Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | April 24, 2013

A Mighty Girl (and boy)

Every once in a while I find a website that just amazes me. Recently, a friend posted a link from A Mighty Girl on Facebook and once I was able to actually take a look around, I was highly impressed. Apparently the site has been around for a year and I wish I had known about it sooner.

So what is A Mighty Girl? According to their website, this is the answer:

“A Mighty Girl is the world’s largest collection of books, toys, movies, and music for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls and, of course, for girls themselves!

After years of seeking out empowering and inspirational books for our four young nieces, we decided to create A Mighty Girl as a resource site to help others equally interested in supporting and celebrating girls. The site was founded on the belief that all children should have the opportunity to read books, play with toys, listen to music, and watch movies that offer positive messages about girls and honor their diverse capabilities.

Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure. It is our hope that these high-quality children’s products will help a new generation of girls to grow and pursue whatever dreams they choose — to truly be Mighty Girls!”

How have I found it useful? There amazing lists of great books that don’t adhere to some of the more mundane ideas about how girls and boys are supposed to act. They encourage kids to be empowered and to be kind and they have books on historical figures and events that sometimes get overlooked. Everything is curated in a marvelous way with categories based on topic as well as age-group. There are also many “best of” lists with great topics like bullying, environmentalism, school stories, Halloween and Winter holidays.

In addition to books, they have toys, games, music, and movies that encourage kids to be more and do more. I found some great new music that my daughter is thrilled with too.

While they are in some ways “aimed” at girls, any parent can get something worthwhile from this site. I highly recommend checking them out. You can also follow their pins on pinterest.

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Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | February 21, 2013

Birthday party recap!

A few weeks ago, my little girl turned 6. I still can’t really believe it. Sometimes she completely acts her age, and sometimes she is 6 going on 13. I generally don’t write specifically about the girls much on this blog, but I know that there are moms out there always looking for inspiration for birthday parties and after all was said and done, I was pretty happy with how her party turned out.

Because she has a February birthday, it is a challenge to pick a location for her party. We need a place that is indoors, isn’t overly expensive, can handle a fairly large party for my social butterfly, and is fun for the birthday girl. J gets really focused on having a “theme” for her party. I think for her that really means what is going to be on her cake, as her 4th birthday was at Sandhills Academy of Gymnastics and she still considers it her “Ariel” party because we had an amazing cake with Ariel on it. Anyway, just like her Halloween costume, this year’s party went from Pippi Longstocking to princesses to Rainbow Magic Fairies. When she kept going with the idea of Rainbow Magic, I got the idea to use those as a jumping off point for the rest of the party.

If you are unaware of what Rainbow Magic is, this is a series of early chapter books about two little girls who wind up helping the fairies get back some object that Jack Frost has stolen which impacts the fairy world and the human world. The series is divided into sets of 7 books that follow a theme – rainbow colors (the first set), days of the week, jewels, sports, etc. A friend of ours got us hooked on them a little more than a year ago. I told J that she needed to pick one set that we could run with and I was thrilled when she picked the ocean fairies. This managed to combine two of her biggest loves – books and marine biology. I promised her that we would come up with a bunch of fun games that had some kind of ocean theme and that we would also find a way to incorporate the fairies.

With that thought in mind, we decided to have it at First Health for the second year in a row. This allowed me to plan a number of games and just do it all myself while not having to have it in my own house. Normally the fabulous party queens of First Health do the party for you, but I was happy to sort of run it myself.

The first step in the party was cupcakes for J’s class at school. We kept with the fabulous ocean theme and had a ton of fun making cupcakes with fish. I made these cupcakes from scratch with an awesome recipe for simple vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing. Blue sprinkles made them look like ocean scenes and we decided to use Swedish Fish to give it flair.

For the party itself, I focused on having games that had something to do with the animals in the Ocean Fairies books – dolphin, seal, penguin, turtle, starfish, whale and clownfish. I came up with some fun games that we did during part of the time and then just allowed to run around and just be themselves.

One game that we did was a bean bag toss in a board that I made which also wound up doubling as a photo opportunity. We painted on an ocean scene dominated by a starfish with three openings for the kids to try and throw things through. Rather than using bean bags, I used three ocean shaped sponges that we happened to have – dried out of course. One of our party goers really enjoyed this station and played at it long after others had moved on.

