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Classic Children’s Books

April 13th, 2015

The library is so vast, that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start looking for good books.  Check out this list of classic youth stories from my friend Mary Young:

Where the red fern grows
Wrinkle in time
Island of the blue dolphins
My side of the mtn.   The Hobbit
Chronicles of narnia
Treasure island
Swiss family Robinson
Robin hood
Black beauty
The black stallion
Treasures of the snow
Little house on the prairie
Little women.
Johnny tremain
Little men

Tackling Illiteracy as a Family

May 8th, 2014

Sometimes it may not seem like there’s much families can do to combat illiteracy in the community, other than ensuring their own kids can read.  But there are things that families can do together to promote the love (and need!) of reading.

Here are 4 ideas to start you thinking about how your family can promote and support literacy:

Share your favorite stories.  Pull up the computer (IPAD, tablet or phone) camera, have each person talk about their favorite book and why other people should read it and post it on YouTube.  It’s a simple act of kids telling other kids about good books.  Be a peer influencer and use social media to share a simple message.

Camera shy? Then share your favorite books face-to-face.  Find out when the elementary school in your neighborhood has reading time in the library or check out the after-school programs of agencies you trust and see if you can come and read books to – and with! – children.

Use books and short stories to promote literacy in your family.  Skype with grandparents or cousins and have a reading time each night before bed. Simply reading 2-3 short stories each night can have a great impact on building children’s vocabulary and understanding of language.

Create a little free, neighborhood library.  Host a library shelf in your home and encourage book swaps in the neighborhood, or build your own self-run library and place it in a prominent place where others can take advantage of getting and leaving books – a library post next to a bench in the park; one set up at a bus stop or one set up in front of your home.  Wherever you place it, just stock it up, spread the word and let the exchange begin.  For ideas on how to start your little free library, go to

Host a book party.  Invite your children’s friends over and ask each one to bring a book they’ve read and enjoyed but no longer want.  Make sure they wrap them.  Have everyone draw numbers, select books and each person gets a new book to read.  If the books are fast reads, pick one or two to read together, discuss and share opinions.  You can do this fun activity as often as you want (monthly, quarterly, or however often you want).

Whether the action you take is big or small, you can impact a love of reading by making books available, reading together, creating your own books and talking about the books you read.  What will you do improve the love of books around you?

Wanna Get Boys Excited about Reading?

September 21st, 2011

If you are looking for great literature to get3-8th grade boys excited about reading, check out this list of new and classic books from Children’s Author Andy Sherrod:

Reading for Life Part 7 – Books that Promote Positive Values

April 4th, 2011

1. December, by Eve Bunting.
Simon and his mother await Christmas in their little cardboard box home. Late at night, an old woman knocks and asks if she can come into the warmth of their home. After giving her a cookie and their coat, Simon falls asleep. When he awakes, he sees an angel.
• Have you ever shared with someone when you didn’t want to share?
• Why should we be kind to people in need? How can you be kind to someone in your life?

2. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton.
This charming story takes the reader through transportation history and demonstrates responsibility and integrity through a vivid story about hard work.
• What’s something that you have worked very hard to do?
• Do you always finish the work you say you’re going to finish?

3. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, by Chris Van Allsburg.
A naughty dog takes Alan on a chase to a magician’s house, where the dog disappears. Alan is faced with the difficult task of telling the truth.
• Can you think of a time that it was really hard for you to tell the truth?
• Why is it so important to tell the truth?

4. Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez.
As Maria helped her parents make tamales for a family celebration, she decided to play with her mother’s ring. Forgetting about the ring, she let it slip into one of the tamales. After she tried to eat her way out of trouble, she had an honest and humorous talk with her mother.
• Are there some things in your house that you need special permission to play with? Why is it important to obey rules that you don’t like?

5. Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister.
The Rainbow Fish learned via trial and error that being beautiful was not the best way to make friends. As he learned to share, he discovered a world of friends and a happier heart.
• How do you feel when people share with you? How do you feel when you share with others?

6. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems.
When Pigeon finds a hot dog, he can’t wait for lunch! That is, until a duck interrupts him. Watch as Pigeon struggles between hunger and sharing with his new . . . er . . . friend.
• Have you ever shared your lunch with someone? How did it feel?
• How can you share with someone today?

7. I Did It – I’m Sorry, by Caralyn and Mark Buehner.
These animal stories represent real life choices that children make every day. Within each story is a quiz to determine whether the choices help or hurt the animal’s friends.
• Which animal do you relate to the most?
• Have you had to make any hard choices this week?

8. The Summer my Father was Ten, by Pat Brisson.
A group of boys ruined Mr. Bellavista’s garden when they started playing baseball with tomatoes. It took a long time to rebuild a friendship with Mr. Bellavista, and learn the value of making amends.
• What did the boys do that was unkind and inconsiderate? What happened when the little boy offered to help Mr. Bellavista?
• How can you practice being kind?

