12 Books to Inspire a Lifelong Love of Cooking

From fine motor skills, to following directions, kids can learn a lot from cooking. Get your kids inspired to master the kitchen with these books.

Children can learn so much from cooking. From basic math to enhanced reading, to fine motor development and following directions, cooking teaches children important life skills and readies them for school and beyond.

Plus, cooking is a ton of fun. Aside from whipping up some delicious food, it’s a great bonding activity for parents and children. And who knows? You just may have a budding Rachel Ray or Gordon Ramsey in the family. Encourage your child to don their mini chef hats. It’s never too early to get started in the kitchen.

Here’s a round-up of twelve books to teach children the joys of cooking:

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“Froggy Bakes a Cake” by Johnathan London

Froggy Bakes a Cake” by Johnathan London

Children of all ages love the Froggy books, but “Froggy Bakes a Cake” is, perhaps, the most loved of all. This is not a cookbook, but rather a culinary journey that finds Froggy wanting to bake her own birthday cake, but making a huge mess instead. Purchase the book and a basket of baking goods to create an interactive cooking-reading experience.

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“National Geographic Kids Cookbook- A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure” by Barton Seaver

National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure” by Barton Seaver

Join Barton Seaver, master chef and National Geographic Explorer, for a culinary adventure. “National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure” combines recipes tailored to specific months and holidays with crafts and other fun activities that provide hours of entertainment in the kitchen. Includes informative sidebars, fun facts, and profiles on notable people.

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“Kid Chef- The Foodie Kids Cookbook” by Melina Hammer

Kid Chef: The Foodie Kids Cookbook” by Melina Hammer

What do you do with a kid who is serious about cooking but unsure of how to properly use the kitchen? You hand them a copy of Melina Hammer’s bestselling book “Kid Chef: The Foodie Kids Cookbook” and help guide them on their way. They’ll learn the basics, as well as more advanced cooking skills like how to sharpen a knife (please supervise!) and prep ingredients.

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“How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World” by Marjorie Priceman

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World” by Marjorie Priceman

This is another non-cookbook on our list, but well worth a read for kids interested in cooking. What happens when the market is closed and you want to bake an apple pie? You get creative and end up in Vermont! A simple recipe for apple pie is included.

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“Cooking Class- 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” by Deanna F. Cook

Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” by Deanna F. Cook

To get into the more intricate aspects of cooking, your child must first master the basics. “Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” helps teach kids the fundamentals with easy-to-read instructions and pictures detailing the how-to’s and whys. Includes classic recipes like applesauce, French toast, popcorn chicken, pizza, and more, as well as more creative, unique dishes such as egg mice, fruit flowers, and mashed potato clouds. Hours of fun!

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“Science Experiments You Can Eat” by Vicki Cobb

Science Experiments You Can Eat” by Vicki Cobb

Revised and updated to include hours of innovative, educational experiments, “Science Experiments You Can Eat” turns a kitchen into a learning lab. The cookbook demonstrates the scientific principles behind the chemical reactions we witness every day… just by cooking. While these fun food experiments are about learning science, they’re still big on taste.

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“Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin

Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin

“Dragons Love Tacos,’ and so do kids! Another non-cookbook, find out what happens when a dragon accidentally eats a taco… with salsa. His fiery breath may be more than just flame. Kids will learn all about this quintessential snack as they make new literary friends.

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“The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz

If your kiddo is a little Hogwart, obsessed with all things Harry Potter, they’ll love the magic and wizardry in “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.” Pulled straight from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s bestsellers, inside are crafty recipes for Treacle Tarts, Cauldron Cakes, Pumpkin Juice, and more. Over 150 spellbindingly delicious dishes mean hours of conjuring up the most wondrous treats, meals, and drinks.

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“Wookiee Cookies- A Star Wars Cookbook” by Robin Davis

Wookiee Cookies: A Star Wars Cookbook” by Robin Davis

Within minutes of opening “Wookiee Cookies: A Star Wars Cookbook,” your child is destined to become a cooking Jedi.  This intergalactic “Star Wars” cookbook features a variety of easy-to-make snacks, baked goods, and main dishes including C-3PO Pancakes and Han-Burgers. Even little Rebels will devour every tasty creation.

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“American Girl Baking- Recipes for Cookies, Cupcakes & More” by Williams-Sonoma and American Girl

American Girl Baking: Recipes for Cookies, Cupcakes & More” by Williams-Sonoma and American Girl

Williams-Sonoma and American Girl have partnered to bring you “American Girl Baking: Recipes for Cookies, Cupcakes & More.” Your child will discover the joys of baking accompanied by gorgeous photos. Perfect for the older little baker in your family.

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The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook” by The Culinary Institute of America

If your child dreams about being the next Top Chef, The Culinary Institute of America has published the perfect book to accompany their ambitions. With “The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook” your child can springboard from wanting to cook to becoming a young chef in no time at all. The book teaches cooking basics in an entertaining yet informative way that appeals to both boys and girls.

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Better homes and gardens kid cook book

Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book” by Better Homes and Gardens

No joys of cooking list would be complete without a mention of “Better Homes and Gardens.” Their “New Junior Cook Book,” revised in 2012, is perfect for kids ages 5 to 12. Inside are 65 brand-new recipes with illustrations and stories that tell all about the dishes. Kids love the colorful characters! Beloved for years, “Better Homes and Gardens” puts the family and fun in cooking.

What book do you recommend for teaching kids the joys of cooking? Post in the comments!

Reluctant KonMari: What I Gained From Losing My Books

If the only purpose the dusty top shelf books serve is to make me look smart, perhaps I need to focus elsewhere.

The purge started last year, after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I bought a digital copy, but if I’d purchased it in print, it would have been the first item dropped into the recycling bin.

If you’re one of the two people left on earth who haven’t read the book, I recommend reading only this summary of eight key takeaways.