Another station was an art wall for kids to create their own mural. On the top of the craft paper I wrote out “Help the fairies bring the ocean to life” and printed out all of the ocean fairies so that they would be included in the fun. Then I placed foam stickers and crayons for the kids to decorate the scene.

We let the kids run around on their own for a while and then got them back together to play our own version of “musical chairs.” Since the space doesn’t really have enough chairs for all of the kids and bringing them downstairs would have been way too much of a pain, we put down circle spots so the kids could walk/skip/run in a circle until the music stopped. Of course, I had to come up with an “under the sea” playlist to go along with it! The most amazing thing is that as each child got “out,” there was no complaining or throwing of fits. The kids really impressed me.

Our final game was help the baby sea turtles get to the ocean, our own version of pin the tail on the donkey. We should have done a few things differently, like start them further away and not have it on the mirror (they felt around), but all in all it was great.

I had purchased a ring toss on the dolphin but it got left at home when E was playing with it before the party. Oh well!

Once we finished with the games we swam back upstream to the party room for cupcakes and other snacks. The bakery department at Lowe’s food did an outstanding job of creating an ocean scene cupcake cake and I rounded it all out with whale crackers, penguin crackers, Swedish fish and chocolate sea animals.

The kids had a blast and I know that I helped make J’s party memorable.

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | January 22, 2013

lessons in strategy

Merriam-Webster defines strategy as “a careful plan or method.” It is also “the science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions.” These are truly important skills that we want our kids to learn. But how in the world do we teach them? Teaching a kid strategy isn’t something that can be done with systematic steps. Luckily for them, teaching kids the important lesson of how to strategize is best done with a board game.

The first board games that we play with our kids are of the “luck” variety – candy land, chutes and ladders, high ho cherry-o. These are games where you pick a card, flick the spinner, or roll the dice. They are great for teaching important lessons like number or color recognition, counting, following directions, taking turns and good sportsmanship. These games also get rather boring after a while. Kids enjoy the luck aspect of it, but as a parent, there is no challenge to them. Once they start to get into kindergarten, it feels like the best we can do when playing those games is to encourage our kids to not be sore losers and to accept that once in a while they are going to lose a game. This concept by itself is a tough pill to swallow in my house, but I digress. Then this amazing thing happens – they get older and the games start to get more challenging. Rather than just playing games of luck, they start to actually play games that require some skill.

A strategic game is one in which “the players decision-making skills have a high significance in determining the outcome.” I found a game for J that she loves that has made teaching strategy relatively easy and it is a great game of American geography. I bought the game from a sample sale (no recollection which one), but you can buy it on Amazon.

So the idea with this game is that you are given 5 postcards to start with and need to travel across the United States in order to visit the location and “flip” the card over. Each time you flip a card over, you get another, and the goal is to be the first to flip 10 different postcards. The board has landmarks and cities that you travel to and colored paths that you have to follow. There is no “start” location on the board, but rather, you look at your first five cards and decide which city would be the best place for you to start. For this reason, every game is different because your path depends on the postcards that you pull from the deck. You move around the country, and the lower portion of Canada, by rolling dice with colors and airplanes on them.

When J first started playing, she would start on the city that she liked the most, not necessarily the city that made sense for the cards that she had. She would then randomly decide to travel from one landmark to the next and would be frustrated when the adult playing with her would rack up the 10 postcards first. It was often things like picking Kennedy Space Center just because she likes space even if she had a bunch of cards together in the Pacific Northwest. I quickly decided that this would need to be the time that we discussed strategy.

In one of our many marathon sessions of the game, I walked her through a way to look at her cards, organize them and then plan her moves. So rather than haphazardly placing her cards in front of her, she now takes her five cards and organizes them by location – east coast, west coast and in the middle. She still gets excited when she gets cards of favorite locations like NYC, Los Angeles, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Kennedy Space Center, but she also has discovered that there are some spots, especially on the east coast, where you can quickly rack up postcards if the luck portion of the game is on your side. She has gotten quite good at moving across the board and only every once in a while to I ask her if she really wants to make various moves. She has also learned a lesson about making it harder for your opponent to flip a card – since there is the option to steal a competitor’s card if you roll double blacks, she has learned to not only pick the postcard that could help her, but to aim for the one you seem to be headed towards.  

