Change is Good

I started blogging in 2010. The first blog longestdays.com is now defunct, but when I wrote it was a mixture of parenting, books I was reading, spirituality and whatever was on my mind. I abandoned that blog in 2016 when I decided to focus my blogging on helping build early literacy skills in pre-readers. I wrote many book reviews, had a few author interviews and while I still remain passionate about early literacy, it was clear that my blog couldn’t break through the noise of so many other well established blogs.

My career had also changed. I left a literacy non-profit and went back to work as a children’s librarian. My days were spent doing storytimes, recommending books to tweens and teens and ordering audiobooks, ebooks, video games, and films. In my personal life, I focused on writing romance and rom coms. Again, my blogging changed.

Why Audiobooks?

Now is time for another change. All my old Building Future Reader articles are available on this site. In fact, it is the same site. I have decided to rebrand and refocus on reviews of audiobooks for kids and YA. Audiobooks often get a bad rap as being cheating or not real reading.

I have to heartily disagree.

As you will see in upcoming posts, they are so much more than listening to a book. The most important reason I want to focus on audiobooks is to get rid of the stigma and help more kids connect with books and reading in ways that are accessible to them. I want to change the dialogue about reading and advocate the use of audiobooks in classrooms and at home.

Audiobooks aren’t cheating. They are reading. And I hope this blog sheds light to this ongoing debate.

Change is good. It helps us grow, learn, and live new experiences. I don’t see ending the Building Future Readers blog as the end, but rather a new chapter. Thank you for supporting me over the past four years and I hope to continue seeing you in my new blog, My Audiobook Librarian.

The Brave by James Bird

The Brave by James Bird

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Get ready to ugly cry.

“Great, I lost a fight, and now I’m going to have to inform my dad that I’m the kid who gets picked on every day. How much of a disappointment can one son be.”

That one line sums how Collin understands his relationship with his father. He’s the weird kid, the disappointment, the boy no one wants to fix. After another school kicks Collin out for fighting, his father sends him to live on the Ojibwa Reservation with the mother he has never met.

He doesn’t believe this time will be any different. His mother will grow tired of his constant counting of words, he will get picked on at school, and he won’t be able to hold back the fear that drives him to anger. This time is different. With a family and town who supports him, he learns what bravery means. Through the friendship of a girl who fights a battle worse than his, he learns how to accept himself and accept the love his mother offers him.

Perfect for fans of Rein Rain, Fish in a Tree, Out of My Mind, and Counting By 7’s. This book’s universal theme of accepting oneself in the face of adversity will touch the hearts of all readers.

Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com

This book is perfect for readers 10-14. While the book is not autobiographical, Bird had multiple learning disabilities that made school difficult for him. He also lived with his single, Native American mother and moved from apartment to apartment, and school to school. The author’s soul is in this book and it would be a great book discussion book about neuro-diverse people, poverty, and modern Native American life.

I received a Netgalley ebook for a review. I was not paid for the review. All opinions are my own. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the link below it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the sale.





View all my reviews

Readers play: 5 Activities to Build Readers

With so many states moving towards 3rd grade reading guarantees, parents and teachers are worried if kids are prepared for literacy from an early age. We talk a lot about books on this site but I don’t want to ignore an equally important but often ignored learning strategy for literacy success.

Play!

Source Michael Morse from Pexels

What Play is

Play does a lot for a child’s developing brain. New textures activate synapses that haven’t had their chance to exercise. The natural conversation that happens when you and your child play builds a strong vocabulary. Imaginative play creates reading comprehension through sequencing events and describing the routines and world around the child.

A child needs the space, time and freedom to explore and interact with the environments around them. Ask questions, get involved, not as a leader but as a participant. Us adults forget how freeing the creativity of play is. Let your child teach YOU something for a change.

Source Luna Lovegood from Pexels

What play is not

Play is not wasted time. Play doesn’t need to be structured or curated. Play will not be linear. They may start working in a grocery store and suddenly decide they are firefighters. All you need to do is sit back and let your child lead.

