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Raising Readers - Encouraging Reading at Home
March 18, 2009

My name is Steve Barancik. Welcome to Raising Readers, the official newsletter of Best Children's Books.

Our goal: to help YOU raise better readers.


1) Pages you might not know about at Best Children's Books:
Books Your Child's Grandparents Once Read!

Courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a list of classic children's books written before 1960. Help your kids experience a different time! (And put a smile on Grandma's face.)

Encouraging Reading in the Home, by Tess Hannah

Tess Hannah has been a parent for 30 years and a teacher for 20. Understanding that a parent has different tools than a teacher, she tells how best to encourage reading at home.

3) Participate - Write a Book Tribute

Each issue we spotlight a way you can participate at Best Children's Books. How about writing a tribute to a book that made a difference to you growing up???

4) The New Frontier

There's some open space waiting for you to stake a claim to it...on the web.

Functionality Alerts!
If any links in this newsletter don't work, it's probably because your email software cuts off the link text at a line break, then prints the rest of the link as plain text. To use one of these links, try copying the WHOLE link then pasting it into your browser.

This email was designed to be read in an email reader that reads html. If you don't have one or yours is turned off, this letter might not look great but I'm guessing you're still smart enough to make sense of what I'm saying!

1) Pages you might not know about at Best Children's Books:
Books Your Child's Grandparents Once Read!

I found a great list. The U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) solicited extracurricular reading lists from top schools in each state. They noted the titles that appeared most often, then they removed any book that was published since 1960.

Voila! Instant "children's literature."

I like this list for so many reasons. For one thing, it helps your child realize that the world wasn't always as it is now. Also, I think the classics are a great way for kids and the old folks to make a connection across generations.

Ever wonder what the classics are? Click for a great way to find out.

A Teacher-Mom Tells How to Encourage Reading in the Home

Having taught language arts for 20 years and having been a parent for over 30 years, I have discovered that the task of getting a reluctant reader to choose reading over other activities is much more difficult for parents than for teachers.

As a teacher I can assign a book to be read. The student may not be happy about it, but for the most part, the job gets done. As a parent I don’t want to “force” my child to read because the whole point of this exercise is to discover the magic of being swept away by a piece of literature. It’s similar to having your children try a new food – you can’t make them like a certain taste. It’s a personal matter and the experiences of the individual determine whether it’s enjoyable or not.

With that said, there are definitely things that parents can do to encourage their children to read more. When they are young, of course, it is vital to read to them often and make a variety of books available to them. Making reading a part of your routine ensures that this activity won’t get buried in all of the random “have-to-do” activities that seem to fill a family’s day. For our 4 children, bedtime was a routine that was pretty much set in stone: take your bath, get on your jammies, brush your teeth, and hop into bed for a story. It was the perfect way to bring calm to an otherwise hectic portion of the day, and made reading a “warm fuzzy” experience, which is important for young children.

By the time students are in the middle grades (4th–6th), if they haven’t yet gotten “hooked on books”, there are other ways to encourage reading. One of the most obvious is to let your child see you reading. If all you ever do with your free time in the evenings is punch buttons on a remote, guess what conclusions your children will reach? It really doesn’t matter what you read – magazine, paperback, a newspaper – just not a TV guide!

Another suggestion is to listen to your children read to you as soon as they are able. When I was pregnant with our 4th child, my husband and 2 older children would clean up the kitchen after dinner while I would sit on the couch with our 1st grader and we would read books together for about 20 minutes. Sometimes she would read to me, and other times when the books were too difficult, I would read to her. By the end of the school year, we had read 120 books together! Her second grade teacher let me know that she had never before met a 7 year old who could read aloud with such inflection. I like to believe that this activity launched her career as an avid book reader.

Not all of our children were bitten by the “book bug” at a young age, however, so I would search for books to share with them that might spark their interest. When my youngest was in 3rd grade, we chose The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl for our bedtime story. We took turns reading a chapter aloud every evening, and spent many nights laughing loudly in reaction to this “wildly funny, wickedly inventive, golden phizzwizard of a book”, as it was described by a reviewer who obviously loved it as much as we did.

