Monthly Archives: July 2013

An Inappropriate Book?

Bubba and I read a book the other day called Ron’s Big Mission (by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden), and I liked it well enough that I wanted to share it with all of you.

It’s about a nine-year-old boy in the 1950s who wanted to check out a book at the library, but wasn’t allowed to because of his skin color.  The boy’s mother and the police were called, but the boy refused to back down.  People told the boy to just let a white person check out the book for him, but he persisted. In the end, he walked out of the library with the book he wanted checked out in his name.

It was the last page that really got me, though.  On that page, it tells how the story is a fictionalized account of a real incident from Ron McNair’s life (for those who might not know, Ron McNair was one of the astronauts who perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion).

Needless to say, this is one of those stories I definitely want Bubba to hear again when he gets older… the courage McNair must have had to face this injustice head-on is absolutely inspiring!

I even thought about using it in my classroom, but then I read some of the reviews on Amazon.  More than 25% of the people who rated the book said it was one-star because they felt it was “inappropriate” for children! One even said:

“my child never saw people as a “color” before this book. people were just people until this book was read to him. i have now spent 3 weeks trying to undo what this book has done.” 

Seriously?!  Are parents really going that far to shelter their children from the realities of the past?  Should I be worried about what the parents will say/do if I read it to my first graders at school this year?  What do you think?  Let me know by leaving a comment.


Filed under Classroom Connections, Great Books, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

The Downside of Reading So Much

There are many reasons why attempting to read every picture book (in our branch library) to my son is a positive experience, but there are a few downsides.  One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is that I have less time to read books for myself!

I’ve got a stack of books waiting to be read (including Dan Brown’s latest, Kristin Levine’s The Lions of Little Rock, professional teaching books, etc.) that have been gathering dust for quite some time!

Maybe it’s because I always seem to have yard work and special projects to do around the house, or maybe because a teacher’s job is never done (especially if you need to move from one classroom to another). Whatever the case may be, I seem to have very little time to read books for myself lately.

At this point last summer, I had read somewhere between 15 and 20 novels, but this summer I’ve read a grand total of ZERO!  This is going to change, though… even if it means saying up later or getting up earlier – I WILL knock the dust off MY books and start shrinking the pile!


Filed under Reading the Library

Quick Tip for Reading to a Fussy Child

Here’s a simple tip for the parents and grandparents of little ones around Bubba’s age who have trouble keeping their child from to turning pages too early or not wanting to sit for very long: try putting a different book in their hand.

It works wonders for Bubba… He will go from squirmy and fussy to quietly flipping pages in no time!  Granted, he’s not looking at the book that I’m reading and people may wonder why I read to him at all if he’s not even looking at the book I’m reading, but there are many reasons!

First of all, when a kid starts school (whether it’s kindergarten or preschool), the teaching is mostly oral.  The kids with the largest vocabularies (these are usually the ones who’ve heard the most words in their short lives) have a huge advantage because they’re able to understand most of what the teacher says. The kids who haven’t been read to very much (with smaller vocabularies) have a difficult time understand what’s going on in the classroom, and they’re more likely to fall further and further behind in school as time goes on!

Another reason is it’s still quality time spent with your child!  Think about it… What are you and your child going to cherish more – the time you spend together silently/mindlessly watching TV shows or the time you spend together reading books in silly voices?  I think the answer is obvious!

Probably the most important reason to read to your child (even when he/she may not be paying much attention) is because reading aloud to them will instill a desire to read more when he/she gets older.

Just because your child doesn’t sit still or look at the book you’re reading to him/her doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still read to them.  Try putting another book in their hands and just keep on reading!

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Five Stars

Apparently I have really high expectations when it comes to rating books on Goodreads.  Most of the time, I’ll rate books as three (out of five) stars, and if I really like a book, I’ll rate it as four stars.  Out of all the books Bubba and I have read so far, I’ve only rated one of them as five of five stars.  It’s called “One” by Katheryn Otoshi.


Here’s how Amazon describes it:

“Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other’s differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.” 

Obviously I’m not the only person who likes this book…  When I checked Amazon to get the description above, it had 81 ratings… and EVERY SINGLE PERSON gave it 5 of 5 stars!

I love this book because it has all the right things you would want a child Bubba’s age to learn (like colors and numbers), and the lesson of the story is one that can be (and should be) repeated over and over in childhood.

This is the first book on our journey that I feel is good enough to buy a copy to keep at our house, and I think you would agree if you read it, too!  Check it out and tell me what you think of it!

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Another Mini Book Tour

It’s so nice to be back home and reading to Bubba again!  We’ve already finished our bag of books that we picked up from the library before I left town, so we’re patiently waiting for 10:00am Monday morning (when our library opens) to head back to the library and pick up another bag of books.

On a different note, I found out that many of the books from the Illinois Reads program are not currently at our library, so I figured that while we wait for them to be delivered, we could start another “Mini Book Tour.”  Luckily, there’s no shortage of “mini tours” that we could take, so we’ll call the next one the “Monarch Award Mini Tour.”

Every year, the Illinois School Library Media Association administers the Monarch Award. It’s a K-3 Readers’ Choice Award in Illinois that’s presented annually to the author and/or illustrator of the book that’s voted by students in Kindergarten through Grade Three as their favorite from that year’s reading list. Click here to see this year’s reading list.