Reading for Life Part 6 – Books that Promote Positive Identity

April 1st, 2011

1. Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon.
Separated from her mother at a young age, Stellaluna, a bat, was raised by a bird. She grew up modeling after her bird siblings, and left the bat ways behind. Another bat found her, and challenged her odd habits. Stellaluna slowly discovered and learned to love her true self.
• What are the ways that you are different from other people?
• How are you learning to love yourself for who you are, instead of trying to be like everyone else?

2. The Mixed-Up Chameleon, by Eric Carle.
A mysterious little chameleon reminds readers to be proud of who they are. After wishing to be a polar bear, a flamingo, and a fish, the chameleon realizes he’s quite happy with his life as a chameleon.
• Do you ever wish you could be somebody else? Why are you glad to be you?

3. Angelina Ballerina, by Katharine Holabird.
Angelina had a dream to dance, and she pursued that dream until it came true.
• What do you want to be when you grow up? How can practice your dream now?

4. I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.
This adorable poem of self-confidence reminds children to like themselves in success and failure. The pictures tell an equally humorous tale of silliness and laughter.
• What can you do that you’re really proud of? What is something you’d like to learn to do better?

5. Just Big Enough by Mercer Mayer.
Little Critter wants to be big so he can do all the things big kids do. He tries everything. It’s not until he talks with Grandpa that he realizes being himself is just big enough.
• What are the things you do well?
• Who points out to you how great you are? What do they say?

6. Moo, Who? by Margie Palatini.
Hilda Mae Heifer has lost her moo. She doesn’t know who she is anymore, but with the help of others, she gets her moo back.
• Have you ever tried to be someone you’re not?
• What do you like best about yourself?

7. I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont.
Silly and real at the same time, this book explores all the things that are good about each of us. Inside and out just because you’re you and I’m me.
• Which is your best feature? Toes? Hair? Smile? Can you list different things you like about yourself?

8. Elemenopee: The Day L, M, N, O, P Left the ABC’s by Pamela Hall.
L, M, N, O, P have had enough! They are run together in the song, the other letters tease them and they are through. They don’t feel like they belong in the ABC song so they decide to leave. See what happens when they’re not there anymore . . .
• Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong or felt left out? How can you help others feel special, like they belong?
• What can you see about them and praise for how they’re important? OR What can you do to make others feel special and important?

Reading for Life Part 5 – Books that Promote Social Competencies

March 30th, 2011

1. Miss Nelson is Missing!, by Harry Allard.
When the children in Room 207 continued to misbehave Miss Nelson suddenly disappeared. Replaced by an awful substitute teacher, Viola Swamp, the children discovered a new appreciation for their missing teacher. When Miss Nelson returned to school, she found a class of kind and respectful students.
• Is it hard to learn when people are using unkind words and actions? How can you improve your manners at home and school?

2. Mole Music, by David McPhail.
When Mole was watching television, he heard a man playing the most beautiful music on a violin. Deciding that he, too, wanted to learn how to play, he ordered a violin and practiced every night. He learned to make beautiful music.
• What kinds of music do you like best? Do you think you could learn to play an instrument like Mole did?
• Have you ever practiced anything as hard as Mole did?

3. Morris Goes to School by B. Wiseman.
Morris the mouse can’t read or count. With the help of the candy man, Morris goes to school and begins a whole new adventure in learning.
• Can you say you’re A-B-C’s? Count to ten?
• What have you learned in school?

4. Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee.
An almost kindergartener is in a frantic! School is about to start and she doesn’t know how to tie her shoes. Laugh and cry with her as she faces her fears and discovers school may not be all that bad.
• Have you ever felt worried like the girl in the book?
• Have you ever had trouble learning to do something? How did you finally learn? Who helped you?

5. What Teachers Can’t Do by Douglas Wood.
There are SO many things that teachers can’t do like ride scooters to school or be late. And they always seem to need help with things around the classroom . . . cleaning boards, spelling “c-a-t” and answering “2+2=4.” Teachers need students and do what they can to make them feel welcome and a part of school.
• Do you know someone who makes you feel special or needed? What do they need you to do?
• Do you think learning can be fun? How?

6. Hog Eye, by Susan Meddaugh.
A little pig got on the wrong school bus, and rode to the wrong side of town. When she tried to cut through the forest en route home, a wolf snatched her for his soup. Discovering his inability to read, the piggy tricked him with her own recipe, and escaped.
• What rules have your parent’s set for you to follow? Why is it important to follow their rules, even if you don’t like them?
• Why is it important to read? How can it help you?

Reading for Life Part 4 – Books that Promote Constructive Use of Time

March 28th, 2011

1. Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran.