Source Skitterphoto on Pexels

Get them started

While it is important to follow the direction of the child in play, there might be times they need a little encouragement. If you don’t know what to do here are a few play starters to help your child engage and ignite their brains

  • A texture walk. Shoes protect our kids feet and they also keep our kids from feeling the world through their soles. Go outside and have your child walk in the driveway, grass on a dewy morning or in ooey gooey mud. It will not take long for your child to come up with an adventurous story.
  • Go for a sound hike. If you live near a park or reserve head out and hear the wildlife but if you are in the city, do not fear. Think about all the noises the neighborhoods provide. Talk about what you hear and ask what your child hears.
  • Make tape art. What kid doesn’t love to play with tape? Get out a few rolls of different kinds of tape. Masking, packing, duct, washi and scotch tape. Find an easy peel surface or use paper and let them create. Don’t sit on the sidelines! Join in and create worlds together
  • Create a wall ball run. Find leftover paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, gift wrap tubes and a few different balls around the house. With painters tape and scissors help your child cut the tubes in different lengths, tape to a wall and have fun. Not only will your child watch physics at work, they will learn to problem solve when something goes wrong.
  • Fort building. We may not all have trees at the ready to make a tree house. But with a few blankets and some outside chairs, tables and garden tools, you can make your own fort city.

There are so many ways to play each day. No fancy toys needed. All your child needs is time, space and freedom to lead.

Source Snapwire on Pexels

What other ways do you encourage play? What are your child’s favorite activities?

Publisher Weekly’s Best Books of 2019

Hard to believe we are coming up on the time of year where publishers, magazines, and organizations are posting their best books list. Most of what comes out before Christmas I consider the best of list….so far. With another month and a half to go, I believe there will be other books to add to this growing list.

The trouble with Best of Lists, especially for librarians, is the time to read all of the books. While I do try to catch up with new books in my down-time, between picture books, early readers, middle grade, teen, and my own pleasure reading, I simply cannot keep up.

The best of lists help me find books that I might have missed, so I can be sure to share these books with the parents who come in to our department looking for books.

Publisher’s Weekly recently published their recent lists. I was dismayed to see I had only read a few of the books on the list. How had I missed so many? However, my dismay didn’t last long, because it meant I had another list of great books to catch up on.

If you are interested in seeing the list, follow the link below.

I am an Amazon Affiliate member. I do not get paid to review particular products. The opinions are my own. I do however make a small commission if you click on a link and make a purchase from Amazon.

Pete the Cat

If you have young kids you probably have read Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy buttons more times than you can count. The reason these books are so popular are:

  • The illustrations are simple and fun
  • The text is repetitive making it easy for kids to join in
  • The story is predictable…in a good way. The kids can anticipate what will happen next giving them confidence and sequencing skills
  • There are songs that go along with them!

In case you have been living under a rock, I present to you Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons… and I’m sorry, you’ll sing it the rest of the day.

Kids not only love hearing the same story over and over again, but they need to hear the same stories to build vocabulary, reading comprehension, and fluency. I know it can be hard to read the same book every night, finding read alongs on Youtube or audiobooks will help your kids get what they need, while you take a much needed break from your child’s most loved book.

Source: Kamboompics on Pexels.com

Don’t forget to connect the book with some fun games. Take all those spare buttons that have popped off clothes that you intend, but never end up sewing back on. Arrange them on a tray. Talk about them with your child. The color, shape and size. Then have them turn around and take one button away. See if they know which one is missing. This helps build working memory, an important reading skill!

Don’ Forget These Pete the Cat books (Like you could!)

I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the links it takes you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale. I am not paid to review products or books, the opinions are those of Building Future Readers.

Sing Together

Go out for a walk and pretend to be Pete the Cat stepping in puddles, mud, or whatever else you find. Talk about the sounds your boots make, or the sound of the water or mud. Use fun onomatopoeia words like squelch, squish, plop and more. See what fun words you can come up with together.

What is your family’s favorite Pete the Cat book?

Youtube Short Film: Hair Love

A friend shared the short film Hair Love on Facebook not too long ago. This short film is heartwarming and beautifully made in its simplicity. I love when books and films show fathers in non-traditional roles and I love to see more diverse projects.

This movie is for everyone. So pull up a box of Kleenex and be prepared to weep.

Keep the Hair Love going with these great books

I am an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I will receive a portion of the sale.

4 Library Apps to know

Libraries aren’t only buildings anymore. No matter where you are, you and your family can access ebooks, audiobooks, movies and more from these apps. These services are all for free through your local library and come with the added bonus of no due dates to remember or late fines to feel guilty about. Check out what your library has to offer. Here is a small tasting of what’s out there. And if you see a service your library doesn’t have, let them know. Librarians love service suggestions!

Search for new books, magazines, movies and more from the comfort of your home!