It looks like this will be a great mini tour to take, so I hope you’ll join us!  If you have any suggestions for other mini tours in the future, please leave your idea as a comment – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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I think I’m going through withdrawal symptoms… I woke up this morning ready to read to Bubba, but I didn’t have any picture books and I didn’t have my Bubba!

I’m out of town right now and I’m not able to take Bubba to the library OR read to him!  Luckily, it’s only for a couple of days this week and a couple days next week… I miss our reading time together!

I guess now is as good a time as any to update how many books we’ve read so far this July.  As of the 10th, we have read 97 different library books (I don’t count the books , so we have been averaging close to ten books a day this summer.  I’m sure we won’t be able to keep up this pace during the school year, but it’s making up for all the days we skipped last April and May (and these days that I’m out of town).

It will be nice to get back home and get back into our routine of reading in the mornings, though!

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Filed under Lots of Laughs, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

Appreciating the Bad Books

One of the librarians at the library we visit commented the other day that it usually doesn’t take us very long for us to pick out our books.  I told her it’s because we’re going in order (by authors’ last names) – I don’t have to look around for specific books… We’ll get to all of them eventually!

The problem with doing it this way is that from time to time we end up with “Barbie” books (and other princess-type books aimed at young girl readers) in our bags of books.  These “girl” books end up sitting on the couch for days (and sometimes even weeks) as I procrastinate.  When I eventually do read them aloud, I struggle greatly through them.

Bag of Books

Above: A typical bag of books from our library

I I don’t struggle with them just because Bubba and I are both male – In many cases, the stories are just plain awful!  Bubba and I just finished reading a Barbie book that had no plot at whatsoever!  All it did was name and describe Barbie’s friends!  Ugh!

Barbie books

Above: Some of the Barbie books we have struggled through

Granted, not all of the Barbie books are that bad, but they don’t get much better, either.  Take for example the Barbie “Mermaid Tale” book that had Merliah surfing one second, her hair changing color (to pink, of course) the next second, and then changing back and forth from human to mermaid while saving her long-lost mermaid family.  It’s almost enough to make a guy HATE reading!

I’m sure that girls who read the “boy” books (like Superman, Batman, and Spiderman books) have the same problem, too.  I even struggle reading some of them to Bubba!  I’m not sure why, but the stories aimed at one gender tend to be very poorly “typed” (because as Truman Capote once said, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”)

We get through these bad books, though… and they make us appreciate other books SO MUCH MORE!  I guess you have to have to experience the bad books to really appreciate the great books!


Filed under Lots of Laughs, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

Mini Book Tour

The Illinois Reading Council started a statewide project this spring to promote reading for all Illinoisans called Illinois Reads. What they’ve done is they’ve chosen books on a variety of topics for six different age bands (from “birth to 4” to “Adult”).  Many of the stories were written by Illinois authors and include Spanish-language titles and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related books.

This kind of got me thinking about how I used to spend my time before meeting my wife… Right after I got out of the Army, my best friend and I used to go to Old Chicago a couple nights a week and work on their “World Beer Tour” and some of the seasonal mini-tours they had throughout the year.  Granted, Illinois Reads has nothing to do with Old Chicago’s beer tours, but the idea behind them seem similar – They both encourage you to take a break from your normal routine and try something unique.

There are only 6 books in each age band, so Bubba and I are going to venture off the path of selecting books from the library in alphabetical order (according to authors’ names) and read all the books from the “Birth to 4” and “K-2” age bands.

Feel free to join us on this little Illinois Reads “Book Tour” and let us know what you think of the books that were selected for the Illinois Reads program!  We’d love to hear from you!

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Filed under Great Books, Mini Book Tour, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

Our Special Time

I’ve found that the best time of day to read to Bubba is early in the morning when he first wakes up.  Bubba and I are always up by 6:30am, and the routine this summer has been to head straight to our four-seasons room right away.  Once we’re there, we shut the French doors, cuddle up on the couch, and start our reading.  I usually get through three or four books before he starts to squirm and wants to play with his toys.

There are definitely other times of day that work well, too, but they’re far less predictable.  For example, sometimes after playing at the park he wants to just lie down and relax… which makes for a perfect time to read together.  However, there are times after visiting the park that he wants to keep playing and wants nothing to do with relaxing and reading!

You might think that reading to him in bed right before he goes to sleep for the night would be ideal as well, but at just 21 months old, Bubba still sleeps in his crib (and at 6’3” and 270lbs, there’s no way I can lay down and read next to him in his bed).  I’ve tried reading to him in my bed and in our guest bedroom, but he’s WAY more interested jumping on the beds than reading a book with his daddy.

And that’s why the mornings are our special time to read together – He’s always ready for a story when he wakes up in the morning!

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Loving Goodreads

I’ve decided that I’m going to change the way I do the “Books Read” page on this blog… My wife recently introduced me the GoodReads app (and to, so I’m going to start utilizing it to keep track of all the books we read.

If you’ve never seen or heard of the GoodReads app, you definitely need to check it out!  The app makes it super easy to keep track of all the books you’ve read and want to read – All you need to do is scan the barcode of a book with your smart phone or tablet, and it finds the book, lets you rate it, lets you write a review, etc.

I think I’m going to reserve the “Books Read” page for listing books that Bubba and I find to be particularly outstanding or useful.  This will save me a bunch of time, which means I’ll have more time to read to Bubba!

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