Tag Archives: traditions

How to Choose a Children’s Book as a Gift

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Open a picture book and inside you’ll find a world of wonder waiting to be discovered. It could be an exciting story about far-away lands or a comforting tale about everyday life. It could be a story that introduces new ideas or shows how something works. There are so many children’s books to read!

Share the magic of stories with the young children in your life and give a book as a gift for a holiday, a birthday, or your own spontaneously created special occasion. Start a tradition of making books part of family celebrations. You’ll be giving more than just a physical book. You’ll be giving the experience of sharing it together again and again, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Out of the many choices of books for young children, consider the interests and personality of the child who will be receiving your book gift.

For a wiggly child, choose books that have motions that can be acted out as you read. There is no need to sit still for these stories. Bend, stretch, and make noises. After a few readings your child will come to anticipate what action or sound is coming next.

  • “Wheels on the Bus” by Raffi, illustrated by Sylvie Wickstrom
  • “Dinosaur Dance,” by Sandra Boynton
  • “There’s a Monster in Your Book” by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbott

To wind down at bedtime, choose a book with a calming storyline that leaves children ready to doze off to sleep.

  • “I Love You to the Moon and Back” by Amelia Hepworth, illustrated by Tim Warnes
  • “Steam Train, Dream Train,” by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
  • “Goodnight Little Bear” by Patsy Scarry, illustrated by Richard Scarry

Around age 3 or 4 children start developing their own sense of humor. Pick a book with silly, unexpected happenings that will elicit giggles.

  • “Come Home Already!” by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
  • “Silly Sally” by Audrey Wood
  • “Ball” by Mary Sullivan

For a child who loves learning about new things, there are many fact-filled picture books with engaging stories that will make them want to know more.

  • “The Story of Snow” by Jon Nelson, illustrated by Mark Cassino
  • “The Raft” by Jim LaMarche
  • “Hello Hello” by Brendan Wenzel

When you find an author or subject that your child loves, you can find similar books at your local bookseller or library. Enjoy!

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Be a Read-Aloud Super Hero!



Family Reading Partnership invites you and your family to join our March Read-Aloud Challenge, Books are my Super Power, an exciting and interactive celebration for National Read-Aloud Month.

Our theme, Books are my Super Power, highlights the many ways books empower young children to be thinkers and doers, and how to become Read-Aloud Super Heroes!

Why are Books a Super Power? Books provide opportunities for children to imagine themselves in the character’s situation, think about what they might do, and to practice being, among other things, kind, brave, persistent, and a good friend. These qualities really are SUPER POWERS for children.

Read aloud to the young children in your life and make reading at home a treasured part of your daily routine for the Challenge in March, and beyond. The benefits last a lifetime!

TAKE THE PLEDGE with your family and together we will invite every child to believe in the magic words: Books are my Super Power!

BooksSuperPowers2Here is how you can join the Books are my Super Power Read-Aloud Challenge:

  • Visit www.familyreading.org to learn more!
  • Take the pledge to read all month. Grown-ups can pledge to read and children can pledge to ask for read-aloud!
  • Download a Tool Kit filled with fun ideas and activities including Super Hero masks and wrist cuffs!
  • LIKE the Family Reading Partnership Facebook page to see all the action, enter to win prizes, post photos, and share your favorite read-aloud moments!

During National Read-Aloud month, March 2016, Family Reading Partnership’s book, “At Home with Books/En casa con libros,” is available at a deep discount so families and classrooms can enjoy more read-aloud!  Written and illustrated by Katrina Morse, this bilingual book is the story of the Bear Family and all the family members and friends that read aloud during the day. It is a book that encourages, supports, and celebrates reading aloud to young children. Read to the young children in your life every day because… Books are a Super Power!


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Wrap Up and Read!

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

How are you staying warm this cold winter week? How about wrapping up in a cozy blanket with your young children and reading some favorite books aloud? Make it a daily routine to choose some books in the late afternoon when everyone is home. Find a spot on the couch or floor and then pull a blanket around everyone and enjoy your time imagining, exploring, and traveling through the stories. Here are some authors that write engaging stories that make great read-aloud:

Pat Hutchins writes stories that each answer a simple question. What happened to the cookies in “The Doorbell Rang”? What is the fox going to do next in “Rosie’s Walk”? Will everyone get the right message in “The Surprise Party”? Her writing style creates suspense that will keep your child wondering what will happen next.

Time-to-SleepDenise Fleming writes for the very young, but in a way that entertains grown-ups too. Her stories have things to find on each page if you look closely. There is rhyme, alliteration, and onomatopoeia that will tickle your tongue and make your child giggle. “Beetle Bop,” “Lunch,” and “Time to Sleep” are just a few of Fleming’s many books, all with illustrations created with her beautiful, colorful handmade paper.

Margaret Wise Brown’s stories have stood the test of time. Her main characters are usually animals that do people activities. “Goodnight Moon” and “Runaway Bunny” have the child-like sensibility of magical realism. Her books often have things in the illustrations that aren’t mentioned in the story but are fun to discover. Look for the little yellow butterfly in “Big Red Barn.” Can your child find the 5 sleeping kittens “Goodnight Little One”?

