Tag Archives: books

For the Love of Audio Books

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one is with another who shares the same books.”Katherine Mansfield
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I love the way listening to audio books brings all my kids together.
Yesterday they spent the entire afternoon in the boys’ room listening to The Last Battle, a book they’ve read and listened to several times before. But we like to listen to our favorite books again and again. It just makes us love them more.
They were all in there together, drawing, building Legos, or just laying on the bed and soaking up the beautiful language and storytelling of one of CS Lewis’ masterpieces.
We don’t use earphones or earbuds when we listen to books, at home or in the car, because I love the way listening to a story together builds our relationships with one another.

The moment we put those ear buds in, we are shutting ourselves off from everyone around us. I work very hard to cultivate relationships within my family and so this “shutting off from one another” is the exact opposite of what I want to see happening.
Instead, I love to hear my kids laughing over a story together, or discussing the book as they listen to it together. We aren’t all separated from each other–we’re enjoying time together. I love the way, everyone is drawn into a room when an audio book is turned on. We’re pulled together by the magic of a good story.
We have beautiful conversations about whatever book we are listening to. Everyone chimes in, and we all relate to the book in different to ways, but we’re experiencing it together,  which creates such special bonds. We talk in the language of the books we’ve read. I often hear my kids say things like this, “you know that part in The Hobbit…” Or, “it’s like in Caddie Woodlawn when…”
The books we read together become shared experiences and create cherished memories just as family vacations and adventures do. In fact, the books we’ve read together are some of our favorite adventures.
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I have always felt that putting something in, or over, our ears separated us from one another and I’ve never liked that. Even at 11 or 12 when I got my first Walkman, I didn’t like listening to it in the car because I was missing out on the conversation my parents were having. I hated sitting next to my mom while she drove, my headphones on, and not talking to her. It felt almost rude to me. But even more, l knew I wasn’t experiencing life with her. There would be no conversations about the simple things we saw as we drove, or the deeper conversations that might happen as we sat next to each other.
There wouldn’t be singing along together to the Sam Cook cassette playing in our hunk of junk Dodge Dart while my mom drove my brother and I to math tutoring. There’d be no laughing over silly stories together There wouldn’t be learning how to sit together in silence, each having our own thoughts, yet fully comfortable together in the quiet.

Building relationships is certainly easier when we are fully engaged with one another.
I suppose all those things played a part in my decision to keep our book time free from ear buds and headphones. It’s not that those things are bad in and of themselves. Or even that using them is bad. It’s just that for us, the experience of being together without them is better.
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So how does this life style decision play out in our family, practically speaking?
Truthfully there is no grumbling about listening to books together because it’s something they’ve always done. This is our way of life and they don’t seem to mind it at all. The only problem that occurs occasionally is that someone is being too loud and interrupting the book. Then that person is asked to be quiet or leave the room. And the problem is solved.

We get most of our books from our subscription to Audible. This does have a monthly fee, but I consider it an essential part of our kids’ education and to our family life, so it is 100% worth the money. I get two credits to use a month and very rarely use more than those credits That means I do not spend anything beyond my monthly subscription fee. Sometimes we can purchase a whole series for one credit, like all the Ramona Quimby books. Or we purchase lots of long books, so we really make those credits count.
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Our Audible books can be played on any computer or phone, so the kids can listen to them just about anywhere.
They often have the computer set up in the living room and gather there to listen to books.
They can also listen in their rooms on the laptop or on our family iPod.
We borrow books on cd from the library often and those get played on Lilly’s Hello Kitty “boom box” or on the computer.
No one has to stay in a room and listen to a book if they’d rather be doing something else.
Sometimes one kid is inside listening to a book while the others are playing outside or in another room drawing. But it just seems that once a book is turned on, they all just gravitate to where it is playing.
My kids have a hard time resisting stories.

We also listen to books in the car all the time.
My kids don’t mind long drives because they get to listen to books. In fact, short drives are far more troubling to them because they want to listen to the book longer.

