Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Guest Blog: On Kids and Reading

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

As a creative writing major forced to take multiple literature classes, I have spent the past year trying to pinpoint the exact time and place that I started to read. Growing up, my parents would read the occasional bedtime story or sing a nursery rhyme to help me sleep. Other than that, before I started going to school, I don’t remember reading.

Many schools try and start kids early when it comes to reading. I have heard of preschoolers learning more than the standard ABC’s and advancing to Dr. Seuss books. I do, however, remember briefly looking at children’s books for the pictures and trying to put the words together. This was preschool and kindergarten for me, but I don’t remember being able to look at a word and fully formulate what it said until first grade. Maybe I started late compared to others, but it’s important for kids to have a good foundation in reading.

This does not mean that they need to absolutely love reading, but they need to have an interest and have the comprehension skills to read by themselves. I’ve mentioned before that when I was growing up I hated reading. It was a struggle for my parents to get my brother and I to read, but I eventually got there.

I know that my parents tried everything to get me to read, but with technology advancing and new strategies to get kids reading, this generation of children is at an advantage. Even though I personally prefer reading from an actual book, kids might prefer reading a story on a tablet. It’s portable, doesn’t take up too much space, and they don’t have to worry about the accidental paper cut. Why would a kid pick up a book and potentially get cut when they could pick up the remote instead?

Daniel Willingham, author of Raising Kids Who Read, suggests that putting books in places where kids can easily get bored give them the opportunity to choose the book over something. He mentions that his wife started putting children’s magazines in the bathroom, and soon enough, their six and three-year-old started examining the pages. They might not have been looking at the pages for the words, but the point is that it puts the idea in their head.

I remember going to the dentist growing up, and in a futile attempt to buy me some time before getting poked I would read the magazines. Sometimes I actually read the articles, other times I wanted to look at the pictures. This goes along with Willingham’s idea of putting books or magazines in places that kids will get bored the most. However, with the raise in technology, this negatively affects the idea. If a kid gets bored, then they’re more likely to ask for a cell phone to play on rather than picking up a magazine.

So if the first idea doesn’t work, you need to have kids witness adults or those they most admire reading. If a child sees mom or dad reading a book then they might want to read too. Kids are very impressionable, and it’s important for parents to be the model for their kids.

Every month I saw my mom reading a new book for her book club, and I was always interested in the book. Even though most of the time I did not actually read it, I was still interested in the concept and wanted to do the same thing. Instead of reading myself, my mom would sometimes read aloud to me.

Since there were such strict reading rules for my elementary and middle school, and so little books that were actually interesting on the list, this is why I hated reading. Later in school, even though the reading was still mandatory, the books were more interesting. Reading is presented as a grueling task for many because the school systems enforce it so heavily. I completely understand where they are coming from and the need for having guidelines for reading books, but they can easily turn kids and teens off from reading.

The goal is to start as young as possible. Give children an opportunity to pick up a book for themselves, or constantly have one present for them. Parents should encourage their children to read or read bedtime stories until they can read for themselves. It encourages a love for reading and gives children the chance to find series they enjoy. To counter technology and playing games, parents should have a few children’s books accessible on their phones as a quick go-to if a child is bored. It is keeping the idea present and alive that reading is fun. Technology is not ruining reading or keeping kids from literature, it’s providing them with something more enjoyable.

Reading should not be a task; it should be pleasurable and fun. This is an opportunity for children to enter another world and let their imaginations soar. If a parent approaches reading the same way videogames entice users, schools and parents will see more children thoroughly enjoying reading. It has to be a constant presence, and by helping a child understand the words or the story will make them want to read more.

It’s okay if a kid isn’t a good reader. I had to work at reading, and it’s now my major. Be a good role model for your kids and don’t approach reading like homework. Approach it like a game and make it as enjoyable as possible.

-Guest post by Ashley Guarino, student at Washington State University

Guest blog! A Reluctant Reader’s Journey

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Not many people remember the first story they read or even when they started reading. It just seems like you started and could understand words and phrases and then you started learning more technical words and expanding your vocabulary and your library of books. But what about the kids that hated reading or couldn’t find books interesting?

Just because I am studying English at Washington State University (WSU) doesn’t mean I’ve always loved reading.  Yes, sad to say but I used to wait until the last minute to get all my accelerated reading (AR) points in middle school. Reading was such a struggle for me and it wasn’t until high school that I found my niche for reading. My mother, who has actively been in a book club since I can remember, struggled with finding books that could excite me.

The first series that hooked me was the Sammy Keyes Mysteries. She was a junior detective, my age, and lived in a hotel with her grandmother. For me, it was perfect since I had a close connection to my grandmother and loved mystery stories. From there, I went on to complete the Series of Unfortunate Events, but then fell back into the struggle of finding books.

When high school came around, I was amazed that so many classmates loved reading. I always read the books for school, but couldn’t find myself reading outside of class. It took a long time, but I slowly found authors that interested me. I safely stuck to mystery novels because they interested me the most, but I tried incorporating my love of sports. Harlan Coben’s series with Myron Boltiar grabbed my attention. A sports agent that solves murders; I couldn’t ask for more.

