Page Turners for Grade Schoolers

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My 7-year-old is now at the point where he can easily tackle chapter books on his own, but we still end each day spending some time reading together at bedtime. It is a treasured moment- very often the best part of my day.

We are now at the point where he’s well beyond most picture books- although I will never be ūüėČ -and not yet ready for most YA material. The elementary years are a time when reading ability sometimes outpaces readiness for the mature themes found in some chapter books. I had started to feel that we had a dearth of good options, until I asked my friends (a group that luckily includes elementary teachers, librarians, and any number of voracious readers). They quickly reminded me of some wonderful authors and books from my own childhood that I had not yet shared with my son, and also introduced a number of great new options.

I’ve had a number of requests to share this list, which is by no means exhaustive. Please feel free to add your favorites!

Authors:

A number of authors were mentioned over and over again as tops for elementary readers, including: Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Madeleine L’Engle, and Judy Blume.

Series:

Recommended series included “How to Train Your Dragon”, The “Magic Tree House” books, “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, “Wayside School”, “Secret Agent Jack Stalwart”, “Ricky Ricotta”, and of course, “Harry Potter”. Classics like The Little House series and The Boxcar Children were also mentioned.

Resources:

A couple of wonderful resources were suggested including: Read Aloud Revival¬†, Book Crush by Nancy Pearl, a list of read aloud books from Common Sense Media, and Jim Trelease’s Read–Aloud Handbook. Finally, Goodreads is my favorite place to curate books I’ve read or want to read. I’ve collected all of the recommendations I’ve received for elementary chapter books here, and there are any number of other compiled lists on Goodreads.

Happy reading and thanks to all whose recommendations got us back on track after a few duds (that shall remain nameless).

My Favorite Books of 2015

As I did last year, I’m ending 2015 reflecting on all of the wonderful books I read this past year and I again feel sincere gratitude for all of the richness that reading has brought into my life- wonder, laughter, learning- it all can’t really be expressed. Reading has also brought many wonderful moments with my son and has sparked such interesting conversations. This is also the first year that my son can read to me– which brings an entirely new level of amazement and joy as a parent.

Here are a few of my most meaningful reads of 2015.

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Middlemarch by George Eliot: I am not sure how I missed this gem until now. It did not cross my path during high school or undergraduate studies, but my goodness am I pleased that I picked it up. It is simply wonderful. This book is a time investment but is absolutely worth it. Its pages contain complex, well-developed characters whose lives intertwine in interesting and unexpected ways. It is at turns funny, tragic, dark, uplifting. Eliot’s writing is smart and beautiful. What most rings true, even today, is her message of the importance of everyday kindnesses¬†and the impact of each life (even those uncelebrated) on the way the world unfolds. Middlemarch is definitely, and unexpectedly, among my top 10 favorite books.

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The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary:¬†¬†Unlike Middlemarch, this was a return to familiar, beloved territory. I remembered the Ramona series as one of the favorites of my youth. This time, my son and I set off on reading them aloud together. I find Cleary’s series about spunky Ramona and her family perhaps even more meaningful as a parent. We are through the first 4 in the series, and so far I think Ramona the Pest might be my son’s favorite (he definitely identified as a fellow 5-year-old starting kindergarten). My own favorite this time around might be “Ramona and Her Father“, with its themes of a family sticking together through hard times and a child dealing with not always being able to get what she wants. All are wonderful, though, and have sparked really cool bedtime conversations.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Written with exquisite attention to detail and obvious care in the choice and placement of each and every word, this book rose above most others for me this year. The characters are so well developed and vividly described that the reader comes to care deeply about them. Doerr somehow managed to illuminate a part of World War II that I had not carefully considered before, despite reading a number of books on the subject. My only (small) criticism is that I wonder if he should have ended the book sooner, leaving us with the characters as they were at the end of the war. Regardless, a unique and wonderful read.

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio: As someone who cares for many kids who are unique or different in some way, this book really spoke to me. Palacio¬†weaves lessons on kindness and celebration of differences into the story of one very unique boy’s life. I love that the story is told not only from the point of view of the main character, but also touches on the impact for his parents and sibling, perspectives that are sometimes lost when there is a child with special needs, in my experience. My bet is that reading this book would send a much more powerful anti-bullying message to kids than almost any lecture on the topic, and I hope that all middle schoolers and their parents will read Wonder at some point.

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Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman:¬†As a big fan of the television show “Parks and Recreation” I decided to read all of the recent books authored by its cast members. I was quite surprised that Offerman’s offering (sorry, couldn’t resist) rose to the top for me (although I did really like Poehler’s “Yes, Please” and may go back and read it again now that I’ve finished the TV series). Gumption was a very enjoyable read (and lots of fun as an audio book read by the author). The book is made up of short biographies of 21 Americans mixed with Offerman’s own take on living a meaningful life. My only criticism is that he could have EASILY found a few more women to include (although he does admit this shortcoming).¬†My takeaways from Offerman for living a life of gumption:
-Spend time engaged in hard work that is meaningful to you.
-Be kind.
-Read a lot of books.
-Get outside.
-Make stuff.
-Take time away from technology.
-Follow your dreams and remain hopeful even when the going gets tough.
-Laugh every day and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Pretty decent message, I’d say.

I read a lot of other great books this year. Three that could have easily been above¬†are, “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, “Congratulations By The Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness” by George Saunders and¬†“The Little Prince” by¬†Antoine de Saint-Exup√©ry, which I had (shockingly, I know) never read before, and I’m glad to have that remedied.

What were your favorite books this year? I’d love to get some suggestions for 2016. I’m upping the ante for myself again this year with an audacious Reading Challenge over at Goodreads. Want to join me?

 

Book Review: Mama Doc Medicine

mama doc medicineFirst a disclosure- I am an unabashed fan of Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, aka Seattle Mama Doc. I have long followed her blog and twitter feed and so appreciate her work. A pediatrician and mom, she¬†writes clear, evidence-based blog posts in an open and transparent manner. She has¬†an unmatched¬†ability to¬†break down emerging science around child health into relatable, practical tips. I’m excited to report that her book, Mama Doc Medicine,¬†combines many of her best blog posts with new information creating a fantastic new resource for parents and¬†all who care¬†for kids.

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Book Review: Quiet, and Its Implications for Parenting

IMG_1446“Why shouldn’t quiet be strong?¬†
And what else can quiet do that we don’t give it credit for?”¬† -Susan Cain

*A while back in clinic a nine-year-old’s mom came in concerned about her son. Turns out that at the parent-teacher conference, her son’s teacher had said, “Your son is very quiet in school.” Even though her child was excelling academically, had great behavior, and truly enjoyed going to school, this statement stayed with his mom. She worried about it. Because in American society, being quiet, or “shy”, is not often seen as a positive quality. I hope that will change. Continue reading

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

IMG_1138I’m not in the habit of writing book reviews here, but I can’t not tell you about this book. I had high hopes for The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and it easily exceeded them. I devoured this book.

You may have heard about The Fault In Our Stars due to its huge popularity among young adult lit fans or via the hype that’s building about the upcoming film.

But that’s not why I think you should read the book. Continue reading