Mem Fox, an Australian author, has a book for every occasion. “Time for Bed” is a sleepy story that introduces animals. “Where’s the Green Sheep?” is a humorous hide-and-seek story. “Koala Lou” tells about a mother’s never-ending love.


Virginia Lee Burton wrote books in the 1940’s, so you and your child may be surprised by some of the “old-fashioned” ways of living shown in the illustrations. There were no cell phones or computers in those times! These stories will delight children with the constant action and determination of the main characters. There is a tractor in “Katy and the Big Snow,” a steam shovel in “Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel,” and a family’s home in “This Little House” that all have personalities that are brave and unselfish.

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Holiday Family Reading Traditions

There is something quite magical about reading one book with your family at the same time each year. I’m thinking of “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore read each December when I was young by my mother or father. I have fuzzy memories of sitting on the sofa, leaning up against a parent, looking intently at the pictures and listening with comfort (and excitement!) to the story that I knew so well. I still have the worn copy my dad had when he was young, with the familiar illustrations. It was a peek into another world where men wore nightcaps to bed, mice slept soundly at night, and Santa’s sleigh really landed with a clatter on people’s roofs.

The Night Before Christmas

We have so few traditions in our hustle-bustle world–so little of any common culture in society today–it is heartening to think that we can, as parents, hand down this small gesture, the tradition of reading the same story each year, to our children. With this tradition we hand down the feeling of being part of a family and being included in a common family culture; we all know this same story.

A book reading tradition doesn’t have to be holiday-based. I have a friend who used to read “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” by Dr. Seuss, each year at the first real snowfall and then went outside and made a snowperson with her children–that they colored with watered-down red food coloring of course! (You have to read the book to see the significance in that!)

A good book for creating a tradition is one that has a generous helping of wonder and that stays special because it is appropriate for just a certain occasion. Imagine reading the same adventure book each year on vacation or a keeping a birthday book to be read just around that day.

This time of year, you may want to read about the holidays you observe or the change to new weather. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Muharram, Winter Solstice, or hot chocolate season, add a children’s storybook to your family’s traditions.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson reading to her granddaughter Sahela

Once you have chosen a book, you can make it even more memorable by presenting it to your family as a gift. Family Reading Partnership and nationally syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson of “Ask Amy” have teamed together for the fourth year promoting “A Book On Every Bed.” The idea is that after you choose a new book for your family or choose a book for each child, you wrap it up and place it at the foot of your child’s bed one evening. Then in the morning, there is a special gift to unwrap and read together!

You can do this with a new book or a book you have read year after year. You can use a seasonal book or a book you know your child will enjoy based on his or her interests. Get adults in the family involved too and put a specially chosen book at the foot of every family member’s bed, young and old. Have a warm and wonderful December filled with happy family reading!

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What Makes a Classic?

I was talking to a friend recently who said the 1969 picture book “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” by Al Perkins was a favorite of her grandson when he was a young boy. He wanted to hear the book read aloud repeatedly and chose that book to buy as a gift for every friend’s birthday. Her grandson, now an adult, loves that book even to this day and will no doubt read it to his own children when he has a family.

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb

What makes a picture book a classic? How does a book become timeless and relevant to children over many generations?

There are a few qualities that classics share. At the core, the story has some ideas or actions by characters that are already part of a child’s life, and so are easily understood by a child. There are also some elements that are new, exciting, funny, curious, or sometimes even a little dangerous. That bit of the unknown makes the story memorable.

The familiar plus the new equals a classic story, especially if the theme is about a childhood issue such as conquering a fear, keeping hope, being accepted, knowing you are loved, or just having unrestricted fun! A classic story, even if published decades before, inspires a child to think bigger and imagine more.

Does your family already have children’s books that have become classics in your household? Here are some that have stood the test of time:

  • “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” by Al Perkins, illustrated by Eric Gurney. The characters of this book are all monkeys that act like children. They shake hands, sneeze, say hello and goodbye, and do everyday things (the familiar), all while they are drumming on drums (the unusual). The story is very simple with lots of rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, so it is predictable and enjoyable to hear read aloud. These monkeys are all friends who have fun together–a reassuring theme for any child.
  • “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. A young bunny goes through his bedtime ritual of saying goodnight to all the things in his room, including the paintings on the wall and even the air in the room. The story takes a familiar part of a child’s life and expands it to be magical.
  • “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Ferdinand the bull is expected to be fierce and wild, but turns out to be peaceful and gentle. Every child can relate to wanting to be accepted for being himself and not what other’s think he should be.
  • “Curious George” by H. A. Rey. This is another monkey story about a curious little guy who unwittingly breaks all the rules, but is forgiven every time. Does that sound like any child you know?
  • “Corduroy” by Don Freeman. Similar to Curious George, Corduroy has an innocent, child-like curiosity that puts him into some predicaments that are a little scary for a small teddy bear. In the end he is always accepted and loved for who he is.


