sense of foreboding in regards to the amount of time I waste on social media sites. I won’t even try to pretend that I don’t love social media, because I do. Social media sites are an introverts dream. I get to “interact” with the world from the comfort of my couch. I can keep in touch with people who are hundreds, even thousands of miles away. I can consume mass amounts of information, real and false, about the world, those dear to me, and the place I once called home. Except, I have felt my tenuous hold on the balance between real life and virtual life slipping ever so slightly.

Then came the challenge. In an article for the Washington Post titled “The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul,” Philip Yancey discusses how the internet has trained his mind against disciplined reading. This excellent treatise on the distracted mind.

Charles Chu calculates that at an average reading speed of 400 words per minute, it would take 417 hours in a year to read 200 books—less than the 608 hours the average American spends on social media, or the 1,642 hours watching TV. “Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books,” says Quartz: “It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.” Willpower alone is not enough, he says. We need to construct what he calls “a fortress of habits.”

 

If I were to spend even half the time I spend on the internet reading or writing instead, I would recover many hours. These recovered hours would do wonders for my soul. But because of my aforementioned struggle with follow through, I realized that I would need assistance building my “fortress of habits.”

To find that assistance, I started looking for apps that would allow me to track reading times and scan books read. Chances are you are probably already well aquainted with “the big 4:” Kindle, Overdrive, Audible, and Goodreads. While I use each of these apps almost daily and appreciate the different features they offer, I wondered what else was “out there.” I thought I had found an excellent app, only to find out it no longer exists. So I kept looking.

Here are my thoughts on what I found.

Best:

  • Kobo – My favorite feature of this app is the “Reading Activity” section. It is just what I have been looking for. I have high hopes for this app.
  • Bookopolis – For kids, this is by far the best reading app I have come across. I haven’t been able to find an Android version of the app yet. But what I have seen of it for iPhone/Pad users looks excellent. It also has timing, record keeping features, as well as many, many book lists. Even if you don’t use the app, their website is a must use site.

Best with Monthly Fees:

  • Epic! – This app looks like the dream. There is a flat fee of $7.99 a month. With that you are able to set up four individual accounts, track each account’s reading progress, and access thousands of books. If I were going to pay a monthly fee for an app, this would be the one. Teachers, you are able to use this app without the monthly fee!
  • BookMate – I really liked the features this app has. If you are looking for an audiobook reader, this is a very good one. There is a monthly fee of $9.99 though and that seems a bit high for what they offer.

Best Basics:

  • Reading Log – There is nothing fancy about this app. In fact one of the biggest complaints about it is the interface and outdated appearance. But with that aside, if you are looking for an app to track your reading, Reading Log does that. It is easy to use and doesn’t waste time with the frills.

While falling down the rabbit hole that is any internet search, I discovered a great deal about book related apps. For example, did you know that if you are an Amazon Prime member you have access to free, yes free, streaming of books and podcasts on Audible? If you sign into Audible with your Amazon sign in and then go to Audible “Channels,” you have access to free streaming of any of the books and podcasts there!

Now to climb out of the rabbit hole and follow through!

 

 

 

26 Mysteries for the Budding Detective

Literary detectives. Literary detectives are the absolute coolest. They get the long trench coat, the hat, the flip style notepad, the pencil, and all the swagger. They research, inspect, follow leads, evade red herrings, think, rethink, ask questions, exhaust all theories, and ultimately find answers. They captivate the imagination and set loose the possibilities.

Since the day I held my first blue and yellow book and read about a girl named Nancy Drew, I have been drawn to stories of mystery and intrigue. Whether about her, or a couple of brothers with the last name Hardy, or a group of orphaned siblings who occasionally have a boxcar for a home, or the moustached Hercule Poirot, or the honorable Lord Peter Wimsey, or the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, or the fantastic Precious Ramotswe, or the quintessential Sherlock Holmes; there are few things more satisfying and thoroughly entertaining than solving a mystery alongside these excellent literary sleuths.

Stories of mysterious adventures are great fun, not only for the individual reader, but also for the whole family or classroom to enjoy together. Many a childhood road trip has been passed with my family listening to mysteries. On one memorable trip, we went through a Sherlock Holmes phase. To this day, my sisters and I will quote bits from The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was our favorite of the audiobooks.

If your child or student is looking for some light, fun summer reading, look no further. Below are some mysterious tales sure to get their inquisitive minds racing.