Everyone takes turn choosing the books we listen to. Or we choose one together.
Occasionally there might be a groan when Davy picks “Tales of Brer Rabbit” agin. But mostly they are happy with each other’s book selections.
They just love listening to books so much that they are happy for every new book that is chosen.Or a beloved old book revisited.
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Beyond the relational ways listening to books together has helped our family, it has also had an impact in other ways:
1.  We’ve grown our reading skills because of listening to challenging books from a very young age. My younger kids are always listening to books high above their reading level. But because of the constant exposure to these books, their comprehension skills and vocabulary are through the roof.  We also listen to all our books unabridged. It has never proven to be a problem for them–even with the most challenging books. They are building skills to become great readers.
2.  Everyone is exposed to a variety of genres, and authors they might otherwise not choose. Each of us has our favorite books of course, but since we are listening to books together, we are kept from choosing the same types of books over and over again. My kids are open to reading just about anything, because they’ve experienced so many different types of great books.
3.  We’ve learned the art of listening and paying attention. Listening to books that are challenging has taught all my kids the skill of being a good listener. They have to pay attention in order to understand what is going on in a story that may have lots of characters, an involved plot, advanced vocabulary, or complex sentence structure.
4. We’ve learned the importance of asking questions. Many of the books we listen to are higher level books. That means the younger kids will often stop and ask questions about what is going on, who a certain character is, or even say something like, “wait, what just happened?” If they were reading or listening alone, there would be no one to ask questions of, and I think the temptation would be to just stay lost. But because we’re listening together, asking questions is a normal part of the reading experience.
5.  We’ve learned the skill of summarizing, translating, re-telling , and explaining. As we listen to books together, and questions are asked, those questions must be answered. That means my kids are learning how to explain things to one another, and how to summarize what someone just missed or didn’t understand. Best of all, they are doing it in a natural, real life way.
6.  My kids are learning the joy and pleasure that comes from talking about books. The exchange of ideas and thoughts that come to us as we read (listen to ) a book together is a valuable skill that will translate to so many other parts of their life. It’s teaching them to be critical thinkers who can then discuss their thoughts. That’s a very practical part of this journey that I appreciate. But as I said before, they are also learning the joy and pleasure of discussing books. That to me is of great value as well. In fact, it may be my favorite part of this whole journey. Because there are few things I love to do more than talk about a book with my favorite little readers.

Now to get you started, here is a list of some of our favorite audio books.
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For the younger crowd:
*The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection narrated by Stockard Channing
*Charlotte’s Web narrated by EB White
*A Bear Called Paddington narrated by Michael Bond
*Mr. Popper’s Penguins narrated by Nick Sullivan
*The Courage of Sarah Noble narrated by Barbra Caruso
*The Peter Rabbit Collection narrated by Peter Batchelor

Books for older kids (but even my youngest has enjoyed listening to):
*The Yearling narrated by Tom Stechschulte
*The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy narrated by Rob Inglis
*The Princess and the Goblin narrated by Ian Whitcomb
*Johnny Tremain narrated by Grace Conlin
*Littel Women narrated by Kate Reading
*Caddie Woodlawn narrated by Roslyn Alexander
*The Borrowers series narrated by Rowena Cooper
*Father and I Were Ranchers (and the following books in this series) narrated by Ralph Moody
*Danny Champion of the World narrated by Peter Serafinowicz
*The Wind and the Willows narrated by Michael Hordern
*The Merry Adventures of Robinhood narrated by David Thorn
*The Chronicles of Narinia narrated by various narrators

These books are all available on Audible.
But you might be able to find them at your local library or on the site LibriVox, which offers many books to download for free.
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I hope this glimpse into the way we experience books as a family will encourage you to listen to more books together. You don’t have to totally ditch those earbuds.But I promise the benefits that come when you share a book together as a family will make you want to tune into one another more, and tune out less.
Remember, you don’t have to go on fancy vacations, or grand adventures to create memories with your family. Making memories can be as simple as popping a bowl of popcorn and settling down with a fabulous audio book. You’ll laugh together, wonder together, and if you’re like my family, cry together. Best of all, listening to a book takes some time, so you’ll get to revisit that together time again and again until the book is done.
Its magic!
Don’t underestimate the power of books to bring people together.
For the love of (audio) books,

*For more on my love of books, be sure to follow me on Instagram. You can find me @maandpamodern, right here.

Poetry 101: Why Teaching Poetry Matters

///This is the first post in a series about teaching poetry.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing reasons why we need to teach poetry to our kids, offering lesson ideas to help you accomplish that, explaining how to discuss a poem, as well as giving you plenty of resources that will help in your journey of making poetry a part of your everyday learning.  I look forward to your comments and questions, and I hope very much these articles will be useful to you.
Now let’s get started!///

Why Teaching Poetry Matters

Poetry is the best words in the best order.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.”
Rita Dove
The crown of literature is poetry.”
W. Somerset Maugham
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.”
W. H. Auden
“A thousand thoughts that burn, come to us on the wings of verse.”
Charlotte Mason

I have always had an affection for poetry.
I had favorite poetry books that I loved reading when I was a little girl.
I have them still, and they are treasures to me.
The poems I read were of the simple sort, never very long or complex.
But as I grew older, I wanted to read more challenging poems, like Anne Shirley and her friends, reciting “The Lady of Shalott.”
I tried to read those poems, but it was always a struggle since I lacked the tools for reading them with any kind of pleasure or understanding.


