Follow Up on Our Summer Reading Challenge

Now that school is back in full swing, I am looking back on the summer reading challenge we gave ourselves and reviewing how we did. Aidan and I challenged ourselves to read 20 books over the summer, and we had shared our list of planned books with you.

So how did we do? For quantity, Aidan completed his 20 books and a few more. For me, I read closer to 10 novels (several over 700 pages each), but over 50 picture books with Elizabeth.

We met our number goal, but how was the quality? Even though we didn’t necessarily stick to the list we had planned (Aidan in particular), overall we read good quality books. Aidan began his summer devouring Calvin and Hobbes collections (which is technically reading, but not what I had in mind), and then reading some good novels including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He re-read some favorites including some Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, sprinkled in with a bunch of graphic novels from our library. He finished up the summer with a keen interest in non-fiction books about animals and geography (go figure). We are still planning to finish Shiloh together, which we got about halfway through.

For all of us, we read some good books and some not so good books. That is to be expected. I will still encourage Aidan to supplement his graphic novel/comics interests with meatier novels. However, the most important thing I saw this summer was my kids reading. Not “Mom made me sit down and be quiet” reading. Book-loving reading – fully engrossed, bring a book everywhere, “Mom, can I bring the book in the store?” kind of reading. Perhaps that is the best measure of our summer reading challenge, which I declare a success.

What did you read this summer? Any good finds?

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What Are We Reading This Summer?

Now that summer is in full swing, me and my kids are very happy to have more time for reading in our schedule. We all have varied reading interests, so our lists cross genres and types. So what are we reading?

Aidan (8 years old):

  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
  • Shiloh, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DeCamillo
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room, Lemony Snicket
  • James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Jeff Kinney
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell
  • Geronimo Stilton: The Kingdom of Fantasy

Elizabeth (5 years old):

  • Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet, Jane O’ Connor
  • Blue Hat, Green Hat, Sandra Boynton
  • How to Be a Viking, Cressida Cowell
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story, Michael Hall
  • Little Bear, Else Holmelund Minarik
  • Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Eric Litwin
  • Lots of Early Readers!

Me (did you think I would tell you my age? Ha!)

  • The Chaperone, Laura Moriarity
  • The Garden of Letters, Alyson Richman
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  • Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett
  • Some of the books on Aidan’s list
  • All of the books on Elizabeth’s list!

I’m sure we’ll be adding and changing books as the summer goes on, plus adding some audio books. What are you reading this summer? Please share in the comments!

 

 

Appreciating the Genres

As a children’s book writer, I have a good appreciation for the genres of our field. I began my journey in children’s book writing with picture books, and currently I am working on three middle grade novels. My critique partner Joanna rocks the young adult segment.

As my son gets older, he still enjoys having picture books read to him but his choices are different when he reads for himself. He is reading chapter books, but I am struck by the broad range of choices in this genre.

Aidan really skipped over the beginning chapter books, like Frog and Toad, or Nate the Great. They didn’t seem to be “meaty” enough for him. He enjoys adventures, especially those in far away locations or times. The Magic Treehouse books are right up his alley. He frequently connects things that he learns about (Ancient Rome for example) with what he read in a Magic Treehouse book. We are lucky to have a family friend that gave us a big collection of Jack and Annie books (thank you Chrissy!).

I read a Facebook post this summer where Moms were discussing chapter books with appropriate content for young kids. One mom suggested Geronimo Stilton. I had never heard of him. Luckily, our library had some of the books, so we tried them out. And Aidan fell in love.

The Geronimo Stilton books are written in first person by a mouse named Geronimo Stilton. He is the editor of the Rodent Gazette, and the books are told in his voice. He is the “author” ala Lemony Snicket. (Spoiler alert: the books are written by Italian author Elisabetta Dami, distributed by Scholastic in the US)

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The really creative part of the Geronimo Stilton books is how they bridge the transition from picture books to novels. I’m sure many children miss the rich images from picture books when they move to longer books. In the Geronimo Stilton books, there are plenty of illustrations, maps, and pictures. They also illustrate the text. Yes, the text. They use colors, different type faces, even illustration to further illuminate the words. This comes in quite handy for a child who is actively expanding their vocabulary. Combine all this with an exciting adventure story, and you’re on your way!

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If you haven’t yet checked out Geronimo I encourage you to give him a try. There are currently 55+ books in the regular series plus 7 graphic novels. He even has his own web page with games and videos, as well as places to draw and write.

What other chapter book gems would you recommend? Please share in the comments!