I’m a big fan of board games (and card games, puzzles, logic games, etc) so these are fun things for us to be able to play together. We have a few other games we really love these days, but we are always looking for more. Do you have any games that you really like to play? 

Happy Gaming!

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | January 7, 2013

winter break science fest

One of J’s best Hanukkah gifts this year was an awesome book called Cool Biology Activities for Girls. Not that boys couldn’t do any of these experiments, but the idea is to “appeal to girls with bright colored, flowery covers and pictures of girls and women” and to encourage girls to realize that science can be fun for them too. We also started getting a subscription to Kiwi Crate and were pleasantly surprised to find that not only were there two art projects in each box, but experiments to go along with the theme. Needless to say, we spent a good part of our 2 1/2 week vacation doing some cool experiments.

kiwi-crate-subscription-boxes-craft-supplies

The first experiment that we did from the Biology book was truly disgusting and not very hands on, but J wanted to start and it was the only experiment that I had all of the materials for at home. Did you know that it was possible to dissolve an egg’s shell without harming the membranes that protect the egg? That was something that I was perfectly happy to be in the dark about, but these are the things that we learn in the name of science. Turns out that the acid in the vinegar breaks down the calcium carbonate that makes up the shell. From there, we allowed the naked eggs to soak in water and corn syrup (separately). I don’t understand the scientific reasoning behind this (you can read about it here), but the egg in water plumped  up and the one in corn syrup shriveled up. J’s favorite portion of the experiment was playing with the naked egg post water and corn syrup and then watching them go down the drain without breaking.

Our next experiment was the one J wanted to start with – flower water absorption. For this one, the concept is to use colored water to understand how flowers drink water and then how the excess evaporates. It is a pretty straightforward project, but what is great about it is that you can watch what happens and see the reactions at different time intervals. The book called for using any white flower but noted that carnations worked best. I could only get my hands on one carnation and the others were daisies, but it all worked out in the end. This is a great experiment for getting kids excited about science.

Once we were done with the flowers, we moved on to playing around with the items from the Kiwi Crate. The theme for the month was Antartica which meant that we got to experiment with ice! The experiment that they suggested was one where you take two pieces of ice. Leave one plain and wrap the other in either tin foil or newspaper and see which melts faster. Well, we took that one step further and used both the tin foil and the newspaper. I didn’t get photos of this one, but I was actually surprised that the order was (from faster to slower melt times) air, tin foil, newspaper. I didn’t realize that newspaper was able to help retain the cold so well. While in the midst of all of this, I also came across an image on Pinterest about ice melting with water, air, salt and sugar and decided to try that one. With this one, we found that the order was water, salt, sugar and then air. Interestingly though, the sugar started out pretty fast but stalled along the way and was over taken by the salt. Salt of course makes sense given that it is utilized to de-ice roads. We also followed the kiwi crate instructions to make a piece of string stick to a piece of ice.

I think that both J and I are really getting a kick out of this science thing. She likes seeing things as black and white so this is an interesting game for her. I am continuing to find other cool experiments and keeping track of them on pinterest (of course). I think that we are going to attack this “salt painting ice sculptures” one from kiwi crate next!

Happy learning!

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | January 1, 2013

Family Portraits

One of the things about having kids is an extreme abundance of photographs. With digital photography, we tend to have even more and more decisions about how to print them and what to do with them once they are printed. I could, and quite possibly might, write many posts about what I’m trying to do with photographs, but for right now I will focus on the family portrait.

The annual family portrait has been a big conundrum for me. A four year stint at a New York photo agency has given me a desire for high-end artistic portraits while my thrifty side has often kept me from going that direction. When my older child was little we managed to get some great shots at the local mall photo shop even though their pushy ways of doing business rubbed me the wrong way. As she got older, however, convincing her to behave in that environment got increasingly difficult. To add insult to injury, now that we live in Pinehurst, the closest mall is an hour away. But I still wanted professional photos to hang on our walls.