Kondo’s prose wasn’t fun to read, but the message was perfect for someone sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a baby and all of his accoutrements.

The clothes that didn’t “spark joy” were easy to tackle. Goodbye to maternity clothes, threadbare because I’d refused to buy more than the absolute minimum. The same went for nursing tops, sweaters destroyed by the first year of spit-up and blowouts, and, much to my delight, all the clothes in my first post-baby size.

With the books, the choice was just as simple. It was either them or the daily allergy meds required to share the same air as dust. So I stockpiled loratadine. I hesitated to part with my library, built on childhood favorites, augmented with my first babysitting dollars, and sustained through three degrees in English.

But Kondo nagged each time I walked past the wall of extra-high shelves I had built to house my collection. Did the books spark joy? If not, what purpose did they serve?

As I looked at Chinese philosophy texts from my undergraduate years, outdated dictionaries in languages I don’t speak, and pedagogical texts whose approach I would never follow in a classroom, I began to view my collection differently.

The books weren’t there to spark joy. They were there to make me look smart to whomever happened see them. It was time to bid at least some of these tomes goodbye.

Although Kondo’s suggestion to thank items for their service seemed ridiculous when sifting through my clothes, it offered me days of reflection with my books. As I leafed through them, collecting bookmarks, post-its, and loose papers stuck between pages, I thought about who I was when I purchased those books and who they helped me become.

Days later, when I looked at my pared-down library, I felt at once lighter and fuller, because what remains speak to who I am now.

Clearing out my bookshelves has helped me view the rest of my possessions differently. So many of the items in our home – The New Yorker subscription, the academic journals, provocative coffee table books – are there, at least in part, because I like to look and feel smart.

Meanwhile, my diplomas have remained carefully preserved in leather folders and poster tubes from the moment right after I received them at each graduation. Hanging them on the wall has always felt stuffy.

Gabrielle Stanley Blair, whose wonderful book Design Mom survived my purge, inspired me to use my diplomas in a new way. After moving into the home she and her family had designed, she painted over a blueprint. The artwork serves as a reminder to the family that “WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

I wasn’t quite ready to paint over my diplomas. Vellum provided a less permanent solution. My upcycled diplomas are still a physical display of my “smarts,” but unlike my company-facing book collection before them, they’re tucked into a corner of the office that visitors don’t often see.

In this new space, every time I sit down to write, they remind me to be proud of what I’ve done. And to be focused on what I’m doing next.

10 Novels That Explore What It’s Really Like to Grow Up

From the struggles of self-identity, domestic violence, and suicide and loss, these 10 new YA novels poignantly tackle the tough issues.

It’s been a long time since I was a teen, but I remember the challenges of dealing with that first broken heart, watching my body morph from a child into a woman, and entering the threshold of adulthood — without a plan or any direction. The teenage years are full of change, pressure, and uncertainty. Even in stable, solid families, teens grapple with a wide range of issues as they grow and develop.

The statistics are shocking:
  • About 20 percent of teens will experience depression before reaching adulthood (DoSomething.org).
  • Roughly 75 percent of girls with low self esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating (DoSomething.org).
  • Almost 40 percent of homeless people in the U.S. are under 18 (Covenant House).
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. A recent survey of high school students found that almost 1 in 5 had seriously considered suicide; more than 1 in 6 had made plans to attempt suicide; and more than 1 in 12 had made a suicide attempt in the past year (Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide).
  • LGBT youth are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide (Centers for Disease Control).
  • According to statistics, about 30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as a bully or as a victim of teenage bullying (Family First Aid).
  • Living with domestic violence significantly alters a teen’s DNA, aging them prematurely 7-10 years (Childhood Domestic Violence Association).
  • During the past month, 26.4 percent of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and binge drinking among the same age group was 17.4 percent (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
  • By the twelfth grade, about half of adolescents have abused an illicit drug at least once (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).
  • When a parent talks to their teenager regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol they lessen the chance of their child using drugs by 42 percent! However, only 25 percent of teens report actually having these conversations (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

It’s critical that we have the difficult discussions with our teens and arm them with resources that can help. Books are one way to empower them.

From the struggles of self-identity, the trauma of domestic violence, to the unthinkable heartbreak of suicide and loss, these 10 new YA novels tackle the tough issues — poignantly and with unforgettable prose.

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Books for teens Life Before by Michele BaconLife Before 

by Michele Bacon

Life Before is a modern coming-of-age story that finds 17-year-old Alexander (Xander) Fife excited to finish high school and start college so that his future can finally “begin.” Unfortunately for Xander, his violent, abusive father has other plans. Xander ends up on the run and on his own for the first time in his life. Author Michelle Bacon does an incredible job painting the canvas of emotional chaos experienced by children who grow up in violent and abusive homes. Teens will connect with Xander’s raw, emotional journey, and the honest voice in which his story is told.

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Books for teens This Ordinary Life by Jennifer WalkupThis Ordinary Life

by Jennifer Walkup

Jasmine Torres has so much going on in her life, it’s a miracle she hasn’t suffered a nervous breakdown or run away from home. She is the glue that keeps her dysfunctional family together, dealing with her younger brother’s epilepsy, her mother’s alcoholism, and her broken heart — all while aspiring to become a radio star. But how do you fulfill your dreams with so many other responsibilities? When so many others depend on you? Hope. This Ordinary Life is a wonderful story about the love between siblings and never losing sight of your dreams, no matter what obstacles lie in your way. This beautifully written book is far from ordinary.

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Books for teens Draw the Line by Laurent LinnDraw the Line 

by Laurent Linn

Sometimes the superhero isn’t the big guy, the outgoing guy, the guy who has all the girls. Sometimes the superhero is waiting in the background; waiting to ‘come out’ and turn the world upside down. When a violent hate crime occurs at a local hangout, 16-year-old Adrian must stand up and come out, or he will forever be stuck in the background. A magnificent story about self-identity, courage, and finding your way. This groundbreaking book defies genres and takes a serious look at some timely, hard-hitting issues.