In the magical town of Roxaboxen, anything can happen with a little imagination. A desert of rocks is transformed into a childhood of treasured memories.
• What do you like to do in your free time?
• If there was no electricity, what games might you play together and how might you spend your time?

2. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats.

Waking up to a world of snow, Peter had a day of exploration and fun. He discovered a great love for deep, deep snow.
• What are your favorite ways to play in the snow?
• What are your other favorite things to do with your friends on cold days?

3. Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg.

Peter and Judy learn the importance of reading the directions before starting a project in this humorous tale of imagination.
• What is one of the best games you’ve ever played? Have you ever made up your own game?
• What can you do when you’re getting bored to be creative instead?

4. Froggy Plays In The Band, by Jonathan London.

Froggy heard about a marching band contest, so all of his friends learned to perform in the band. On the big day, they had a little goof-up, but they still won a prize.
• Do you like to play or sing music?
• How much time does it take to learn to play an instrument? If you could play any instrument in the world, what would you play?

5. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett.

This delightful tale takes readers through daily life in the town of Chewandswallow. The words, pictures and plot will inspire imagination in readers of all ages.
• Can you make up a silly story to share with your friends?
• Can you draw pictures of your story?

6. My Mama Had a Dancing Heart, by Libba Moore Gray.

Mama found a reason to dance and play in every season of life, and gave her daughter a passion for dancing.
• Do you play any of the games that Mama and her daughter played?
• What are your favorite things to do in winter? Spring? Summer? Fall?

7. Something From Nothing, by Phoebe Gilman.

Joseph’s grandfather transforms a tattered piece of cloth into the most magical things, each time it gets to dirty and ragged to carry around.
• Do you know anyone who sews or cooks or draws – creating something from nothing?
• What could YOU create with a tiny blanket?

8. The Hatseller and the Monkeys, by Baba Wague Diakite.

This is an African tale about BaMusa, a joyful hatmaker, and his journey in responsibility, commitment and creative problem-solving.
• What are you good at making?
• Why is starting the day with breakfast important?
• Have you ever used your imagination to solve a problem?

Reading for Life Part 3 – Books that Promote Boundaries and Expectations

March 25th, 2011

1. Martha Walks the Dog, by Susan Meddaugh. When Bob, a common dog, moves into the neighborhood, Martha discovers with a little help how powerful words can be to build someone up . . . or hurt their feelings.
• How can you be kind to other people even when they’re mean?
• How does it feel when people are mean to you? Or nice to you?

2. Brave Irene, by William Steig. Irene’s mother finished sewing a beautiful ballgown for the duchess, but she was too sick to deliver it. Irene took on the task, and trekked through wind and snow to reach the palace on her adventure of courage and responsibility.
• What is something that you had to work really hard to accomplish?
• Why is it important to finish the things we say we will do?

3. Small Green Snake, by Libba Moore Gray. A little adventurous snake learns a hard lesson about disobedience when his curiosity lands him in a child’s jelly jar. It’s fun to go exploring, isn’t it?
• Why is it important to obey your parents’ and teachers’ rules about exploring?

4. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes. Lilly couldn’t wait to show her new toys to her class at school, and it got her into a little trouble. This creative tale teaches the importance of obedience, apologies and forgiveness.
• Have you ever gotten in trouble for doing something out of turn? Have you ever said something that wasn’t very nice?
• What are some good ways we can apologize and remember to use our manners?

5. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Michael Hague. Peter’s mom left the bunnies with one word of caution, which Peter ignored in light of his hungry belly. He quickly learned that disobedience can bring big trouble.
• Have you ever gotten in trouble for disobeying?
• Can you think of some rules that are very important for you to follow?

6. Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. This classic story tells about the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s family of ducks on the Charles River in Boston.
• How did the ducks stay safe? Who helps keep you safe?

7. The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum, by Deborah Blumenthal. Sophie learned the hard way that tantrums are not the secret to getting what we want in life.
• Have you ever thrown a tantrum? Do moms/dads/teachers like it when you throw tantrums?
• What’s the right way to say that you want something?

8. Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig. Pete’s in a bad mood because he can’t play outside on a rainy day. His parents come to the rescue with a creative game of making pizza. Pete’s father pretends that PETE is the pizza, and they have a wonderful afternoon of drama.
• Have you ever turned a dreary day into a fun day by just changing your expectations?
• What silly games do your family and friends play?

Reading for Life Part 2 – Books that Promote Empowerment

March 23rd, 2011

1. Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann. Officer Buckle has a passion for keeping children safe. He discovers that with the help of Gloria, children are listening and that by working together, two can do more than one.
• What safety messages can you think of to share with friends?
• Have you ever worked on a project with a friend – what was it and what did you both do?