Picture Books

Early Chapter Books

Middle Grade Chapter Books

Now, if only someone could help me solve these mysteries:

  1. How did the couch get wet? (It could be water, right?!)
  2. Why does my Netflix account now load up the “Kids” account, when I *know* I was the last one to watch anything? (My 1234 password is AIR.TIGHT.)
  3. What happened to my copy of The Westing Game? (I distinctly remember having it in 2002.)
  4. How did glitter get on my toothbrush? (Please tell me it is just from someone’s sparkly lip gloss!)
  5. What will I find at the end of this trail of chocolate chips? (A pot of gold, surely!)

The iPod Tax

My grandmother had this cross-stitched picture in her house for, well I don’t know exactly, but for all the years I remember.

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It has long been one of my favorites. Now I have it in my house. It reminds me that it’s alright; things are not always going to go as planned. It reminds me to relax, laugh, and go with it. Tomorrow will be better…maybe. “(Grand)Mama said there’d be days like this.” (Thanks, Shirelles!)

Right now, I find myself in need of this reminder. Because, I have done something from which I am not certain there is any recovery. It has me second guessing everything. Before I tell you what I have done:

My first daughter loved reading from the moment she was born. I remember reading to her at two weeks old and I swear she was cooing and tracking the words with her eyes. She loved learning to read, she loved progressing as a reader, and she still loves to read to this day. My second daughter loved being cuddled and hearing stories. Being read to suited/suits her very well. She also enjoyed learning to read. She was exceptional at sounding out words right from the start, which made learning to read pretty easy for her. As I have admitted previously, it took her longer to find her footing as an independent reader. But since realizing her independence, she has become a voracious reader. She reads in the car. She reads in her room for hours. She uses a flashlight to read late into the night. All of it.

Now my third daughter, my third daughter has changed the game. She loves being read to as much as the next kid, but she has absolutely zero, and I mean that literally, zero interest in learning to read. At least from me. She knows all the rules. She knows the sight words. She knows what to do. But I sit down with a book to have her read to me and you would think all the fairies in the world have died. There is moaning, rolling on the ground, sobbing, all manner of shenanigans at the merest hint that I may ask her to read out loud to me.

So, half way through our summer break, I panicked. And panicking, I stepped in the proverbial “it” of my grandmother’s picture.

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I bribed my child to read. But not only that, it gets worse. I called that bribe a tax. Yes, I am literally and metaphorically “taxing” my child to read.

I know! Yes, you are right, it goes against everything you are supposed to do. Yes, you are right, I easily could have thought of a different way. Yes, you are right, there is no reason to panic, every child progresses at their own pace. You are right about all of it. But here’s the thing: it’s working.

My third daughter loves drama and music and dress up and drama (did I mention that?) more than most six year-olds. One of her favorite things to do is take the iPod into her room for resting time and dress up, sing, and make up plays. She can do this for actual hours, happily. A few days ago, after a particularly frustrating (for both of us) session of “read out loud to mom,” I told her that if she wanted the iPod in her room, she would have to pay me an iPod tax. That tax is reading out loud to me for 20 minutes. I know, I KNOW, you are right. But…it’s working.

She has willing read out loud to me two days in a row (and counting.) Have I potentially caused her to see reading as a tax, literally and figuratively? Probably. Have I extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated her? Absolutely. Have I taught her that electronic devices are the reward and actual books-in-hand reading are simply the means? Likely.

But for two days (and counting), she has sat by my side without a moan, groan, or sob and read. Out loud. To me. I’m not going to lie, I am having a hard time seeing the downside, short-sighted as that may be.

As with everything involving the care and instruction of children, time will tell.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

When Well Worn Pages began, the only people reading it were my family and a few friends. Over the last year, some new readers have been added along the way. This seems like a good time to officially introduce myself.

If you have read the “About” section of this blog, then you know the essentials. I am the wife of a fantastic college professor and the mother of four children (three girls and one boy, ranging in ages from ten to four) who has a librarian complex. If you have read a few of my posts over the year, then you may have picked up on the fact that I am a walking contradiction: equal parts sarcastic and sentimental, impulsive and cautious, rebellious and rule monger-y.  I truly love books, reading, and almost anything related to those two things. These are the well documented facts.

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Here is the back story. I grew up in the beautiful country of Nigeria in West Africa. My life there was, in many ways, ideal. I am grateful for everyday that I was there. While I can never claim it as home the way I wish I could, Nigeria shaped me in ways my “country of origin” (the United States) never could.

I spent the majority of my youth on a soccer field or basketball court. To say that I was a reluctant reader would be an extreme understatement. I can pinpoint the teacher and the moment that overwhelming reluctance took hold, as well as the teacher and the moment that reluctance began to abate. Those are stories for another day.