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Books for teens Pearl by Deirdre Riordan HallPearl 

by Deirdre Riordan Hall

Pearl Jaeger has survived being the daughter of a drug-addicted, has-been celebrity mother. She has survived living with her mother’s abusive boyfriend. She has survived fleeing that turbulent environment and bouncing from homeless shelter to homeless shelter. Now the real test begins. Can she survive boarding school — her one chance at a new beginning — or will her mother’s struggles emerge and become her own? A book intended for mature teens looking for realistic fiction addressing the struggles of addiction, love, and self-identity.

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Books for teens Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda 

by Becky Albertalli

Heart wrenching, yet appropriately infused with humor, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is another remarkable piece of realistic fiction — a geeky coming-of-age story about the not-so-openly gay Simon Spier whose secret is about to come to light in the form of a wayward email. Albertalli creates a masterful world filled with relatable characters, in a happy bounce of a book.

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Books for teens My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaMy Heart and Other Black Holes 

by Jasmine Warga

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is severely depressed and fixated on suicide. But she is too scared to do it alone. After discovering a website specializing in “suicide partners,” she meets Roman and they form a pact. The two couldn’t be more polar opposite and as the end nears, Aysel finds herself questioning if she really wants to die. Can she convince Roman that life is better than death? Before it’s too late? Novelist Jasmine Warga addresses teen suicide and mental illness with grace and honesty.

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Books for teens The Loose Ends List by Carrie FirestoneThe Loose Ends List 

by Carrie Firestone

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a comfortable life. She and her friends are excited to spend their pre-college summer on the lake with her social butterfly grandmother (Maddie’s closest ally). Her happy world turns dark when she learns that Gram is terminally ill. The summer won’t be spent with friends; it will be spent with family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship. The Loose Ends List is a story of endings and beginnings, of laughter and tears, of first love and of falling in love with your family all over again. Author Carrie Firestone tackles the hard discussions — death, dying, and grief — in a fresh, clever, and thoughtful way. It’s a book that once picked up, you can’t put down.

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Books for teens What We Saw by Aaron HartzlerWhat We Saw 

by Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw is a thought-provoking, sensitive, and spellbinding story about the courage it takes to do what’s right. Inspired by true events in the Steubenville rape case and told from the first-person account of a girl called Kate, this powerful narrative takes on themes of sexism, rape culture, feminism, and consent. It’s a novel that has the power to change the way people think, and a must-read for all young adults.

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Books for teens What Happens Now by Jennifer CastleWhat Happens Now 

by Jennifer Castle

Seventeen-year-old Ari is recovering from the emotional and physical scars of cutting when she meets Camden and instantly falls in love. But Camden isn’t the glamorous boy she has imagined. He’s damaged and could easily pull Ari down. What Happens Now is a riveting tale of first love, possibilities, and overcoming the demons within. Castle handles the sensitive topics of depression and self-harm with great compassion. She not only describes what Ari is going through in words, she makes you feel her journey and the healing power of love.

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Books for teens What Happens Now by Jennifer CastleThe Way I Used to Be 

by Amber Smith

The Way I Used to Be details the aftermath of a sexual assault from the first-person perspective of Eden. This is a powerful book about the long-term effects of rape on a girl’s life. Teens who have experienced the pain of sexual assault or abuse will appreciate this honest, raw reflection of courage and hope.

How Toddlers Benefit From Non-Picture Books

Involving kids in what you’re reading by sharing passages with them can be enriching for both of you. And as a bonus, no need to perfect your animal sounds.

All my life I’ve been a huge lover of children’s literature. I enjoyed it when I was a child, and have always had the classics on my bookshelf as an adult. So it was only natural for me to enjoy reading those books to my own child when the time came.

We have an enormous collection of children’s books at home, and I plan to cherish these books for many years to come. But since my son was born I’ve read him picture-less books along with our illustrated favorites. 

I’ve read aloud from such authors as Shakespeare, C. S. Lewis, and Dostoevsky. People often laugh at me a little when I tell them this, thinking the practice to be silly or just plain pointless.  I hate coming across that way to friends, but I just won’t give up the habit. I feel so strongly that it’s the right decision for us to include those big kid texts in our lives, even at a time when our son isn’t able to focus on them in a substantial way.

The main reason I read picture-less texts to my son is purely selfish: I enjoy big kid books. As I mentioned previously, I’m a huge children’s lit fan, but obviously I am an adult and also enjoy reading books that don’t involve cows mooing and trucks beeping. 

One of my all-time favorite things to read is poetry, so picture-less poems are a major part of our reading list much of the time. I also enjoy stories with intricate plots and unique characters. I could read these books silently alone while my son is spending time with my husband, and I do still do that. 

But when I read these poems or bits of novels aloud to my son he is able to, instead of remaining in his world of reading picture books, jump into my world of reading the way an adult does. By that I mean chapter books, like some of the authors I just mentioned or bigger kid books, like J. K. Rowling or Madeleine L’Engle.

So then when my son jumps into my world of reading lots of words on the page and lots of different characters talking and learning and interacting, he is able to see reading in a different way. Not as something that I have to do with him, but as something that I enjoy doing for myself. 

He may not like these books. He may say, “No, no, no,” and tell me to stop because he doesn’t want to hear it right now (and I will stop reading, if that’s the case), but at least he is able to see that reading is important to me too, and that I want to share my reading with him the same way he does with me.

Everyone agrees that reading with your kid is important, but beyond that reading for your own enjoyment is important too. In Aha! Parenting’s piece about how to raise a child who loves to read, the 11th step is: “Read yourself.” 