You see, my early years of school were seriously lacking in poetry.
I don’t recall reading or learning about poetry in my earliest elementary days.
And when I began being home schooled, my mom hadn’t read, or even been exposed to much poetry herself, and therefore felt the difficulty in teaching it to me.
Beyond those simple poems I read as a little girl, I really didn’t read poetry again until college, when I began to study literature and writing.
That was when I truly fell head over heals in love with it.
Thanks to a few professors who shared their passion for poetry with me, my understanding grew, and therefore so did my love.

My experience is a pretty common one for most people.
Except for the part about falling in love with poetry.
For most people, that doesn’t happen.
After all, how many of us have said or heard it said, “I just don’t understand poetry,”
Or, “I stopped liking poetry in high school.”
There seems to be a great gap between the innate love of poetry that every small child has, and the aversion many adults feel towards it.
Why does this happen?
And how can we prevent it from happening to our kids?


To begin with, we must start reading poetry to our kids when they are young, and we can’t ever stop.
Poetry exposure can’t just be some Mother Goose and Shel Silverstein when they are young, and then a long dry spell until high school or college.
At which point, we hand them a book full of poems by TS Elliot, Keats, and Emily Dickinson and expect them to dive right in.
That’s like teaching a kindergartener to do simple addition, doing no math for 10 years, and then handing them an algebra book and telling them to get busy.
Not only will they be lost, but they won’t find any enjoyment in the work either.
We can’t expect our kids to love something when we aren’t giving them anything to fall in love with.
Loving poetry requires constant exposure.
“The only way to grow poetry is to make it a habit.” (J. Patrick Lewis)

One of the best ways to make poetry more accessible is to start reading it to your children when they are young.
Little children are naturally drawn to poetry.
They like the rhythmic, musical quality of poetry.
They like the way rhymes make things easy to memorize.
Above all, they will develop warm associations with poetry while it is read to them from your lap.
That is a sweet, sweet gift to give them.

At the beginning, it is so important to help your children simply enjoy poetry.
“Unless a poem says something to a child, tells him a story, titillates his ego, strikes up a happy recollection, bumps his funny bone—in other words, delights him—he will not be attracted to poetry regardless of the language it uses.” (Patrick Groff)
Read them fun poetry, silly poetry, even nonsense poetry.
Poetry doesn’t have to be serious to be “real”.
Laughing together over a silly poem is a surefire way to get your kids to enjoy reading poetry.
Read them poetry that tells a story.
You’d be surprised at the way your children can follow along with a long ballad.
After all, a ballad is simply a story told in verse form, and they know how to follow a story.
Read your children poetry about things they know.
Read about the seasons, and birds, and the sky.
Poetry helps our children notice and love the natural world around them because it is so often celebrated in poetry.
Read them poems about love and friendship, and families and pets.
Poetry helps children access their emotions in a positive way, when they read poems that praise and honor these relationships.
Read them poems that are illustrated.
The pictures add greatly to the understanding of a poem, but even more to the enjoyment of it.
Memorize poems with your children.
One of the very best ways to enjoy poetry is to read it again and again until it is committed to memory.
Then that poem becomes a friend.
One we call upon in times of happiness or sorrow, or simply because the way the words sound together gives us pleasure.
By making poetry reading a joy rather than a chore, we are laying in our children the foundation for a life long affection for poetry.


As they grow older, continue reading poetry as often as possible.
Poetry shouldn’t be a unit study or even a once a week thing “when we have time”.
Poems should be read and enjoyed together every day!
“If we wish children to believe poetry is important, the worst way to teach it is to develop a two-week poetry block, teach it, and then forget it—because that’s what children will do with it. The best way is to incorporate meaningful poetry throughout the day.” (Jim Trelease)
This doesn’t mean you have to create incredible poetry lessons for your children every day.
Its as simple as having a few good poetry anthologies on hand and reading one poem a day from them over breakfast, at dinner, or before bedtime.
Or it can be part of the school day, maybe first thing in the morning, after devotions, when your kids are in a thoughtful mood.
We read a poem or two at the start of most school days.
After our prayer, hymn, and devotional time, I read a poem aloud to all the kids.
We generally talk about it for a few minutes, because discussing a poem is part of what we enjoy about poetry.
That is all there is to it.
It is very simple, yet I often feel at the close of our poetry time that we have had one of the best lessons I could have given them.
Poetry makes us think.
And we should spend time thinking every day, shouldn’t we?