Libby

Also known as Overdrive, Libby is an app that lets you access the ebooks and mp3 audiobooks your library or consortium owns. No matter where you are, all you need is a library card number and pin to have access to thousands of books on your phone, tablet or computer. We have used Libby for the kids when they forget required reading at school or if we find ourselves waiting at an appointment longer than we thought. With books for all ages, this app will be a sure hit for families on the go. Better yet, the books return automatically, so no late fines or lost items!

Hoopla

Hoopla is starting to take hold at many libraries. This app created by Midwest Tapes allows multiple people to check out movies, TV shows, music, books, and audiobooks. Popular series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate are always available so no need to wait for the library copy. They also sponsor a movie of the month and book club reads. My favorite option at the library is to use the read -a-long books for programs to encourage print awareness while we have fun reading the story together. Pros are many: easy access, no fines or lost materials, and unlike Libby, you can access an item no matter if 30 other people also have it checked out. The library pays for each download, so it saves the library money and provides incredible access to its customers. The cons: as a new service many popular titles aren’t available, but as their popularity grows and their licensing expands, expect to see new hot titles added in the upcoming months.

Kanopy

Like Hoopla, this is a streaming service for movies and TV shows. You may find hard to find titles and like Hoopla and Overdrive there are no late fees or list materials. The streaming service won’t get you at the top of the list for the newest superhero movie, but you will find some film gems among its listings.

Source: Kanopy, Inc.

Flipster

Love magazines? Hate that you can’t find or check out the newest issue at the library? Flipster has you covered. An app available on phones or tablets, it brings you magazines with the news, style, or designs you seek. All without fees or fines because it returns automatically

Libraries are not a relic of the past but maintain relevance in the community by keeping up with technology and technological trends. Show your local library some love and check out some of the digital services they provide for your community. All for FREE!

What digital library service do you love? How has it helped your family build future readers?

How to teach my child to read

As parents or caregivers we want the best for our kids. We teach them so many different skills over the course of childhood. Practicing self-care, how to tie shoes, safety, and more. It is only natural that we also want to prepare them for school and the knowledge they will need to succeed when they walk through those double doors into kindergarten. Reading is no different, yet I often see parents looking for DVD’s, flashcards, Apps, and computer programs to shore up literacy skills. In this post I will show you low-tech, low-cost methods to build future readers.

As parents we foster independence

Why don’t apps, TV and computer programs work?

TV and technology aren’t the evil articles and click-bait posts would have you believe, yet, there is a time and a place for media. As a tool for pre-literacy learning, the research shows children are better served playing, reading, talking, and singing.

TV puts all of our brains in a passive state. While we watch, it is almost like a dream. Our brains are not engaged as they would be when we are reading or playing. Research shows that children who watch two or more hours of television a day can have a delay in speech, trouble hearing the different parts of a word, and are more likely to develop ADHD and other attention disorders. (http://unitedwayfd.org/reading-view-page.php?page=effects-on-reading)

We help our kids make sense of the world

What does work?

Talking, singing, reading and playing. These are the foundational blocks for early reading success. Conversation and play creates a learning environment where children build vocabularies and explore the world around them through their senses.

We provide a space space for our children to explore

Any normal, every day activity is an opportunity to learn. Going to the grocery store? Set up a scavenger hunt grocery list. Your child might not be able to read the words on the page, but you can have them find an item you tell them and when you get to that section you can show how the word on the page is the same as the word on the product. The same for driving in the car on the way to pick up a sibling from school or going into a store. There are words all around us and it is a great way to engage our kids in a text-rich environment.

Where is the proof?

From Reading Rockets

Show me how?

Reading Rockets is a fantastic sight for educators and parents. They have helpful videos, parent tips and more. Below is a video on how to help your child recognize letters.

From Reading Rockets

Building Future Readers is here to help

Would you like tailored reading plans and activities made just for your child? Email me at jessica.n.smith@gmail.com and see how I can help build your child into a future reader.

The pre-literacy skills Building Future Readers activities are based on

Children’s books about gender nonconformity

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the link and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a percentage of the sale. The opinions contained within are my own and I was not paid. I did receive a copy via Netgalley for a review)

Even though I am not that old, I still find times that I hold old school beliefs. My own children, their friends, and the children I work with have been incredible examples of acceptance of the complex and diverse world around us. And because of this, I have found my eyes opened to ways I unintentionally contribute to stereotypes and biases. I am still growing and learning, and grateful for the journey I am on. Books like Jacob’s room to choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, lead me even deeper into this journey.

I have found my eyes opened to ways I unintentionally contribute to stereotypes and biases.