The reason cited is, “if they don’t see you read, why should they?” And that makes total sense. I mean, we know that modeling good habits like eating vegetables and brushing our teeth is so important, so why not reading for our own enjoyment?

Another reason I’ve been reading picture-less books to my son since he was a baby is because I feel strongly that pictures themselves are a hugely important part of how we learn. I don’t mean the illustrations on the pages. I mean the pictures we make for ourselves in our own minds. So where picture books help show kids what is happening using pictures, books without pictures require that kids create their own images as they read.

Some refer to the images we create in our minds as we read as, “brain movies.” Author Donna Wilson (Smarter Teacher Leadership), explains in her piece for Edutopia, “Learning to create brain movies can help students make sense of complex nonfiction matter and ‘see’ the characters, setting, and action in stories.” 

Furthermore, she states that, “more to the point for teachers, guiding your students to visualize as they read is an engaging and enjoyable way to boost comprehension and retention.”

Comprehension is what we want our kids to develop as they grow. We want them to read stories and understand what is happening — it’s the most important step toward actually enjoying them. After all, if we don’t understand what we read, what’s the point in even reading?

Of course, when I read a Robert Frost poem to my son, I am not expecting him to create these  movies in his head. I’m not expecting him to fully comprehend. He is a toddler. But I’m introducing him to a very important part of language application, which is the idea that words spoken out loud can be used as information to shape images in our minds. That way, instead of needing to see a dog on a page while I am reading to him about a dog, he can hear the word “dog” and imagine it himself. 

It’s similar to how we learn language, we point to a cat and say “cat” out loud hundreds of times, so that eventually, when our children hear the word “cat” they have a frame of reference for creating an image, without needing to see an actual cat.

As David Myers, author of “Psychology: Ninth Edition,” states, “Around their first birthday (the exact age varies from child to child), most children enter the one-word stage. They have already learned that sounds carry meaning….” 

This happens because we read to our children from those beloved picture books, but also just because of our everyday interactions with them. Talking about things without images to accompany them will help children learn language. The Linguistic Society of America explains, “Although parents or other caretakers don’t teach their children to speak, they do perform an important role by talking to their children. Children who are never spoken to will not acquire language. And the language must be used for interaction with the child; for example, a child who regularly hears language on the TV or radio but nowhere else will not learn to talk.”

The most important part of teaching our children the language is that the language is being spoken directly to them, and in conversation with them.

What better way to interact with your child than by reading in a way that inspires interaction?  Instead of reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” for the hundredth time in a monotone voice, try reading a few lines from “Hamlet” to them with excitement and vigor.

Read with your kids, and to your kids. Not just their favorite picture books, but your favorite books as well. Help them develop language, as well as the ability to create brain movies. And model for them that reading is important, not just because it helps them learn, but because it’s enjoyable and valuable for adults, too.

Research Shows Printed Books Are Better For Your Kids Than E-Books

While reading in any form is a highly important practice, research is beginning to show that not are created equal.

Since the 1980s a debate has raged about what is better for the human brain: to read on a screen or to read ink on paper. More than a hundred studies have been devoted to the topic, and the results are mixed.

Some studies have shown that the emission of light from computers, tablets, and phones makes reading more difficult on the eyes. That’s why Amazon lit the Kindle the way it did: to mimic the way light hits a printed page.

Other studies have talked about how babies and toddlers learn better through kinesthetic or hands-on learning. The more interaction a child has with an object, the better he or she learns. This is why the first apps and iPad books created for children were so interactive (and why children love scratch and sniff and activity-based board books). As Ferris Jabr wrote in a 2013 article for Scientific American, “Babies touch everything…they will jab at an illustration they like; heck, they will even taste the corner of a book.”

E-readers, computers, and touch screens fail – no matter how hard they try – to imitate the tactile experience of holding a book in one’s hand and cracking its binding for the first time. But beyond the tactile experience, how else do traditional books and e-books differ?

Neuroscience has shown that reading on screen uses a different part of our brain, shifting our brains toward “non-linear reading” and may affect our deep reading skills. Deep reading is a term coined by Sven Birkerts in “The Gutenberg Elegies and it means to read in a thoughtful and deliberate manner that filters out distractions and becomes a form of deep thinking.

Author of the book “Paper to Digital: Documents in the Information Age Ziming Liu, a professor at San Jose State University, found that when we read on screen we spend more time browsing, scanning, and performing non-linear reading. When we hold a physical book in our hands, our attention is more often captured by it.


Little boy reading book.


Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading at Language Research at Tufts, and author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain,” has been researching deep reading versus reduced reading because of her concern of how it affects young novice readers or “those who are learning how to read in a way that helps them to comprehend and expand upon the information given.”

Wolf provides this basic explanation of how reading and the brain works (viewable through modern imaging technology): “Whenever we learn something new, the brain forms a new circuit that connects some of the brain’s original structures. In the case of learning to read, the brain builds connections between and among the visual, language, and conceptual areas that are part of our genetic heritage, but that were never woven together in this way before.”

Wolf argues that with its “sound bites, text bites, and mind bites” digital reading may not help children develop deep reading skills nor deep thought.

In two separate 2013 and 2014 studies, one of school children and one of adults, Anne Mangenand her colleagues at the University of Stavanger in Norway gave groups of people with similar reading abilities texts to read, with half reading electronic and half reading text on paper. Afterward, the readers completed a test to gauge reading comprehension. In both cases, the people who read the texts electronically did worse than their paper reading counterparts.

For the student study, Mangen thinks this is due to the students having a more difficult time finding specific information in the electronic texts. Printed documents are easier to navigate. “The ease with which you can find out the beginning, end, and everything in between and the constant connection to your path, your progress in the text, might be some way of making it less taxing cognitively, so you have more free capacity for comprehension,” Mangen said.