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What was Your Favorite Book as a Child?

by Suzie Brache, guest writer


Growing up, one of my most beloved children’s books was Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban. I was recently delighted to learn the book turned 50 years old in January. I can still remember Frances at the breakfast table singing a silly song about eggs, while munching on her favorite bread and jam. She loved it so much she wanted to eat it at every meal. I always thought, what a lovely idea! The rest of the story shows just how this plan works out when she does.

All of the Hoban’s Frances books are on my favorites list, but this story stands out among the rest. I remember loving the furry little badger who seemed to have all the same problems I did–at school, at bedtime, with friends, and even what I wanted to eat! I could see myself in Frances, even at a young age.

Many more stories came into my life through childhood, but there were a few special favorites I wanted read aloud to me again and again and again. It was always a good time to hear a good story. When I was old enough to read by myself, I would often reach for my comforting old friends in the dog-eared pages – even just to simply take a quick peek at the illustrations. It was like feeding a craving, and feeling peaceful, nostalgic, and satisfied all at once. It still happens today. This is the joy of reading.

Our society is highly focused on new things these days, and we pass this trend on to our children. We often look for the newest, shiniest toys and gadgets. So many new books and authors are fabulous, yet we can’t forget the classics. Tried-and-true classic children’s books will never go out of style, and we need to share them and keep them alive. Reading classic favorites together is a wonderful way of connecting and relating to each other at all ages, and forming a bond through reading and loving books.

So, what was your favorite book as a child? Can you see the cover in your mind? What did the illustrations look like inside? What colors stood out? Can you still recite the words by heart? Can you remember who read it to you? Or did you read it to yourself?

This is something you will hold dear all your life. So share it with a child you know! Tell them everything you love about it. Talk about it. Share your memories of it. Keep that book alive, and tell the story with the same excitement and warm smile you have every time you see it. Just seeing your love for the book will inspire the child to want to read more and discover their own favorite stories for years to come.

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Words and Stories Warm the Heart

As the days get colder and darker, turn to family traditions to bring warmth and light into your home. Gathering with family and friends, spending time volunteering and helping others, or maybe cooking a holiday meal together can make winter special.

Make sure to include books and word fun for your family, too. Adopt some of these ideas and create new family traditions that can be passed on to future generations.

“A Book On Every Bed” for your family. Choose a book for each child–new or used. Wrap it and place it at the foot of each child’s bed one night before a holiday or other special day so the children wake up with a gift to open. Repeat next year (or next special occasion).

Sing a holiday song together. Teach your children the songs that celebrate the holiday you observe and sing them together. You can show them the written music, follow along on a You-Tube rendition, or just recall the song from memory. Talk about the words in the song. Those words describe events and thoughts from long ago. What do they mean to you now?

Write cards. Help your child type out an email message or write on a real paper card, a note to a grandparent or far-away friend. When you send out a greeting, you may get one back! You can also show your child how to write names for place cards at a holiday meal, or names on gifts that you will be giving this holiday season.


Learn from a book. Follow a recipe in a cookbook or follow directions for a craft project. When you find something you love to do together, do it again next year and start the tradition. Do you have a recipe for mulled cider or hot chocolate you can make together? How about cutting snowflakes out of paper and putting them in your window or making a bird feeder out of a pinecone with peanut butter and seed?

Read books together. Start a collection of winter or holiday books that you bring out just at this time of the year. Add these special books into the mix of read-aloud to spice up reading time. There’s no better way to stay warm this season than snuggling up with a child to read!

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Peace, Hope, and Love

AlikiHeartRedPeace. Hope. Love. When our society seems like it’s forgotten these fundamental principles, it’s comforting to know that as a parent or caregiver, you can help in your own way by honoring these values in your home. Give your children peace by showing them that problems can be solved without violence. Give your children hope by giving them the opportunity to give to others and develop a generous spirit. Give your children love. Hugs, kind words, time spent together reading, playing, and enjoying each other’s company show that you care.

Raise your children in peace, hope, and love, and you will be giving them, and our society, a great gift. Here are some family traditions that may inspire you. They all use books as a way to spend more quality time together.

• Pick one favorite book and read it aloud on a special day each year. It could be a birthday book, or one book you only read on a holiday. You could even record the date and place where the book was read each year on the inside cover; then take a photo of the family with the book and slip it in the book to look at next year.

• “A Book On Every Bed.” Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist, just described this family tradition in her column, “Ask Amy,” this week. This is what you do: Get a book–new or used. Wrap it. Place it at the foot of each child’s bed one night before a holiday or other special day so the children wake up with a gift to open. Repeat next year (or next special occasion)!

• Listen to a favorite audio book while you are baking cookies or driving to visit family and friends. Going on vacation? Bring books to read together on the way and while there.

• Plan meals or decide on baked treats to make by reading cookbooks together. Show your child how the words in the book give the directions about what to do.

• If you find a children’s book that you especially like, donate a copy to your child’s classroom or school library. Or volunteer at a nursing home to read your favorite books to the elders there.

Wishing you a peaceful year’s end filled with the joy of books and love of family!


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