Had I known myself at all at 18, I would have immediately started a course of study that ended in my becoming a librarian. Instead, I did the second best thing for me and became a teacher. Before making the decision to stay at home with my own kids, I worked with elementary school age children for six years. Some of those years were teaching in a classroom, others were teaching P.E. or directing an after-school program. Now, I spend my days working with children in an entirely different capacity.

Aside from telling my story, likely the best way for me to introduce myself to you is through the books that have influenced me the most. To that end, I give you:

The books that I enjoyed most as a child:

  1. Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parish) – The Amelia Bedelia books are the first books I remember scouring the library shelves for.
  2. The Yellow Boat (Margaret Hillert) – This is the first book I remember getting from Scholastic. I still have it.
  3. Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel) – These treasured friends were my childhood favorites.
  4. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) –  This is the first book I remember my grandmother reading to me. It was the first spark that would ignite an interest in fantasy fiction.
  5. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) – Here is my all time favorite children’s book. This is the first book I remember laughing out loud with.

The most significant books of my young adulthood:

  1. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery) – The poetry and beauty of the writing in the this book blew me away.
  2. Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton) – I have read this book more times than I can count and I learn more every time. This story affected me deeply and put words to an injustice in the world that I will spend my whole life trying to bring light to.
  3. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) – I think this may be the first book that ever changed me. It gave me a perspective no one else would tell me. I needed to hear it.
  4. Poems of West Africa (edited by Wole Soyinka) – Wole Soyinka deeply impacted my love of reading and writing. The poems in this book have been a constant source of solace in my life for a very long time.
  5. Hind’s Feet for High Places (Hannah Hurnard) – Of all the books I own, this is the book I have read most often. It is odd because allegory is not usually my “thing,” but I make an exception with this one. This would be the second book that changed me.

Favorite books from my actual adulthood:

  1. Americanah (Chimamanda Adichie) – I have a deep affection for African literature and am always looking for books by African, particularly Nigerian, authors. Chimamanda Adichie never disappoints. This book is my favorite of hers. Her vivid descriptions of adjusting to life in the United States are brilliant.
  2. The Eye of the World (Robert Jordan) – The Wheel of Time series took that spark that A Wrinkle in Time started and lit my love of fantasy fiction to full flame. I have read this series all the way through twice and will likely do so again.
  3. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) – I love this book. It is the first book I read as an adult that I remember laughing out loud with.
  4. The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) – This book is everything that fantasy fiction should be and one of my all time favorite reads.
  5. Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson) – Just Mercy has become a yearly read of mine, which is highly unusual for me with non-fiction. The perspective and insight given is vital to understanding life in the United States and I recommend it to everyone.

Welcome to the broad strokes of my life,

Christy Peterson

 

 

 

To Fathers That Read

My father was many things. He was witty, hilarious, kind, sarcastic, affectionate, and sacrificial, just to name a few. He was also very selective and precise. He stood at a noticeable 6ft 6in and always moved with the careful precision of someone too big for the world around him. This hyper awareness seemed to trickle down into everything he did. He spoke with a slow, exacting pace, choosing each word carefully before speaking it out loud. He read directions thoroughly and completely before proceeding with any task. He took great joy in finding the shortest route on any given path, allowing him to make up the time his “relaxed” walking pace lost him. He was selective and precise in nearly every part of his life, except his reading.

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My father reading.

I do not have very many memories of my dad reading out loud to me, but I have innumerable memories of seeing him read. When I picture him now, often he is lying on his stomach with a huge orange pillow under his chest and a book on the floor in front of him. My father read all the time. He would read anything, from Asterix comics to Robert Ludlum to Tom Clancy to Louis L’Amour to John Grisham. Then in his 40s, he decided that he was reading too much fiction. He made a precise decision (of course he did) to start using his reading time for non-fiction almost exclusively. His one exception to this self-imposed rule was listening to fiction audiobooks while driving. I cannot count the number of things I wish I could still talk to my dad about, but this decision is very high on that list.

He set an example of reading for joy, rest, and recovery. Not coincidentally, all the things I now associate with reading. But he was not the only one to instill a love of reading in me. Some of my favorite reading memories as a child are with his father, my grandfather. For two years of elementary school, my family lived in the same neighborhood as my grandparents. My sister and I would sometimes spend the night at their house on the weekend. We would play endless games of Monopoly and Careers with my grandfather while my grandmother made us orange sherbet. These nights always ended with him sitting down beside our sleeping bags and reading to us. I still hear Heidi with his voice. The joy of reading was embedded deep within me.

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My grandfather reading to me.