For the adult study, Mangen thought the readers might have different emotional reactions to the Elizabeth George short story, based on their interaction with it, but this was not the case. The Kindle readers did significantly worse on the 14-point plot reconstruction than the paperback readers did. The professor speculates that the physical act of turning pages helps readers orient themselves within the plot sequence. Physical pages also make it easier to turn back to something recently read. Similar experiments have been conducted by Kate Garland at the University of Leicester and others with similar results

Researchers also say there’s something emotionally satisfying about knowing where you are in a book, how much you’ve read, and how far you have to go before the end of the book or the end of the chapter (something that doesn’t resonate as much when seeing the “x percentage read” or the “hours left” countdown of e-readers). And anyone who has read the same book ad nauseam to a small child knows that feeling of relief as you near the end of the story for the umpteenth time.

All of that said, both types of literature, print and electronic, help kids develop a lifelong love and habit of reading. Fabr said, “Today’s so-called digital natives still interact with a mix of paper magazines and books, as well as tablets, smartphones, and e-readers; using one kind of technology does not preclude them from understanding another.”

But let’s face it: a plastic coated board book is much friendlier to a teething infant than an electronic version of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” any day, even if the content is the same.

Your Kid’s Not a Bookworm? Here’s What You Need to Know

We all know reading has lifelong benefits. But what can you do when your kid just doesn’t enjoy sticking their nose in a book?

When we’re constantly told how important it is for our children to read, how it helps them improve in other subjects (even math), what do we do if our child simply doesn’t enjoy reading?

I know how enjoyable reading is, what it feels like when you get to that point where you can’t possibly put the book down until you know what happens, even if it means staying awake until the early hours of the morning.

It’s hard for me, therefore, to understand why my middle daughter doesn’t feel that way about books. She’s nine and has always been a good reader, plowing her way through the school reading books with diligence and never giving us any indication of a future issue with her reading.

Children love sharing stories with you.

I’ve always read to the children and they love that. It’s not just about sharing a story, so much as spending time together, in close contact. Picture books were great fun, the stories short enough to share in one sitting, the results instant and gratifying. But there comes a time when you feel you have to move on from that.

Teachers certainly encourage moving on to chapter books when they feel a child is ready. With my daughter being able to read so well, it seemed like the natural next step. However, when presented with chapter books and given the opportunity to read alone, I didn’t get the response I imagined.

She wanted to please me, I could see that. She also wanted to enjoy the stories; that was obvious too, but something didn’t click and the initial enthusiasm for moving on waned. The picture books remained on her book shelf and she would dive in and out of them as she pleased. There was nothing wrong with that and I was only too happy to see her reading, thinking she would move on in her own time.

Finding the right story may take time.

We now have a pile of middle-grade books containing make-shift bookmarks, placed a few pages in. “You just haven’t found the right book yet,” we were told, and so on we went, trying different ones, taking other people’s recommendations. The results were always the same. The magical “one” still eludes us.

Credit to my daughter for trying, but she is one of those children who are eager to please, at school and at home. However, having yet to reach that middle section, the bit where everything changes and you are in it to the end with the protagonist; I know she won’t ever get that bookworm feeling. I think she knows that, too, and I’m only relieved that it doesn’t upset her.

What do you need from a story?

She tells me the stories are too long, still needing the instant gratification that a short story with a beginning, middle, and end, wrapped up in one sitting, gives you. It’s almost like she can’t be bothered with longer stories for that one reason alone.

It’s not that she doesn’t read well, either. In fact, her teachers tell me she has excellent comprehension skills. They’re not too worried, but they do keep encouraging her to read and that prompted us to come up with some ideas to vary her reading skills.

These include:

  • Non-fiction books
  • Newspapers (we buy First News, a children’s newspaper published in the UK)
  • Short story collections (you can dip in and out of these as you please)
  • Audio books (listening to a story improves your vocabulary as well as comprehension skills)
  • Short story magazines (it’s something to look forward to once a month)
  • I read to her (middle-grade novels) and we discuss the story together

As long as they’re reading something, that’s good!

By reading such a variety of materials, my daughter is still experiencing different stories and improving her vocabulary and comprehension skills. In the meantime, she continues to try different books, in the hope she will find that special story; the one that finally shows her what reading longer novels is all about.

7 Unique Books to Excite Kids About Their Local Environment

Kids are born with an innate interest in nature. Here are seven books that can help the adventure continue, even when it is time to go inside.

Children are born with an innate curiosity about nature. Few can resist the siren song of a puddle waiting to be splashed in, or a hill waiting to be rolled down. Playing outdoors offers children an endless opportunity for learning and discovery as they find new bugs crawling under rocks or hear a bird’s song as it flies from tree to tree.

More and more, however, our kids are growing up in a world that is disconnected from nature. Researchers have found that British children were better able to identify Pokémon characters than real life plants and animals. A little extra encouragement from parents, however, can help kids to pursue their natural interest in the world around them.

Here are seven books that can help the adventure continue, even when it is time to go inside.

My Book of Birds, Geraldo ValerioMy Book of Birds

by Geraldo Valerio

A perfect read for any budding bird watcher, this book features cut paper illustrations of common North American birds. The simplified, artistic depictions help illustrate the most important identifying features of local birds, enabling even young children to recognize the differences between species. Valerio provides interesting facts about each bird in his descriptions, helping to encourage a curiosity about creatures we may otherwise never have noticed, like Steller’s Jays, or don’t often get to see, such as the Tufted Puffin.

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Flowers are Calling, Rita Gray (author), Kenard Pak (illustrator)Flowers are Calling

by Rita Gray (author), Kenard Pak (illustrator)

With beautiful illustrations and lyrical text that will capture a young listener’s attention, this book covers the lives of pollinators, their sources of food, and other inhabitants of the forest and desert. Gray easily and simply depicts the relationship between plants and animals with text that reads more like a story than a field guide. Pak’s illustrations of moonflowers, cacti, and hummingbirds will expose young readers to a variety of local plants and animals that they can then keep an eye out for themselves.