Once they reach school age, don’t drop poetry for other, “more important” subjects.
I think most of us recognize the artistic merit of poetry.
But beyond that, poetry is often viewed as an extra, or even as fluff.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth!
And for every parent or teacher that wonders what the practical advantages of learning poetry are, I can assure you they are many.
To begin with, reading poetry is one of the best ways to help your children become better readers of all kinds of literature, and also to become better writers.
Here’s why:
Poetry requires a different kind of reading than simple prose.
Poetry demands more of the reader because everything isn’t explained for him.
Poetry often expresses big ideas in a condensed space.
Therefore, poetry asks the reader to think, and often, to think hard.
If you want to help your children develop reading skills, read them poetry.

Poetry also is extraordinarily visual.
Its like a painting made of words.
Therefore, as your children listen to and read poetry, they are being fed beautiful, visual, language.
This encourages them to see those images in their mind, and to use their imagination to do it.
That is a critical reading skill.
It is also a skill that is increasingly lost in a digital age where everything is about the image being put in front of you, no imagination required.
This exposure to descriptive, visual language will also help your children with their writing.
By hearing lines like this: “For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim”  to describe a fish swimming through water, your kids can’t help but to incorporate this elevated, beautifully descriptive language into their own writing.
It won’t happen immediately, but that constant exposure to rich language will come out in their writing over time.


Also, more and more exposure to great poetry will aid your children in understanding other pieces of literature.
This won’t really happen until your child is older and reading more advanced poems, short stories, and novels, but it will be of great help to him then.
Writers like to make these things called literary allusions.
That is when they refer to another, well known piece of literature in the middle of their own piece of writing.
A working knowledge of famous poetry is helpful in understanding these literary allusions and therefore better understanding the piece of literature itself.

So, you see, there are practical reasons why we should teach poetry to our kids.
But I beg you not to allow yourself to become too distracted by these things.
Because interacting with poetry only for the purpose of taking tests, writing papers, answering comprehension questions, and having some kind of measurable data to prove learning has taken place misses the very heartbeat of poetry.
Remember, we want to help our children build a relationship with poetry.
We want them to learn from it because they love it, not just because they’ve been told to read it or write about it.
There are so many things wonderful things reading poetry gives our children and many of them can’t be assessed.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
“Teaching poetry is one important way to help children become human beings who are fully awake to the world.”
Megan McNamer


This resource list includes some of my favorite poetry books to add to your collection, a few poetry videos and cds, links to articles about teaching poetry, and helpful websites for teaching poetry.
There will be resources included with each article.

Books for the littlest ones:
First Poems of Childhood Illustrated by Tasha Tudor
A Merry-Mouse Book of Favorite Poems illustrated by Priscilla Hillman
The Big Golden Book of Poetry Illustrated by Gertrude Elliot
Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky

Books for those a little older:
Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems (this is a fabulous anthology)
The Tyger Illustrated by Neil Waldman (Makes reading William Blake’s famous poem even more interesting)
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard (great to read with The Tyger)
Now We are Six by AA Milne (the author of Winnie the Pooh!)
A Flower Fairy Treasury by Cicely Mary Barker (beautiful poems and illustrations)
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (if you can track down a copy illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, (its the one pictured) then snatch it up instantly!  They are two of my most favorite children’s illustrators of all time.)
A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy (a great collection of poems organized by theme)
Childcraft Sorytelling and Other Poems (if you find any Chiildcraft books from the 40s, 50s or 60’s, snatch them up! They are just wonderful treasures)
Carver A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson (a beautiful biography of George Washington Carver told entirely in verse)
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (a beautiful story of a young girl surviving the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. Its also written entirely in verse.)