The struggle to find good books that excite me has become easier now that I’m in college, but I still find myself wishing for another great series like Sammy Keys to captivate me. I have explored outside of mysteries and visited historical fictions like Between Shades of Gray and delved into young adult literature (YA lit). Though I still like my safe zone, readers need to explore more to find what truly interests them. Unfortunately for me, I became a good reader later in life and I wish that I spent more time enjoying myself with a good story.

Kids will struggle through reading, but that’s why they need suggestions and genres to look to. If they have a safe zone and feel comfortable as a reader there, then they might be willing to dip their toes in another genre. It worked for me, but keep in mind that if someone struggles to find books that are exciting, it’s okay. Not everyone is an all-star reader from the get-go. It takes time and patience.

Guest post by Ashley Guarino, student at Washington State University

Have You See Our Latest List of Great Read-Alouds?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Now that Spring has sprung, the days are getting longer, and the end of the school year is near, it’s getting more and more challenging to keep our children focused on their homework. After all, one more ride around the block or ball in the net is way more fun than being stuck inside… reading. To grab the attention of our restless youth, it may be time to break out a great read-aloud. Read-alouds are wonderful for engaging the entire family in a story, even when there are lots of other things competing for their attention. So here is a list of the most recent books we have read that are extremely well-suited for this purpose. There is a little something here for everyone.  Be sure to click on the book covers to get the full scoop.

Happy reading!

- Jen, Story Snoop

Getting My Reluctant Reader to Read, Plan B

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Who am I kidding? I must be up to Plan G by now. I love my reluctant reader but he is tough. Just when I think I have him well on his way to reading bliss, BAM, we hit another wall. I’ve tried fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, graphic novels, fantasy, adventure, dystopian, bribery — you name it. To be honest, it’s hit or miss. There is no formula for success.

But, I have recently struck upon something that is working — for now — so I had to share. Audio books. Yup. I get an audio book version of something I think my son would like and, for some reason, I don’t get the eye-roll or the wrinkled nose. Instead, he disappears into his man cave of a room every night (WITHOUT BEING ASKED) and listens to his book. Granted, I picked a really good one — a slam dunk — to start with, but now he is actually enjoying “reading.”

So what follows is a list of books I’ve listened to that are particularly engaging for boys, starting with the one that has captured the attention of my fourteen-year-old son, Carter Finally Gets It, by Brent Crawford. These are all terrific stories paired with terrific narrators. Hopefully there is something for everyone — all ages and interests. Click on the book cover to get the details. And please let me know if there are any books I should add to the list. I’m always looking for the next great read (or listen).

Happy reading!

- Jen, StorySnoop

In Memorium

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

As parents, and as human beings, we are deeply saddened by the senseless tragedy that occurred in Connecticut last Friday. Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones, the survivors, the first responders, and the entire community of Newtown. It is, without question, one of the most devastating events in recent history. Across the country this past week, parents have hugged their children a little tighter, appreciated the guardians of their safety a little more. Today, we honor those that were lost. And for those of you who want to do something to help, we’ve provided addresses for the brave first responders and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, in case you’d like to send some kind words their way.

Newtown Police Department

3 Main Street

Newtown, CT 06470

Connecticut State Police

Public Information Office

1111 Country Club Road

Middletown, CT 06457

Sandy Hook Vol. Fire and Rescue

PO Box 783

18-20 Riverside Road

Sandy Hook, CT 06482

Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

77 Main Street

Newtown, CT 06470

Sandy Hook Elementary School

12 Dickenson Drive

Sandy Hook, CT 06482

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (for a family read aloud)

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

It may be the most wonderful time of the year but, truth be told, it can also be a wee bit stressful. After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over — the last holiday recital attended, the last card mailed, and the last present wrapped — you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. And that’s just when your kids will no doubt be looking at you, wondering what they should do. One of my most crafty solutions to the age-old problem of the holiday lull is, shockingly enough, a great read. I like to take advantage of mandatory family time and choose a book that will entertain everyone, adults included. My all-time favorite family read-aloud is, of course, Harry Potter.  But since I’m the only one in my family who is willing to start all over with Book One, I have to let it go.

If you are looking for a read aloud for your own family during the holidays, here is a list of StorySnoops favorites. They include books from various genres — from fantasy to realistic fiction — so there should be something for everyone. Choose one or two and take advantage of the quiet moments, even if they are few. Maybe even start a new tradition. Reading aloud to my family during the holidays is an activity I will always treasure.

A World Without Heroes

Happy Holiday Reading!

-Jen, StorySnoop

LGBT Pride Month

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

June is the official month celebrating LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender-Transsexual) Pride. In both children’s and young adult literature, there are a great many characters that fall somewhere in the LGBT category. Here is a selection of books that reflect characters either struggling with their sexuality, or who are very secure in their sexuality, or somewhere in between. For young people who may need to know that they are not alone and that there are characters and stories that reflect who they are, and what they deal with, these books serve a very valuable purpose.