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Water is Water- A Book about the Water Cycle, Miranda Paul (author), Jason Chin (illustrator)Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle

Miranda Paul (author), Jason Chin (illustrator)

The water cycle is not simply a lesson reserved for fourth grade science class. It’s a story that we live every day, as we watch rain fall from the sky and evaporate from puddles. Paul tells this story through the eyes of children, following them through a year of rain, puddles, snow, ice, fog, and lakes. This poetic and unique approach will help show children that nature is not separate from us, it is something we experience. As a bonus, the family featured in the story is multi-ethnic, something that is not often depicted in children’s literature.

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Waiting for High Tide, Nikki McClureWaiting for High Tide

by Nikki McClure

In this story, a young boy describes the coastal ecosystem, from barnacles to herons, as he spends the day at the beach with his family. His parents build a raft, and he painstakingly waits for the tide to come in so they can spend the rest of the day swimming and jumping off their creation. While children who don’t live in the Pacific Northwest might not be familiar with the plants and animals in this book, they will be able to relate to the difficulty of waiting, and the excitement of exploring.

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Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner (author), Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator)Over and Under the Snow

by Kate Messner (author), Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator)

Every child dreams of a secret kingdom that they can only see in their imagination, and this book takes them there, down to the subnivean layer – the world of animals that exists under the snow. As a young girl skis through the forest with her father, the world of red squirrels, shrews, and beavers is exposed. Children and adults will both learn something new by reading this cozy book.

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Learn to Count With Northwest Coast Native ArtLearn to Count With Northwest Coast Native Art

While the animals in this book – frogs, ravens, butterflies – are familiar to most readers, the illustrations might not be. Featuring art by Native artists from the Pacific Northwest, young readers can gain a different perspective on familiar animals. The bright colors and simple text make will help even the littlest readers gain an interest in learning about the great outdoors.

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Who Pooped in the Park? Gary Robson (author), Elijah Brady Clark (illustrator)Who Pooped in the Park?

Gary Robson (author), Elijah Brady Clark (illustrator)

What kid can resist talking about poop? This book takes a unique approach to animal identification, by teaching kids about scat (poop) and tracks (footprints). As a family goes on a vacation to Yellowstone National Park, they are disappointed that they don’t come across any animals, but are excited to find plenty of evidence that they are around. This book is part of a series that features different national parks, so you can learn about faraway lands, or get more familiar with animals close to home.

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A Beauty Collected by y Rachel GarahanA Beauty Collected

by Rachel Garahan

“If you can’t name things, how can you know them?” asks the back of this ABC book that will engage children just learning their ABCs, and older ones who are interested in learning more about the world they inhabit. With stunning photographs, children will learn to recognize a myriad of natural objects, ranging from plants to space matter (such as meteorites). This book features items that kids will come across in their everyday life, such as berries, as well as some more exotic ones like pomegranates. With enticing pictures of vegetables, this book might even encourage your child to try a bite of chard.

14 Books Your Kids Should Read Before the Movie Version Comes Out

Here’s the thing about books being made into movies: You’re doing yourself (and your children) a disservice if you neglect to read the book first.

Some of today’s most celebrated films were first words on a page. Books are the prequel to many outstanding movies, including those adapted from children’s classics and bestselling novels. This year, we’ve already witnessed several successful film adaptations come alive, including “The Jungle Book,” “The BFG,” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

But here’s the thing about books being made into movies: You’re doing yourself (and your children) a disservice if you neglect to read the book first. The experience of bringing a book to life in your mind – creating the world, hearing the dialogue, feeling the feels – is something that can never be replicated on screen. Plus, the chances of reading the book after seeing the movie version are pretty slim. Even for kids.

So encourage your child to read these amazing books before they hit theaters. Or make it family reading time and experience the journey with them. Some are due to come out soon, while others are currently being optioned. And a few – let’s hope they stay immortalized in print forever. There are just some things too good to be recreated.

Children’s & Middle Grade Books

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books ot read before movie miltons secret“Milton’s Secret by Eckhart Tolle

Starring the incredible Donald Sutherland and Michelle Rodriguez, the movie hits theaters on September 30. I highly recommend picking up the book first. “Milton’s Secret” is a beautifully illustrated and artfully expressed story about eight-year-old Milton, who is bullied on the playground by a boy named Carter. You’ll want the opportunity to talk with your child about this social reality and help them understand what to do and who to talk to should they ever encounter bullying firsthand.

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Books to read before movie middle school the worst years“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbets

James Patterson and Chris Tebbets’ 2011 graphic novel will debut as a film on October 7, so your kids still have a little time to sneak this one in before it becomes a top-grossing film (oh, it will). The premise: Rafe Khatchadorian’s home life is already problematic, and now middle school has been thrown into the mix. With sixth grade destined to destroy his last glimmer of hope, Rafe’s imaginary friend, Leo, tells him to do something cool, something to make the year one to remember. So Rafe embarks on a mission to break every rule in the school’s Code of Conduct handbook. Will he successfully complete the challenge or will middle school crush his soul? Find out in the book version. First. Please.

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Books to read before movie the great gilly hopkins“The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

Also set for an October 7 release and first published in 1978, “The Great Gilly Hopkins” is a heartwarming story about foster kid Galadriel ‘Gilly’ Hopkins and her quest to find a real home. The book is intended for mature, older middle-grade children given Gilly’s foul-mouth (no f-bombs; this is a kid’s book) and bratty personality at the onset. There are heavy issues at play including emotional trauma, racism, and homelessness. This book will not disappoint, but be ready to dive into some serious conversations. 