Now I get to watch my husband, and his father, read to my kids. My husband is excellent at reading aloud. He does all the voices, he dramatizes, he lets the kids climb all over him, and they love it. He will change the words while he’s reading to make up silly things, always relishing in the guaranteed collective groans of “Daaaaaaad.” He says lines from their favorite books at all the appropriate times. Anytime someone is embarrassed he will tell them they are “looking more red in the face than green” (Froggy). Whenever someone cheekily replies, “We’ll see about that,” he adds “said Portly” (Hipponotamus). The groans and laughs that follow diffuse the situation (partially). Watching them, I cannot help but feel an overwhelming happiness that they are getting to make those same precious memories with their own dad as I did with mine.

And so to you, fathers and grandfathers who read, I see you.

I see you, boa wrapped around your neck, pretending you are at yet another tea party while reading Fancy Nancy.

I see you answering unanswerable questions like, “How did the man with the yellow hat get his name?”

I see you creatively reading with dramatic inflection and doing sound effects over groans of “Oh Dad” which are secretly internal squeals of joy.

I see you, weary and burdened, gathering your kids close to read I’m Stinky for the one hundredth time.

Your children will remember these moments all their lives and will, one day, thank you. For now they will go on unrelentingly shouting “one more, just one more, pleeeeassse.” The joy of reading, and of your presence, will be deeply embedded in them.

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Year One!

I cannot tell you the date this occurred, but I can pinpoint the exact moment two years ago when I suddenly looked at myself and realized, “I’m back.” After nearly 8 consecutive years of being pregnant and nursing, I was finally feeling like “myself” again. The pregnancy brain, the newborn haze, and the zombie mom effect had lifted. I could think beyond how many weeks I had left until this baby was finally born, or when the baby last ate, or when nap time would come, or when I would ever, ever sleep again. “I” was back. The question was, what did that mean?

At my stage of life, I have found that much of life revolves around things outside myself: investment in the relationship with my husband, the needs of my children, the demands of a job (even if it is a non-paying job), the involvement in my community. I began to equivocate my identity with those roles and responsibilities, and rightly so. But I am not the sum of only those parts, there are others often left forgotten. I started to remember this part of me that belonged outside those categories. Writing, even “just” about books, has connected me back to that part, long dormant and waiting.

Recognizing that, I had an idea. An idea so preposterous that for almost a year it was just a figment of my wild imagination. Slowly, very silently, this idea for a blog began to germinate. Each thought of “just do it” would be met with 1,081 variations of “but the world is already over saturated with blogs,” “there are other people significantly more qualified, more well read, better writers,” “there is nothing new you can add,” on and on and on. And while these rationalizations were true to some extent, I still found myself creating a whole section of my Google Keep app specifically for blog ideas. This progressed to tentatively speaking out loud to my family and one friend about “my imaginary blog.” I can tell you now that my imaginary blog was perfect, an instant viral hit.

Then exactly one year ago, I realized it was better to be imperfect and real than perfect and imaginary. Putting the proverbial cart well before the horse, I blundered blindly forward. With reckless impulsiveness, born out of a fear that if I did not act now I would never act at all, Well Worn Pages came into real life existence. And I couldn’t be happier. It is, because I am, still quite imperfect but it is real. On an almost daily basis, I learn more about what I am doing and how I want to do it. Anyone would tell you these are all things you should know before you start, but I have never been one for rules.

As I look back on a humbling, exciting, daunting, and fulfilling year, I am grateful. Grateful for new opportunities, the chance to connect with new people, and for the chance to show myself that I can not only have an idea, but follow through with that idea as well. I am grateful for people who read what I write with gracious eyes and embrace the imperfect “realness” of Well Worn Pages.

While reflecting on this first year of blogging, I went back and read through some of the most read posts. So consider this the highlight reel. In my mind, I imagine slow motion montages, inspirational music, and the inevitable, building slow clap. In reality, this is my Kindergarten graduation. But just like your 5 or 6 year-old, I am smiling from ear to ear. Here they are, the 5 most read blog posts of my first year:

  1. Representation Matters (and its counterpart Representation Matters: Redux)
  2. It’s A List!
  3. Best Family Read Alouds
  4. Girls Can Do Big Things Too: Part 1 (and Part 2)
  5. To Mothers That Read

My kids ask me why I have this blog. My answer is because I want to. It is something that gives me joy. At first I felt like I needed to explain more or be more specific or even rationalize my use of time. But then I realized I am happy for them to see me creating something, to see me producing something, to see me enjoy something even if it does not contribute financially. It may not seem brave or important to them now, but I hope one day when they are adults giving the majority of their time to other people that they will remember it is okay to spend time doing something they love, that brings them joy.

May you find the something you love, that brings you joy. (If books are among those things, I hear there’s a relatively new blog out there with just the list you need!)