Funny and nonsense poetry
Poems by Lewis Carrol
Poems by Edward Lear
Poetry books by Shel Silverstein
Feg by Robin Hirsch (great book for an older kid who likes to read, and likes words and word games)

Books about poets:
The Poetry For Young People Series  (There are many different poets in the series and the books include the most loved poems by the poet as well)

Poems set to music:
Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant
A Child’s Garden of Songs by Ted Jacobs

Poetry videos:
Child;s Garden of Poetry produced by HBO and the Poetry Foundation

Helpful poetry websites:
The Poetry Foundation (check out “Children’s Poetry” in the Resources section. There is so much good stuff there!
Poetry Out Loud 
(An organization dedicated to bringing back the art of poetry recitation. There are some fabulous poetry recitations for you and your children to listen to, as well as quick descriptions as to what kind of poem it is, or sometimes brief words about the poet. I spent a whole afternoon listening to these!
Go to “Poems and Performance” and then “Listen to Poetry”
Some of the best pieces were: The Power of Poetry, The Lake Isle of Innisfree,We Wear the Mask, Pied Beauty, Conveying emotion, with excerpts from Hamlet, David Mason on knowing poems by heart,Hope is the thing with feathers, To My Dear and Loving Husband,

Articles about teaching poetry:

Again! Again! by Sonia Levitin (This one is fabulous! All abot poetry brining us joy)
Home Appreciation by Susan Thomsen (Poetry and home schoolers! This is a great article.)
Nurseries of Verse by Patrick Lewis
Open the Door –How to excite young people about poetry (This is a free, downlaodable book from the Poetry Foundation, full of essays about poetry. I highly recommend reading the first essay by Jim Trelease.)



When God Meets Us Where We Are

Do you know Patricia St. John? She was a life long missionary, and the author of many wonderful books for children. I read all of them as a young girl, but never knew about this book, her autobiography, until recently.
It’s marvelous.

The writer of the forward for the book describes Patricia St. John as a “redemptive person”. Isn’t that a beautiful description of a person? That someone would meet PSJ and come away feeling that from her? I was moved to tears at the thought of what a wonderful woman she must have been to garner such a description.
Redemption is certainly the theme of all her children’s books so I can imagine she must have been like that in person as well.

One of my favorite parts of the book thus far is a story PSJ shares of her time working in a small village in Morocco. Each week she’d invite the ladies of the village to come to her house for tea and fellowship, and then she’d share the gospel with them.
One older lady, the village water carrier, came every week, enjoyed tea, and then promptly fell asleep when the bible message began. Her snores were very disruptive, but PSJ let her sleep, knowing how tired she must be from her hard daily work.
One day this woman stayed awake for the message. She seemed happier and less bowed under the weight of her buckets. “What has happened?” PSJ asked her.
The woman replied, “I heard the message you spoke for me last week. The one where your Jesus said, “come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden.” You were talking to me. I am the one who is heavy laden with these buckets of water. And all the next day I kept saying Jesus’ name over and over as I carried those buckets, And they didn’t feel so heavy. He helped me.”
PSJ smiled in wonder at the goodness of God.
This woman had heard the words Jesus spoke and then she fell asleep and didn’t hear the rest of the words PSJ had spoken. PSJ went on further to share that the heavy burdens Jesus took from is were our sins. He carries them from us and for us.
But this woman didn’t need to hear that. She needed to know that there was a God who cared for her physical burdens. A God who would meet her simple, physical needs.
She didn’t theology or doctrine.
And God knew that.
He met her where she was.

I love that so much.
Because I have been there.
God has met me in the shower, where I hid my tears from my kids, and cried out my broken heart after a miscarriage and over a broken marriage.
God met m in the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia, where He showed me how much He loved and cared for me through the character Aslan. And what grace and forgiveness look like through the characters of Edmund and Eustace.
He met me as I read through the Jesus Storybook Bible with my kids, crying through every story that showed the mighty, healing, grace of a Savior who forgives.
He met me in a hospital room, in the gentle touch of a nurse, who washed blood from my legs and let me cry over a lost baby.
He met me atop a mountain, in the form of a hawk, hovering just over our heads for many minutes. Aaron and I were broken, bruised, and healing, and that hawk spoke to us a message of hope. He reminded us of a God Who brings miracles of beauty and grace, when it doesn’t seem like they could possibly be there.

None of these moments were in church, or came from deep, theological discussions.
They were, however, very much what I needed at the time.
God met me where I was,
He knew exactly what I needed from Him.
And He gave it to me.

I love my church, my pastor, and the way God ministers to me through both of them.
But I also love the way God knows me so deeply and personally that He brings me His love in many, many different ways.

He knows us.
He cares.
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
Psalm 139: 1-12

If you are feeling weary and burdened, weighted down with care like that woman in the village, may you know the deep, abiding, caring love of God today.
You only need to call His name.