So this year I broke down and paid the sitting fee to have a local photographer take our photos. I feared spending that money and not getting decent shots due to an unwillingness to smile nicely for the camera, but the truth is that you get what you pay for. Mall shops have their time and place and I have hopes to be able to use them from time to time in the future, but not being boxed in by a 10-15 minute time slot and a photographer who has their own list of “must take” shots regardless of what your desire to purchase them makes a huge difference. We took our photos at the end of October at the Arboretum. We spent an hour with our photographer, Becca of English Rose Photography, and the girls had the ability to run around between shots and to also simply act naturally. While I feel the need to get the posed family shot, I love that the others are able to capture the spirit of my girls.

family shot rev

The great shots we got made it possible for me to send out this New Years card that I simply love. If you have ever considered paying for the sitting fee, I would highly recommend it. Figuring out sizes and frames is a whole other challenge.

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | December 13, 2012

I’ve seriously caught the crazies

I’ve always been a pretty laid back kind of mom. Don’t go overboard on things, don’t freak out when my kids get scratches or eat something off the floor. I’m not a crafty person, except for enjoying some basic knitting and crocheting, although I never get the time to do any of it. I’ve watched some of my mom friends and been in awe of their love of being a truly hands on parent when I admit that there are a lot of times I would love to just escape into a book and enjoy some quality alone time. But lately, I’ve caught some cooky bug. I’m blaming a certain friend who lives down the street, but I thought I would share some of my recent insanity.

Example #1 
Hanukkah Crafting Party

As I mentioned in my last post, we live in an area that is lacking in opportunities to celebrate our Jewishness. So when everyone else is decorating their houses for Christmas, I like the idea of bringing Jewish touches to our house. There isn’t a lot out there for Hanukkah, so my feeling is that making things is the way to go. Rather then just doing projects on our own, my personal insanity said that I should invite a group of kids over to do some crafts. We wound up with 5 kids able to do crafts and 3 little ones and everyone had a blast. It is amazing how quickly they can blast through the crafts that it takes hours to organize.

                

The kids made 3 different crafts – menorahs, stained glass dreidels and popsicle stick stars of David. I have a bit of a Pinterest addiction and that’s where I found most of my inspiration (my Hanukkah board is here).

J has really enjoyed being able to light the menorah that she made. Not sure how it will last in our Hanukkah box, but it is glowing brightly this year!

I also couldn’t help myself and made some fig newton dreidels for the kids to snack on. I made more than this, but took the picture early.

Example #2
Holiday teacher gifts

I somehow became co-room mom of J’s kindergarten class and in that, I came up with a fun room gift for the holidays – gift card trees. I wasn’t sure how to make it all come together, but luckily we have a crafty mom in the class who took all of that upon herself and rocked the gift.

However, the more I thought about it, I realized that there were all of the “extra” teachers – gym, library, music, art, etc. Then after I started thinking about that, my buddy down the street called me talking about the possible 11 loaves of bread she might be making for the teachers. I already knew I needed something extra for E’s teachers, so now I had to get into full baking mode.

           

It’s the holidays so I made double chocolate peppermint chip cookies, two kinds of peppermint bark, and peppermint meringue kisses.

Now everyone is covered! Happy holidays!

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | December 7, 2012

Celebrating our Differences

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in the Sandhills. But in our house, and a small grouping of other homes in the area, the familiar green and red is replaced by the blues and silvers of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a relatively unimportant holiday in the Jewish religion, but due to the immense commercialization of Christmas, it has taken on a much larger role in the hearts of Jewish children. Like most things, this has good and bad points. On the bad side is that a holiday that traditionally has nothing to do with gifts now has them. On the good side, the story of Hanukkah has really wonderful lessons for all children to know.

So what is Hanukkah? The word Hanukkah actually means “dedication” in Hebrew and has to do with the destruction and rededication of the second Temple in Israel. In the second century B.C.E. King Antiochus III allowed the Jews living in Judea to practice their own religion. When his son Antiochus IV came to power, however, he was not as considerate and outlawed the Jewish religion. He demanded that the Jews bow down to Greek gods and punished them for studying Torah – the dreidel game associated with Hanukkah is actually based on tops that Jews would play with in case the Greeks tried to catch them studying Torah. When the Jews refused to give up their religion, Antiochus sent his soldiers to Jerusalem, massacred thousands of people and desecrated the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an alter to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls. A large scale rebellion broke out under the command of Judah Maccabee (“the hammer”) and the less powerful Jews successfully drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem. The Jews then cleansed the Second Temple, rebuilt its altar and lit its menorah – a gold candelabrum whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and were meant to be kept burning every night. There was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for one night, but the miracle was that it lasted for 8 nights, leaving time to get fresh oil. This miracle inspired Jewish sages to have the celebration of the temple’s rededication for 8 nights and inspired a special menorah specifically for the holiday.