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Books to read before books The Great Gilly Hopkins“Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Can you imagine the world of “Captain Underpants” coming to life on the big screen? We nearly did cartwheels when we heard this one is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Hart and Ed Helms. If you’ve never had the pleasure of being outraged by the name of this bestselling series, grab the book now. Captain Underpants is every elementary school kid’s hero, and everything you’d never expect. The release date for this wildly anticipated film is listed as January 23, 2017. We’ve already reserved our spot in the ticket line!

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Read before movie Pax“Pax by Sara Pennypacker

This endearing novel has been such a hit a bidding war for the movie rights was inevitable. Released in print earlier this year (February 2016), Pax is a story for the ages and one you’ll want your children to read well in advance of the movie – because they’ll have questions. And they’ll cry. And you’ll cry too.

This journey is told through the eyes of Pax, a pet fox, and his human, Peter. When Peter’s father enlists in the war, he forces Peter to release Pax back into the wild. Soon after, Peter realizes what a horrible mistake he has made and decides to set out and find his best buddy. Little does he know, Pax is trying to find him, too. This story tears at the heartstrings, and is one of the most remarkable books, let alone middle-grade books, I’ve read in a very long time.

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Read before movie magic tree house “Magic Tree House (Series) by Mary Pope Osbourne

Lionsgate recently acquired the film rights to the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne, celebrated the world over by parents, librarians, and teachers. This 54-book series follows Pennsylvania siblings Jack and Annie on their trips through history and literature. The first movie installment, which is already in development, is based on “Christmas in Camelot,” the 29th book in the series. Your kiddos have plenty of time to start with the first book, “Dinosaurs Before Dark.” An ideal bedtime read for middle-grade students.

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Read before movie anyone but ivy“Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp

For anyone who loved Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” comes “Anyone But Ivy Pocket” – zany, whimsical, wickedly funny tale of a 12-year-old maid with an inflated perspective of life, and herself. It’s a delightfully quirky, hilarious read that will leave your children smiling. Film rights have been acquired by Paramount Pictures. No release date has been set.

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Teen & Young Adult

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Read before movie miss peregrines“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The film version of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” adapted from Ransom Riggs’ hit 2011 novel, will be released on September 30 worldwide. The story takes place at an orphanage where children with strange powers are looked after by the magical Miss Peregrine. While I anticipate an extraordinary film, the hair-raising epic adventure, illustrated with haunting vintage photography, cannot be captured anywhere but on the pages of a book.

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Read before movie A Monster Calls“A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Set for release on October 21 and based on Patrick Ness’ 2011 book, “A Monster Calls” tells the story of Conor O’Malley, a young boy whose mother is dying from a terminal illness. One night as Conor looks out his bedroom window, he sees a tree monster who promises him three tales. All that’s required of Conor? A tale in return, and one that contains “the truth.” Packed with symbolism that will be lost on screen, this is a must-read before the movie is released. Just have the Kleenex nearby.

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Read before movie The giant under the snow“The Giant Under the Snow by John Gordon

Before there was Harry Potter, there was “The Giant Under the Snow.” John Gordon’s tale of three children who awaken a giant after discovering an ancient belt buckle is due to be released on the big screen in October 2017. Since it’s considered one of the very first urban fantasy books ever written, long before the term had been coined, it rightly holds “classic” status and is absolutely one to add to your children’s suggested reading list.

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Read before movie the chronicles of prydain“The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

If your child loves “The Lord of the Rings” series, it’s time to get them hooked on Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy series “The Chronicles of Prydain.” This epic five-novel adventure, published between 1964 and 1968 and based on Welsh mythology, follows the protagonist Taran from youth into adulthood. His big dreams beyond being an assistant pig keeper land him in the magical land of Prydain, where this unlikely hero has a chance to save the day. And the world.

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Read before movie a wrinkle in time“A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It’s been a long time coming, but Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit will soon be making their big screen debut. Published in 1962, Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, “A Wrinkle in Time,” tells the iconic story of a dark and stormy night and the midnight arrival of a stranger at Meg Murry’s house. The book is filled with intricate physics terms and deep musings on good versus evil; concepts that are better suited for words than images. Yet, despite its complexity, “A Wrinkle in Time” is a hallucinatory read and one your children will never forget.

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Read before movie the sky is everywhere“The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

“The Sky is Everywhere” details the story of 17-year-old Lennie Walker, a bookworm and band geek, who is confronted with the sudden loss of her sister. While dealing with her unimaginable grief, Lennie finds herself strangely drawn to two men: her sister’s boyfriend and a new student. One shares her loss, the other offers hope – both are destined to change her. The novel was optioned by Warner Bros. and is currently being filmed.

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Read before movie all the bright places“All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

One of the best young-adult romances of our time, “All the Bright Places” will soon be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning (>>fist pump<<). When Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of a bell tower, it’s unclear who will save whom. Theodore is obsessed with death, while Violet is just trying to survive. We highly recommend having a frank talk with your teen before they pick up this book, as it tackles a variety of intense topics including depression and suicide.

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Now that you know what’s coming, here are a few books you’ll be surprised to learn have never been made into movies: The “Artemis Fowl” series by Eoin Colfer, “Corduroy” by Don Freeman, “Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, “Sideways Stories From Wayside School” by Louis Sachar, and “The Giving Tree” AND “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein. How has Hollywood gone this long without turning any of these incredible books into feature films? Let’s hope this question is never answered.

Your turn! Which books are you reading with your children or encouraging them to read before seeing the movie? Let us know in the comments section below.

5 Patriotic Books to Read with Your Kids

From snippets of American history, to how families celebrate the day, these 5 books are sure to become Independence Day favorites.

Fireworks, barbeques, and pool parties aren’t the only way to celebrate the Fourth of July. Sometimes snuggling up with your family on the couch and reading a book is the perfect way to start, or end, the day.

Reading aloud to children, even those old enough to read themselves, is the best way to ensure their enjoyment of reading. Here are some books that will help your family celebrate Independence Day, and learn a little something, too.