And remember, books change people.
The Good Book, and also so many others that God uses to speak to us.
Much love,

Sent from my iPhone

Home Schooling 101: Creating A Book Club For Kids

The Beginnings
When I was a little girl, I longed for a book club of my own.
I had read about them in books.
My mom wasn’t a part of one, and out of all the other ladies and girls in my circle, there was only one I knew who was part of of book club.
She and I had talked about it at one of my brother’s baseball games.
She spoke of it with such pleasure, of making special food, and of vacuuming and cleaning her seldom used living room specially for the occasion.
Most importantly, she told me about how much fun it was to talk about books with her friends.
Her words went straight to my heart.
This was just what I longed for!

And so I went into action and began to create my own book club.
I sent out invitations to a bunch of my girlfriends.
I suggested the book. (I only wish I could remember which one we read!)
On the big day I cleaned my room and made cookies.
And later that afternoon, my friends were dropped off by their mamas for our first book club.

We crowded into my tiny room, squished ourselves together on my bed,  just a bunch of giggly 4th and 5th grade girls.
I tried so hard to lead a book discussion.
But it wasn’t at all like I dreamt it would be.
Before too long most of the girls wanted to go outside to play.
I was slightly heartbroken.
But I vowed to press on.
They just needed time to learn what to do at book club.

By the next meeting there was mutiny afoot.
One of the girls and I got into a disagreement because she said I was too bossy and was trying to make them talk about the book too much.
“But its a BOOK club!” I cried. “And its MY book club! We’re supposed to talk about the book.  And you are supposed to do what I want at MY club!”
It was our last meeting.
And this time I truly was heart broken.
Clearly I needed some help in creating a book club for my friends.
Or maybe they just weren’t ready for a book club.
Maybe I was just ahead of my time.

Knowing the tale of my childhood book club woes, you can understand why I couldn’t wait to start a book club for my own kids.
I planned to be a part of the process so it wouldn’t be a flop like my first book club was.
I wanted to give them the book club experience I had imagined for myself.
I wanted to introduce them to the joy of talking about books with their friends.


Because in the years between that failed book club, led by a bossy, 11 year old girl who was desperately in love with books, I had the good fortune to be a part of the kind of book discussions my 11 year old self dreamt of.
I had sat in literature classes where we talked about books for hours.
I had become part of book clubs with my friends, with coffee and good food, and genuine interested discussion.
I had moments in my English classes where more than 2 of the students cared about the book we were reading.
Where most of the kids in my class were involved in the conversation, interested, and excited about reading a book.
I had tasted the glory of book talks.
And I was ready to share it.

Thankfully I am a part of a home school group filled with moms whose hearts beat the same way mine does.
A few years ago, we decided to start a book club for our kids.

My kids and I missed the first two meetings.
But the first meeting we went to kind of blew me away.
We met on the beach in the middle of summer.
At lunch time we spread out a potluck lunch on a surf board, called the kids in from the water, and after they had loaded up plates, they settled down to talk about the book.
I was floored by the way every kid wanted to talk about the book.
They had so much to say!
Even the littlest ones did not want to be left out of the discussion.
Instead of a short, shallow, ‘pulling teeth” kind of discussion, it was rich, lively, fun, and went on for a long time.
Watching it all unfold made me happy and weepy and so excited about the years of rich literary discussions that lay ahead of us!


The Nuts and Bolts — How we organize our book club
Our book club has grown and blossomed rather organically.
But there were a few ideas we started with that have proved to very helpful in running our book club.
1. One family is the host for each book club.
That means that family chooses the book, picks the location for the discussion, plans the activities, and sends out an email asking each family to bring food to share, and other supplies for the day. We all pitch in to help, but she is the “event director”.
2. One mom facilitates the book discussion.
The same mom whose family is the book club host leads the book discussion.  That means she comes prepared with discussion questions and topics and helps guide the kids through the discussion time. Kids ages 3 or 4-11 participate in the discussion time, so a grownup facilitator helps a lot.
The idea is that by modeling how to have a book discussion, the kids will one day be ready to hold book discussions on their own.
3. We read classic literature.
This does not mean we are subjecting our kids to Beowulf or Canterbury Tales in the original Old English. But it does mean we are not choosing whatever is on the best seller list for that year. We generally use the free reading lists from Ambleside Online. (see some here, here and here.)
4. We have food at book club.
Books and snacks just go hand in hand. And book club is a celebration. And celebrations have special treats. So this was pretty much a no brainer. All the families bring food to share so the burden is NOT all on the host family.
5. We read 4 books a year.
In an effort not to keep ourselves sane, and to allow ourselves enough time to truly enjoy each book, we decided to read books on a seasonal schedule. That means we read one book for fall, winter, spring and summer. This is not to say that some families (ahem, mine) are not rushing to finish the book at the last minute.  But since you have 3 months to finish a book, you don’t have to cram it all in at the last minute.
6. Every family reads the books differently.
There is no set way to approach the reading. In some families each kids read the book on their own. In other families the book is read together as a family bed time read, or as part of school work. Other families might listen to the book on audio during drive time.  There are lots of ways to approach it, and no one way is better than the other.
In our family, we read the book together, because I don’t want to miss out on any of the books with my kids!