Okay, so that was a nice history lesson, but why is it an important story? Christmas is everywhere. All of the stores start pushing it the moment Halloween is over, let alone Thanksgiving. The schools use icons of Christmas to get kids excited about their lessons. There are a lot of really beautiful things about Christmas – the lights, the family togetherness, the spirit of giving (even if it often feels more like a spirit of getting). But as Jewish kid, it can be overwhelming. It is one of the few times of the year, along with Easter, that you really feel the power of being different. Being different isn’t a bad thing, it is just hard for small children to understand it. We have really strived to teach our kids about the meanings behind the holidays and this year J is old enough to really understand it and delve into the history. So when she came home from school one day saying that she didn’t like Christmas, I reminded her that Hanukkah is really about allowing everyone to have their own religion. Also, being different means that she can have fun teaching her friends about her own traditions. Not everyone gets to spin the dreidel and light the menorah. We share in the fun of going Christmas caroling with friends and she teaches her friends to play dreidel. It is a win win situation.

In our house, we have two very different perspectives on Hanukkah. I grew up with the tradition of getting a small gift every night and my husband grew up with no gifts. We try to meet somewhere in the middle and aim to make Hanukkah gifts more about continuing their Jewish education. I’m beginning to run out of stuff until J starts learning Hebrew next year, but we still keep it relatively small and limit it to one gift a night. Most importantly, we have gotten into the holiday spirit and continue to make Hanukkah decorations for the house, listen to some great Hanukkah music, read our Hanukkah books, play dreidel, and J is looking forward to the day when I come to her class to share our holiday with her friends. Once a year, we rededicate our house as a place of knowledge about this day in Jewish history and remind ourselves what the letters of the dreidel tell us – Nes Gadol Haya Sham, a great miracle happened there.

I’ve gone a little crazy with Hanukkah music this year. Here are three of my favorites to get you into the spirit. The first one, Eight Nights by Stand Four, has really amazing lyrics, so I’ve included those.

Eight Nights

Eight nights I stay up staring at those candles,
they tell a story that occured
Eight nights we’re thankful for that small miracle,
our prayers were answered and our voices heard.

(chorus) When one night turned to eight, that’s why we celebrate
In the dark of night the candles stand for hope
The candles stand for, the candles stand for
Eight nights that we know that we’re not alone.

Come on it’s Hanukkah we’ve waited for the whole year
Just light a spark in the dark and spread the cheer
‘Cuz on this holiday night
Grab a friend and celebrate ‘cuz it’s finally here

Eight nights remember the war we won
The Greeks tried to erase who were are
Eight nights we’re thankful to G-d above
Who showed he’s even with us in the dark
(chorus)

Let’s go dreidel dreidel oh I shall play
Drop a jelly doughnut on my pants oy vey
‘Cuz when you’re flipping latkes you can’t go wrong
Making random Jewish references, in a Hanukkah song

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | November 27, 2012

nurturing a world of culture

I am a big city girl. I don’t want to live in the big city anymore, but that is where I grew up and how my childhood was shaped. So one of the things that I find difficult about living in a small town a good hour drive from a decent size city is that the educational and cultural opportunities are hard to find. But what I have learned, as with most aspects of living in the Sandhills, is that if you want something, you just have to put in the extra effort to make it happen.

For culture, I feel like my older child is finally ready to appreciate live theater and art. She has enjoyed it in the past, I do have a budding actress on my hands after all, but the cost and hassle hadn’t seemed worth it. Now, we are truly making the effort to make it work and managing to do it on a semi-local level. For the next few months, this is what we have planned.