2. Let’s Get a Pup, Said Kate; by Bob Graham. Kate missed her old cat, until she thought of an idea. She asked her parents for a new puppy, and they went to find one at the animal shelter. They fell in love with not one pup, but two!
• It’s important to take good care of our pets – how can you help take care of your pets?

3. Anansi the Spider: a tale from the Ashanti, by Gerald McDermott. A family of spiders discovers that we are each created with unique skills and talents, for a special purpose in life.
• What things can you do really well? What things can your friends and family members do really well?
• How do you help out in your family?

4. Queen of the Class by Mary Engelbreit. The class is putting on a play and Ann Estelle knows exactly the part she wants. Things don’t quite work out as planned but with the insights of a wise teacher, she discovers gifts, talents and interests she never knew she had. She finds she has lots to offer.
• Who has someone entrusted you with responsibility? What was it? What did you do?
• When do you feel like a “Queen” or “King?”

5. The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle. When a family gets a dragon for a pet instead of a dog, their lives are changed! Realizing the mistake, they try to get rid of the dragon, but he won’t leave until the boy comes up with a plan. The boy used his imagination and came up with a good plan.
• Have you ever been the hero and saved the day? What did you do?

6. City Green, by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Marcy and Miss Rosa transform an abandoned lot into a beautiful city garden, and bring a whole new sense of life to everyone in the neighborhood.
• Have you ever planted a seed and watched it grow?
• How can you make your neighborhood a better place?

7. The Bravest of Us All, by Marsha Diane Arnold. The family of seven thought their sister Velma Jean was afraid of nothing, until a tornado came through town. When Velma Jean refused to go into the storm cellar, Ruby Jane emerged as the brave sister, giving Velma Jean the courage to face her fear.
• How have you been brave?
• How can you help others be brave?

8. The Stray Dog, by Marc Simont. During a Saturday picnic, a family falls in love with a dog they named Willy. The children rise to the occasion to care for the dog when he is in trouble.
• Have you ever taken care of someone in trouble? How did it feel to be so responsible?

Reading for Life – Books about Support

March 21st, 2011

Inspired by Scribbit’s post on Activities that Encourage Reading, I’m posting a list of picture books that promote healthy development in children. It’s part of a free booklet I wrote a few years ago called Reading for Life. There will be 8 posts – one for each category of Search Institute’s Developmental Assets.


1. Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch; by Eileen Spinelli.
Mr. Hatch lives an ordinary life, very much to himself, until a mystery package is delivered to his door with an anonymous love note. Wondering who might be his secret admirer, he starts to be nice to everyone around him. When the postman says he delivered the package to the wrong address, Mr. Hatch is devastated, until his friends throw a big party in his honor.
• What is something little that you can do to brighten someone’s day at school, at home, or in your neighborhood?

2. Mean Soup, by Betsy Everitt.
Horace has a horrible day, and comes home terribly grumpy. His mom provides a great attitude of support, by helping him channel his frustration into Mean Soup.
• Who helps you feel better when you are grumpy or sad?
• What can you do to help yourself feel better?

3. Sophie’s Masterpiece, by Eileen Spinelli.
Sophie is a spider, full of creative ideas for weaving beautiful webs. No one else appreciates her talents, until she stumbles on a new friend.
• Do you ever feel lonely like Sophie?
• Where are the places you go when you need a friend?

4. What Daddies Do Best, by Laura Numeroff.
This beautiful storybook reminds us that mommies and daddies are both very special people in our lives, and they can do lots of different things with us.
• What are your favorite things to do with your mommy? What about your daddy?
• Are there any new things you’d like to do with them?

5. In the Rain with Baby Duck, by Amy Hest.
The Duck family is on an adventure in the rain, en route to see Grandpa for a pancake dinner. Duck is very unhappy about walking in the rain, until Grandpa finds a clever solution.
• Why was Baby Duck so unhappy? What did Grandpa do to make it better?
• Can you think of something in your life that you don’t like very much? What could you do to make it better?

6. My Love For You, by Susan L. Roth.
Practice counting with children as you affirm them of your love for them. The beautiful illustrations fill the reader and listener with a spirit of hope and life.
• Who is someone you love very much? Why do you love them so much?

7. Miss Tizzy, by Libba Moore Gray.
Miss Tizzy entertained children every day of the week, as she made her house a home to all the neighborhood children. When she got sick, she learned the true value of her love for children.
• Why did Miss Tizzy make children so happy?
• Who could you surprise with a colored picture or a plate of cookies?

8. No Matter What by Debi Gliori.
Small is afraid Large doesn’t love him at all. Large knows just how to reassure Small that he is most loved and always will be.
• Who makes you feel especially loved? What do they do that you appreciate?
• How can you show love to someone who doesn’t feel so loved?