My son was stubborn, however, and still would not read any books on his own. It wasn’t until 4th grade that he discovered Harry Potter. When we had gotten through 3/4 of the first book in the series, my 9 year old asked me if it would be okay if he read the rest of the book by himself because he couldn’t wait for me to sit and read with him. I pretended to be thinking about my answer to that question, while in my head I was doing my “YES!” dance, knowing that he had finally arrived. After that, of course, we had to toss a coin each time J.K. Rowling came out with a new book, to determine who would get to read it first.

There are many wonderful children’s authors that I have discovered along the way. Here are my picks for some great reads:

For 1-5 year olds: Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Mercer Mayer, Audrey and Don Wood, Maurice Sendak, Sandra Boynton, and Alyssa Satin Capucilli

For 6-8 year olds: Cynthia Rylant, Shel Silverstein, Andrew Clements, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Chris Van Allsburg, and Barbara Robinson

For 9-12 year olds: Kate DiCamillo, Lynne Reid Banks, Katherine Paterson, Avi, Lois Lowry, Eoin Colfer, J.K. Rowling, Anthony Horowitz, and Rick Riordan

Search on Amazon.

In the end, one of the most precious gifts that you can give to your children is a love for literature. You will know you’re on your way when you discover them “sneaking a read” with a flashlight under the covers long after you have said good night and turned out the lights!

Tess Hannah


Over a span of 20 years my husband Tom and I worked on a collection of poems that we decided to store, for lack of imagination, under the couch. It seemed like the best place to keep our creations, where 4 active children wouldn't disturb them. (Who wants to go where the dust bunnies roam?)

As inspiration came and went, the poems were resurrected, enhanced, edited, and returned to their dark resting place. They were our someday-we'll-write-a-book-for-children poems. Apparently, with another milestone birthday looming on the horizon, Tom decided that "someday" had arrived. Together we co-wrote The Endless String (reviewed on this site), a book of humorous poems for children (and the people who read to them).

Raising our own children provided us with inspiration and made us realize that some situations are timeless. Even though a child doesn't come with an instruction manual, there are some kid-created crises that are just part of the package: cleaning out a bedroom closet full of "great stuff", finding two socks that match before the school bus arrives, and trying to make a way-too-large portion of peas disappear. It has been a fun venture - I can only hope that the next 20 years will be as memorable!

Preview Tess's work. (If you love Shel Silverstein, you'll love The Endless String.)

Buy Tess (and Tom) Hannah's The Endless String: Poems for Children (and the people who read to them).

3) Participate - Write a Book Tribute!

Steve here again. Here's a way you can be part of Best Children's Books...

We talked about "the classics." One definition of a classic is a book that YOU loved as a child. If it made an impact on you, chances are it'll make an impact on your child.

A book you share is a bond between you.

I'm trying to get grown-up visitors to the site to say a few words about books that made an impact on them growing up. This way, parents throughout the world can share a tip on a book that otherwise might have slipped through the cracks.

This is your chance to thank an author, to share the story of why a particular book made an impact on you at a particular time.

You'll be giving a child somewhere the chance to experience the same positive impact.

Just visit the books that made a difference page and fill out the form provided. I'll post your tribute for the benefit of all!

4) The New Frontier...on the Web

Have you ever wondered whether you would have had "the frontier spirit"? When there was a chance to start anew and achieve your full potential, would you have seized it?

There's a whole new breed of frontierspeople now, staking claim to part of a limitless expanse where there's room for any man or woman to set up shop and live by his or her own wits.

That "expanse" is the internet. You can stake a claim merely by showing up and having something to say.

About 1000 people per day show up at Best Children's Books. They pay a lot of my bills!

During these scary economic times, I can tell you that it's nice to have a business "on the side." (And if you're unemployed or underemployed, there's no better time to build such a business!)

I want to show you 500 successful websites, each built by a single individual (in most cases), and all built using the same low-to-no-tech service I used to build Best Children's Books.

I think you'll agree that these 500 sites cover a rather wide range of subjects!

See if they get you thinking...thinking about what a website BY YOU might be about.

If it does get you thinking, you'll also want to visit here. Or maybe you'll want to tell me about your notion.

Something you know about can become something that makes you money!


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Thank you for subscribing to and reading this edition of Raising Readers. If you have any comments or suggestions, I hope you'll contact me.

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