Patriotic Books for kids, A is for America" by Devin Scillian1 | “A is for America” by Devin Scillian 

These alphabet books are always a hit. With short, rhyming descriptions for each letter and more detailed explanations for older children (or to read when younger ones express an interest), these books are full of fun.

This book includes American history from the beginning with bright and beautiful illustrations. From Kitty Hawk and Kansas and Kodiak Bears to Philadelphia, Pike’s Peak, and Plymouth Rock, each letter depicts something fun and meaningful to all Americans. Your child will want you to read this again and again, and you will want to!



Patriotic book for kids, "Red, White, and Boom!" By Lee Wardlaw2 | “Red, White, and Boom!” By Lee Wardlaw

This book is perfect for reading aloud to a crowd or on the comfort of your couch. Explore the different ways people celebrate, all in rhyme. Beach picnics, parades, and, of course, fireworks explode off the page with intricate and vibrant illustrations.

Your children’s attention will be easily kept with the simple, short couplets and the way the anticipation builds towards the celebration. Children will ooh and aah just like when watching fireworks later on. In fact, they’ll probably ask you to read it again and again.



Patriotic Book for kids, "This Land is Your Land" by Woodie Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen3 | “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

Children are familiar with this song that’s brought to life through pictures. The illustrations and storyline take families from one end of the country to the other, showcasing the diversity of our great nation and the people who live here. There are some parts of the book that may invite conversation about these diversities, if children are old enough to recognize them in the pictures. A great read for adults and children alike.



Patriotic Book for kids "We the Kids" by David Caltrow 4 | “We the Kids” by David Caltrow 

Through the antics of a camping trip, Caltrow shows that learning about the Constitution can be fun! This book focuses on the Preamble to the Constitution in an easy-to-understand and fun way. The cartoon-like illustrations will keep the interest of littler kids while the words of the Preamble are a great learning tool for older kids.






Patriotic book for kids, "Apple Pie Fourth of July" by Janet S. Wong5 | “Apple Pie Fourth of July” by Janet S. Wong

America is a melting pot of people from around the world, and this book shares the experiences of a young Chinese-American girl. She tries to impress upon her parents the silliness of keeping their restaurant open on this holiday. She soon learns that while hot dogs and hamburgers may be some people’s way of celebrating, lots of cultures contributed to the traditions of the Fourth of July. For example, fireworks were invented by the Chinese. It’s a great reminder that while we all come from different backgrounds, we share in making this country great.

There are hundreds of good patriotic books to read to and with your children. What are some of your favorites?

50 Awesome Picture Books Your Kid Will Love This Summer

A kid-tested, and kid-approved summer reading list, featuring 50 of the most-loved children’s picture books!

I have a secret; I am addicted to buying books.

Few things in life bring me more pleasure than a stack of new books on the counter of my favorite bookstore, purchased and ready to come home. The problem is, I’ve run out of places in my house for these stories to live. My children attempted to conquer the daunting task of organizing our endless book piles. What started out as house cleaning project, quickly turned into the three of us huddling together under the covers re-reading — and re-living — nearly every one of our favorite books.

We clearly required organizational leadership. Assuming the role of household librarian, my daughter decided that we needed some kind of a system for our never-ending piles of books. This reading list is that system, developed and sorted by my children.

Many of the recommended book lists published online are written by publishers, parents, and academic scholars. Don’t get me wrong, their recommendations are invaluable, but there is something really special about a child recommending a book. It means they’ve read it, identified with it, loved it, and asked for it again and again. The book has become part of who they are, and they want to share it.

 Summer picture book reading list

Kid-loved, kid-tested, kid-approved.

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Hard Work, Perseverance, and Courage

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The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires

Giraffes Can’t Dance, Giles Andrae

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon, Patty Lovell

The Story of Ruby BridgesRobert Coles

How I Became a PirateMelinda Long

The Curious GardenPeter Brown



Innovative, Curious, and Problem Solving

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What Do You Do With an Idea, Kobi Yamada

Iggy Peck, Architect, Andrea Beaty

Going Places, Paul A. Reynolds

Rosie Revere, Engineer, Andrea Beaty

If I Built a Car, Chris Van Dusen

If I Built A House, Chris Van Dusen

The Tree House That Jack Built, Bonnie Verburg




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All of his books, Dr. Seuss

The Napping House, Audrey Wood

Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie, Judy Cox and Joe Mathieu

Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type, Doreen Cronin

The Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak

Double Trouble in Walla Walla, Andrew Clements

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorist

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Lauren Numeroff

If You Give a Moose a Muffin, Lauren Numeroff

If You Give a Dog a Donut, Lauren Numeroff

If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Lauren Numeroff

The Snatchabook, by Helen Docherty

Dog vs. CatChris Gall

Bark, George,  Jules Feiffer



Inspirational, Adventurous, Life Lessons

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The Kissing Hand, Audrey Penn

Miss Hazeltine’s Home For Shy and Fearful Cats, Alicia Potter

One, Kathryn Otoshi

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, Amy Rouse

CorduroyDon Freeman

Miss RumphiusBarbara Cooney

The Story of FerdinandMunro Leaf

The Three QuestionsJon Muth

The Circus ShipChris Van Dunes

Have You Filled a Bucket TodayCarol McCloud

Where the Wild Things AreMaurice Sendak

The Giving TreeShel Silverstein

Louise, The Adventures of a ChickenKate DiCamillo

The Blessing CupPatricia Polacco

Thunder CakePatricia Polacco

The Keeping Quilt, Patricia Polacco

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreWilliam Joyce

StellalunaJanell Cannon

The Giant CarrotJan Peck

Sylvester and the Magic PebbleWilliam Steig

OwenKevin Henkes

Ira Sleeps Over , Bernard Waber