Summer Reading List: Preschool Edition

Just like that, May is gone. June finally arrived and all is well in the world. (Except that some things are exactly the same, like getting woken up at 4:30 AM by the recent Kindergarten graduate because her finger stings.) In a stroke of genius, my girls’ school scheduled their last day of school today. June could not be off to a better start. A few short hours from now, my kids will all be out of school. We can catch our collective breath and rest.

My son, the one child not even in school yet, may be the most excited about school getting out. He has been home alone with me all year and he is beyond ready for his sisters to be back home. He has visions of playing Candyland and being read to all day dancing in his head. During this last week of school, he has sat through three end of the year parties, one school performance, and one Kindergarten graduation. At each event, he brings his little bag full of books and patiently starts to read.

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It goes like this: tap book on me, tap book on me harder, tap book on me even harder, include “read to me, Mom,” repeat only louder, and louder still. I *calmly* say, “You need to read to yourself right now.” A child at the end of the school party interrupts, “Mrs. Peterson, can you start the game.” My son, ignoring that interruption, says, “I don’t know how to read.” I hurriedly say, “Just look at the pictures, you have this book memorized anyway.” Then, apologetically, start whichever game I am stationed at for that moment.  My son looks at one page and then begins the process over again. If all of that can be considered “patiently starting to read” then yeah, we’ve got that down.

All of this to say, while the older kids have dreams of the books they want to read over the summer, the youngest one does too. And so here are 11 books for your preschooler to look forward to this summer.

  1. Dragons Love Tacos 2 (Adam Rubin)
  2. The Day The Crayons Came Home (Drew Daywalt)
  3. Tap the Magic Tree (Christie Matheson)
  4. Animals By The Numbers (Steve Jenkins)
  5. Dino-Swimming (Lisa Wheeler)
  6. Ada Twist, Scientist (Andrea Beaty)
  7. The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors (Drew Daywalt)
  8. Ladybug Girl’s Day Out with Grandpa (David Soman)
  9. No Matter What (Debi Gliori)
  10. How to Raise A Mom (Jean Reagan)
  11. Hattie and Hudson (Chris Van Dusen)

You can find other lists of picture books here:

Happy Summer! May your preschooler handle their “read to me” demands with patience and calmness. (Hey, it’s summer now, a person can dream!)

 

Summer Reading List: The Early Grades

Oh my goodness, I am done. Just. Done. I know that humans don’t hibernate, but we should and it should be for the month of May. Please, someone save me from my calendar. Why have I personified my calendar, you ask? Because it is alive and it hates me. Hates. Me.

I am not exaggerating when I say that every part of me wants to curl up into a ball on my corner of the couch, put on noise cancelling headphones, and read. Then read more. And cap it all off with, well yes, reading even more. I find myself struggling not to shut down due to a system overload. Now I have completed the cycle by making my calendar alive and myself the machine. See, I am done.

It should come as no surprise to you then that this list has been a struggle for me. There are so many excellent and exciting books coming out for the older kids which made last week’s post easy to write. The next post after this one will be about summer reading ideas for preschoolers and it kind of writes itself. But this one, this one is just sitting in my mind like a weight. Its getting the middle child treatment right now. That misplaced, looked over, lost in the shuffle treatment.

Here’s the thing. In the early elementary school grades, it is really just about helping kids discover their own love of reading. Which often means, they are going to be reading some stuff you definitely would not have picked off the shelf (I’m looking at you, Rainbow Fairies). That is a good thing. They are discovering their own literary interests. At this stage, whatever they are interested in reading, put in their hands (and then try not to cringe).

You may remember that a few months back I did a post about the best beginner chapter books. The books in that list are excellent for readers just starting out on the chapter book adventure. But if you have a reader who is starting to find those books a bit too easy. This list includes some books that would be good for the next level.

Sticking with the “one book for each week of summer” model, here are 11 “next level” chapter books for the early grades.

  1. Nate the Great (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
  2. Hank the Cowdog (John R. Erickson)
  3. The Littles (John Peterson)
  4. Mercy Watson (Kate DiCamillo)
  5. A to Z Mysteries (Ron Roy)
  6. Clementine (Sarah Pennypacker)
  7. Keena Ford (Melissa Thomson)
  8. Magic Animal Friends (Daisy Meadows)
  9. The Mouse and The Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
  10. Big Nate (Lincoln Peirce)
  11. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Elena Favalli and Francesca Cavallo)

My advice to you is: get them as many of these books as you can find and then follow the old adage, “read while the child is reading.” You are right, that is not how that saying goes. But we can all agree that is how it should go.

Happy imaginary hibernation!