The Fun Extras: 
As time has gone on, our book club has bloomed beautifully. Here are some of the extras that make book club days even more fun.
1. We try to align food and activities to the book. 
This doesn’t always work, but often it does.  For example, when we read My Side of the Mountain, the kids brought tools and supplies to build a wilderness fort, just like Sam Gribley did in the book. And when we read Swiss Family Robinson, we planned a botanical scavenger hunt for the kids, where they looked for plants from the book in the botanical gardens where we held the meeting.
And when we read Alice in Wonderland, you can bet there were tea and scones.
2. We wear costumes.
Again, this is not always the case. But if  anyone has a costume that fits the time period or characters in the book, then costumes are very welcome!
3. We meet at special locations.
Living in California, we have the luxury of almost year round good weather. That means we can meet at outdoor locations. If we can, we try to make those locations connect to the book in some way. We’ve met at the beach, in a botanical garden, in a secret garden, in a wilderness park, and once we took the metro to China Town. Plus lots of other fun spots. Come winter, we might be forced indoors, but knowing our group of creative mamas, I’m sure it will still be just as magical.
4. We’re all in!
Its true, book club days are a bit of extra work. If you aren’t up for planning costumes, games, and lugging tables and buckets of tools across a park, you don’t have to. Book club could easily be a circle of kids on the floor, a plate of cookies, and a handful of rich discussion questions.
This is just the way our group functions. We view these days as a special treat and go out of our way to make them that way.


Giving kids a love of literature is a gift.
Giving kids a place to talk about the books they love and the tools to do it makes the gift even better.
I hope you’ll make book clubs a part of your children’s childhood.
How happy I’d be to know Kid Book Clubs were happening all over the world!
When you are contemplating the extra work and wondering if it is worth it, be encouraged by this beautiful quote from Gladys Hunt: “Reading enlarges my vision of the world; it helps me understand someone who is different from me. It makes me bigger on the inside. We tend to see the world from our own perspective; it is good to see it from the eyes of others. Good literature helps me understand who I am in relation to what others experience. Far from being an escape from reality, good literature is a window into reality. I read to feel life.”

For the love of books,

Greta Reads: How and Why Wonder Books

Hi there!
I’m back with another Your Daily Vintage.
This time I’m sharing one of my favorite vintage book series, the How and Why Wonder Books.photo 1I found my first How and Why Wonder Book at a used book sale, and was instantly in love.
Since then I’ve continued to add to my collection whenever I stumble across them, usually finding 1 or 2 at a time.
Last week, though, I found my biggest haul yet: 6 books in all!
They were 75 cents each.
I tried not to squeal with excitement.photo 4Besides being fun for my kids to read, and crammed full of interesting information, I think the illustration and design work of these books are fantastic.
From the front cover to the back, to the end papers in between, it’s all just so well done.
Take a look at the logo on the front of each book.
The color blocking of those stripes, with the bold, clean type of the “How And Why”–genius!
Then there are the end pages.
I’d like to blow this up and paper a wall with it.photo 1-1All those little illustrations, the fab turquoise color, and the way each rectangle is a little off set so it isn’t sterile and boring–genius again!
The front covers are to die for.
I’d like to blow them up and turn them into posters.
This is one of the favorites in my collection.photo 2I like this one too.
Here are a few others that I don’t have (yet) and just love their cover art:
Sound, Planets and Interplanetary Travel, Insects, and one of my most favorites, Rocks and Minerals.
You can find more covers on my vintage children’s books board on Pinterest.photo 5Even the back covers of the book are well designed.photo 3-1photo 2-1How and Why books were published in the 1960s and 70s.
There wer 74 books published in all.
They are all still available, and can be found easily on line, or with more work, at used book stores and sales.
Each book is full of of full color and black and white illustrations.
Some of the information is out dated (interplanetary travel anyone?) but most of it is still accurate.
As I said, my kids love to look through them.
I keep them out on the coffee table for them to pick up and browse whenever they like.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to collect all 74, I’m at 15 now, but I’m sure going to have fun trying!