* NC Symphony presents The Wizard of Oz. This was a fabulous way to introduce J to the symphony. The Wizard of Oz is one of her favorite movies and the symphony had a version of the film without the music track so that they could play it live while the movie was shown on a large screen over the conductor’s head. The great part was that she could see the symphony, asked questions about why they tune their instruments, and I was able to point out various instruments to her. Well worth the drive to Raleigh.

* The Nutcracker. What would the holiday season be without The Nutcracker? Even for a nice Jewish girl, I love being able to take J to see The Nutcracker and get an early appreciation for ballet. We have friends who are in the Taylor Dance production and continue to be awed by their version. This is J’s third year seeing the ballet and it is amazing to watch how her appreciation for it grows. She also has a much easier time sitting through the whole thing as her understanding grows. There are so many local productions of this, it is truly a great time to enjoy what our neighbors are producing.

* Tales of Enchantment. In January we will head back to the symphony hall to see Tales of Enchantment. Again, this is a great way to introduce the kids to the symphony. A special theater company is performing a piece they call “Mother Goose” in which Mother Goose is transformed to her younger self through the magic of classic fairy tales while the symphony plays the music of Ravel. Both girls will get to experience this one and it should be great.

* The Circus. In February, Ringling Brothers comes back to Raleigh on their yearly visit. This is a completely different kind of culture, but great live entertainment for kids of all ages. This will be our second time going and should be great fun.

* Charlotte’s Web. In March, The Playhouse is putting on a production of Charlotte’s Web. While these shows are primarily aimed at families with kids in the actual shows and seating is quite limited, our calendar is marked to make every effort to be at this show. If the production had been for kids in her age group, J would probably have been in the play, but instead we will happily support local theater to see another of her favorite books performed.

* Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale  – The day after we see Charlotte’s Web,  we will head back to Raleigh to see a musical retelling of the classic fairy tale at the Progress Energy Center. Obviously, we are into stage shows and music and all things girly, but I also can’t wait for J to see the non-Disnified version of this classic tale.

At one point in the past year, we had been considering flying to NYC to see Annie on Broadway. I had always been frustrated that I couldn’t immerse my girls in the culture that I hold so dear in my heart. But it does exist locally. The drive to Raleigh isn’t so bad and if you keep your ear to the ground, you can find local productions too. Arts and culture fuel the soul. So glad I am starting to find a way to bring them into our lives.

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | November 5, 2012

Books for Election Day

Tuesday is election day and, whatever your political leanings may be, it is important for all of us to get out and vote. Many people have already done early voting, but I’m still a fan of going the actual day. This year, I thought it would be nice to take my 5 year old with me so that she can get a sense of what voting is and why we do it. A presidential election is so much bigger then an off year race, so I was hoping to get her excited in the process. What I didn’t expect is how great some of the picture books out there are and how she would really be able to grasp what I was talking about. We started reading them a few days ago and my daughter is comprehending the voting process and why we each need to vote and a little bit about what the president does. We are going to let her watch some of the returns on Tuesday as we root for our candidate. It is exciting to watch her grasp these concepts and it definitely makes me feel good as a parent to be helping educate her on such an important topic.

I know that I am always looking for ways to find decent books on a given topic. So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of some of the books that we have found that are great for kids from about kindergarten to second or third grade. I hope you enjoy some of these too!

Vote! By Eileen Christelow– This book is a really accessible book about the voting process and probably the one that we have learned the most from. The story is of a young girl whose mother decides to run for Mayor. The book follows the action from political rallies, fund-raisers, and debates through the election, ending with the losing candidate requesting a recount. Along the way it asks and answers a number of important questions: What is voting? Why doesn’t everyone vote? Who decided who can vote? The book touches on getting involved in political campaigns and how you can’t always trust what you hear on television as many political ads can be misleading. This book is the one that really got my daughter interested, talking and asking questions. I especially appreciate the fact that it brings topics down to a level that kids can really understand. There are two little dogs that explain some of the harder concepts and get right to the heart of it when they say that “if people don’t vote, they’re letting everyone else decide for them!”