Jacob’s room to choose tackles the ongoing cultural discussion of gendered bathrooms. The authors explore how gendered differences are established in cultural and how that impacts our young children. Even though the concept might be advanced for very young readers, the authors handle the material in an age appropriate and sensitive way.

I am glad to see more books about gender acceptance entering mainstream children’s literature, although I would like to see less message driven books surrounding this topic and more books about kids being kids no matter how or if they identify with any certain gender or stereotype.

The vulnerability of the authors’ own struggles will bring insights and encouragement to other parents facing the same issues as well as classroom teachers and communities. A worthwhile book to read and would be a great addition to a parenting section at the library or parent resources in a school setting.

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Other Books to Read:

Julien is a mermaid by Jessica Love. Julien has always wanted to dress up like the three beautiful women he meets on the train. With the support of his abuela, Julien sparkles inside and out when he is free to be himself.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. Dyson loves the color pink and the more glitter the better. A great book for parents and kids learning to live together with differences.

Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman. A easy to read book about how there is no girl colors or boy colors. A freeing book for children and parents alike.

Red: A crayon’s story By Michael Hall. A story about a crayon who is mistakenly labeled and the hurt suffered when friends, family and strangers try to force him to be who they see on the outside. The crayon finds help from friends who encourage him to be true to who he is on the inside.

Books for Grown-ups:

Becoming Nicole: the extraordinary transformation of an ordinary family. By Amy Ellis Nutt. How a family pulls together to support their transitioning child and the ups and downs that come with the changes.

The Transgender Teen: a handbook for parents and professionals supporting transgender and nonbinary teens. Stephanie A. Brill and Lisa Kenney. A resource for parents, teachers and others who support a teen transitioning or living a nonbinary life.

Beyond Magenta: transgender teens speak out. Susan Kuklin. What is life like for a transgender teen? Read 6 stories of triumphs, struggles, and more.

 

What books have you found most helpful in initiating discussions with your family about gender stereotypes and labels?

 

Happy Reading

Best Bedtime Stories for Kids

The best time for most families to build a reading routine is right before bed. Reading not only provides a safe and comfortable place for parents and kids to engage in conversation, but reading calms the mind, soothes the heart, and whispers to the body to rest.

What you read before bed isn’t too important, but I’ve learned a few tips in my parenting years that will make for a smoother transition to bed.

Three Tips for Smoother Bedtime Reading

Dark night
Image published on Amazon

  1. No Scary Stuff. My son loved the book a Dark Night by Dorothee De Monfried  . Regardless of how much he loved this book, it was a daytime book because what kid wants to read a book about dark scary noises in the night, right before bed?
  2. Keep the Screaming to a minimum. This might not be the time for Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now.  But maybe you will be lucky and your kid won’t continue screaming the phrase long after lights out.
  3. No Disney Movie book stories. I don’t know how many times my kids would hand me one of the movie books, knowing that I couldn’t skip pages drawing out bedtime until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Keep stories long enough to engage with your child, but not so long they will be tucking you into bed.

Building Future Reader’s Top Five Bedtime Reads:

(All links are affiliate links. If you click on a link and buy, I receive a portion of the sale.)

  1. Roar of a Snore by Marsha Diane Arnold. Dial Books for Young Readers ,2005.Who is snoring so loud and is there any place where the sound won’t keep our protagonist awake? Solve this mystery while sharing rhymes, giggles and rich language.

Roar of a Snore

Image published on Amazon

2. Bear Can’t Sleep by Karma Wilson. Margaret K. McElderberry Books, 2018. Bears sleep in the winter, so why can’t this bear find any zzzz’s. Your child love joining in with the refrain and thinking up solutions to bear’s insomnia.

Bear Can't Sleep

Image published on Amazon

3. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Philomel Books, 1987.  If your child likes longer books, this soft quite read will have the room on the edge of their bed waiting to see if the child and father spot a moon on this dark night. Beautiful picture and sophisticated text make this award winning book a classic.

owl moon

Image published on Amazon

4. Moongame by Frank Asch. Aladdin, reissued 2014. Frank Asch gets kids. He knows what they like and how to talk with them so they don’t feel talked down to. Moonbear can’t find his friend the Moon and he is worried he’s lost his friend. A great discussion starter about the moon and where it is, and whether or not it really moves in the sky.

5. Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasam. Viking Books for Young Readers, First edition, 2011. Little owl wonders if the day is as sweet and fun as the night. A great book for those curious children who would like to test the boundaries of their endurance and your patience as the plead to stay up all night like Little Owl.

little owls night

Image published on Amazon

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What are your top bedtime reads?

Happy Reading