Remember to check out my Instagram feed and the hashtag #yourdailyvintage for lots more posts like this.
Cheers to vintage!

Greta Reads: Best Board Books for Baby

bb-8Hello, my name is Greta, and I am a book lover.
I have more books than I have shelf space for.
I get heart palpitations when I see a used book sale.
My first job was at the library.
In 4th grade.
When someone offers me free books, it is impossible for me to say no, even though I probably won’t keep half of them.bb-1It is a little out of control.
But so much fun!
Of all the books I collect, children’s books, especially vintage children’s books, are my favorites.
I have a growing list of illustrators and authors that I adore and collect.
Whenever I find one, it is a big thrill.
It usually involves a squeal.
And maybe a jump and a fist pump.bb-2I’d love to share my favorites with you in this Good Books series.
We’ll start with board books.
After 4 kids, we have accrued quite a collection of board books.
There are some board books that every child should have in his collection: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Good Night Moon, and Pat the Bunny.
These are some others that you might not be familiar with and that are our favorites.bb-4I like to give books for baby gifts.
My babies always got more clothes than they could ever wear.
Especially since there were outfits that became my favorites, the soft and comfy ones that I knew they felt good in.
I always felt terribly guilty for the other outfits that were only worn once, or maybe never.
But I never got enough books.
Or diapers.
But books are way more fun than diapers.
bb-5Books are just such a great gift.
They can be read over and over again.
They can be passed down from one baby to the next.
And then, when the books are outgrown, they can be saved for grandkids.
My older kids were so excited when I brought out the board books after Davy was born.
“I remember this one!”
“Oh this one was my favorite!”
You read these books so many times that they become a real part of your baby’s life.bb-3Also, I love the idea of starting a child’s library.
It is hard to find vintage board books because they are often pretty well worn.
But some vintage board books have been reintroduced, like several of the ones I am sharing here.
Here is the list, from top to bottom:

1.  I Am A Bunny, by Richard Scary.–You can get this darling, vintage book for only $1.99!  It is one of our most favorites.
2. Counting With Wayne Thiebaud–Chronicle Books.  This is a nice break from counting primary colored shapes or farm animals.  Available here.
3.  The Toolbox by Anne Rockwell.  This sweet book is perfect for my little builders.  Find it here.
4.  The Little Train and The Little Fire Engine by Lois Lenski.  These books are part of the Papa Small series and they are a perennial favorite with my boys and my girl.  Be sure to check out The Little Airplane, Cowboy Small, and Papa Small.  They are all available here.bb-65.  Andy Warhol’s Colors is probably my favorite color book besides Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  The illustrations are beautiful, the text is fun and rhyming cadence is not annoying.  My kids love this book.  Find it here.
7.  Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers is one of the best board books ever.  I love the way it follows the baby’s first year.  The first time I read it, shortly after my first baby;s first year, I cried.
It so  perfectly summed up that magical first year of baby’s life.
You should get this one for every new Mommy you know.
Find it here.
bb-78.  What Animals Do, by Richard Scary.  We are big RIchard Scary fans around here.  The illustrations in this animal book are great.  I also like the extra large size of this one.  It is a Golden Book too.  You just can’t miss with this one.
This book has not been re-released.  So you either have to pay big bucks for an unused, vintage copy, or go with used, vintage.
Find it here.

Some notes on buying used books.
I buy used, vintage books constantly.
In fact, that is almost all I buy.
I seldom buy new books anymore because buying vintage is so much more affordable, and I often like the books much better.
Amazon is actually a great place to purchase used books if you are looking for a specific one.
I also like the website Abebooks.
I never miss the children’s book section at a thrift store or a garage sale.
And when you see a sign for a library having a used book sale, you must stop immediately.
Those are where I have found some of my favorite treasures.
I am not grossed out by used books.
After all, I get library books all the time.
But if you are concerned about the germ factor, board books are really easy to clean.
Just wipe the book down and it’s germ free–that is the beauty of board books.
Give vintage books a chance, and you might just fall in love like I have.

So tell me, what are your favorite board books, vintage or otherwise?
I always like to add to my list.
Happy reading, friends!