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio – In this book, young Grace Campbell was shown a poster of all of the American presidents and instantly noticed that there were no women pictured. She tells her teacher that she would like to run for President and her teacher decides that their school should have their very own election and that way the two classes in the story can learn about elections. The book focuses on the impact of the electoral college with each child representing a different state and having a different number of votes. When the little boy running for president realizes that it is a boys versus girls election, he rests on his assumption that he will win with no contest. The surprise comes when one boy casts his state’s votes for Grace at the very end because he “thought [she was] the best person for the job.” It is a great resource to try and explain the electoral college and has an author’s note at the end breaking the electoral college down even further. I laughed over the fact that the author mentioned that many adults have a difficult time comprehending the electoral college. The other incredibly valuable lesson is that it gets little girls thinking about the reality that there has not yet been a woman president but that there can and should be one soon.

If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier – This selection, like Vote!, talks about the actual running for office, but on a more presidential level instead of the local level. Where this book shines is breaking down the process of making the decision to run for president, the primary and caucus process, conventions and delegates. Children are introduced to the idea political parties and party platforms in a fun way that also encourages them to consider politics themselves one day.

My Teacher for President by Kay Winters – This charming book takes the focus away from the election process and onto characteristics often found in a president. When a young boy sees that elections are around the corner he writes to his local television station explaining all of the reasons that his teacher would be great in the job of president – she likes white houses, she’s used to being followed everywhere, she goes to lots of meetings, and when she walks into a room people pay attention to her. It brings the role of a president down to a slightly more accessible level for kids.

Today on Election Day by Catherine Stier – In this book, six young kids know all about election day when their school is taken over as a polling place. Rather than looking at the run for president, this book talks about the voting process itself and the myriad of jobs that we elect people into. The book explains how citizens eighteen and older can vote by secret ballot, what happens when a person goes into the polls, some of the officials who must be elected and a brief history of elections. What is wonderful about this book is that it highlights the fact that active engagement in the political process is the way to truly tap into the possibilities of the political system.

Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | October 25, 2012

reading rampage

As I mentioned, I have started writing for Sandhills Kids, a local online catch-all for parents where I live. My first blog went live today and I’m double posting it here. To see the original post, please check it out on the Sandhills Kids page.

Books are a big thing in my house. I have a serious book addiction and have passed it on to both of my children. My older child taught herself to read at a young age and has a truly voracious appetite for books. My little one is very opinionated about her books and has hit the age where she is starting to recite them to me, which always makes me smile.

In May, I gave in to the dark side and got a Kindle. Even though there is something special about the printed word and the feeling of actually turning pages, I couldn’t resist the ease of getting a book whenever you wanted and opening up the world of digital libraries. We are pretty fortunate here in the Sandhills. Both the Given Memorial Library in Pinehurst and the Southern Pines Library now offer patrons the ability to check out digital editions through Overdrive, an app that works on many platforms, or directly through their Kindles. The selections are growing and the whole system is so simple.

Even though I’m a convert to digital books for me, I’m not as comfortable with allowing my children to use my Kindle to read their books. Part of that is probably due to the fact that there isn’t a huge selection for books young enough for my girls. Part has to do with the fact that given our love of books and the large number of books we buy, I try to find the best deals -most children’s books are full price in digital editions. Finally, a big part has to do with the fact that the Kindle is “mine.” There are few things I can claim as my own and I don’t want my kids seeing it as a toy. I don’t even have my email or any apps that are not book related on the device.

But I do believe that digital editions are going to be a part of our future. With that in mind, a few months ago I found out about a website called We Give Books. Inspired by Ladybug Girl and her Bug Squad, the site is created so that anyone with access to the Internet can put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, simply by reading them online. This means that kids who can’t buy books the way my family does or perhaps don’t have the best access to libraries can read great books online. The truly wonderful thing is that every time you read a book on their site, they donate a book to children in need.

The website has tons of great books available and claims to be adding more regularly. The books are “children’s picture books appropriate for children through age ten. There is a mix of fiction and nonfiction, a range of authors, and an equal balance between read-alouds and books for independent readers.” When you go online to read a book, you can filter by age group, genre or even a specific author.

Last night, J read me two books that we didn’t have here at home. She was really excited by reading a new story and by getting a little time on my computer. I enjoyed hearing a new story mixed with doing a good deed. The We Give Books site doesn’t work well on a Kindle, but for the many people out there with iPads it should work fabulously. If you haven’t already checked it out, I would highly recommend taking a look.

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