Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Mustache You a Question...

The boys are getting a little reflective today, which is AWESOME!  If you are taking the time to read and/or follow our blog, I mustache you a question~ Please leave a little comment for the Boys.  They love to hear from you, their audience, and it makes their reading responses real and purposeful.  Tonight, they even have some (unprompted by me) questions for you.  We appreciate any and all feedback from our readers.  Thank you!

WAZZUP WAZZUP C.J. here!  Fako Mustacheo approves this blog and this is book report time. When we left off I was reading Bone by Jeff Smith. I ditched this book because it started giving me nightmares and I fear so much stuff so Bone added to my fears. ): I do not recommend this book to anyone! But now I'm reading a muuuuch much much better book called Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger! It's the funniest most hilarious book ever!!! P.S What's brown and sticky? A STICK!!! P.P.S. my mom made me put that there. (: If u have any books or things that are not scary, please put that in the comments. Thank You!

Hey this is P.J. and it is probably not your favorite time of the day because it is my turn at the computer.  Here is my blog! I am still on the book Overlord Protocol by Mark Walden, and I know what you are thinking:  You are still on that book? The answer to your question:  Yes, yes I am.  I am almost done though! :)  When  I stopped reading this book today, Professor Pike found out that the Contesta is working for Cypher and he is about to tell everyone about it and I cant wait to read more! Just a quick question, do you guys think that I am taking too long on this book? Just put your answer in the comments section and I hope to hear from you! ;D

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's your favorite flavor?

At our house, I have a surefire way of getting the Boys' attention.  Bacon.  I don't need to yell, nag, or use the guilt-trip.  Just whip out the electric skillet and Voila!  They come running.  It's funny, because both Boys ask the same question as they enter the kitchen,  "What smells like bacon?"  My response every time, "Um.  Bacon."
I've started timing their respective responses, and usually P.J. is the fastest.  Today's, "What smells like bacon?" took exactly 12 minutes, sprinting upstairs from the basement mid-Minecraft game.  Pretty impressive, but not his all-time record.  Bacon is his favorite food.  He even has a bacon t-shirt.  I know that if ice cream came in bacon flavor, P.J. would eat it. 
It's fitting that he was the bacon race winner today, because he has found his favorite flavor of book as of late, too, in the H.I.V.E. series.   C.J. still has not.  C.J. and I are still doing book tastings- some fantasy, realistic fiction, and now graphic novels.  While P.J. is now in "the zone" and fully savoring his book choice, C.J. is still chewing.

It's not always easy to find a good book match for readers.  Finding the sweet spot in reading takes practice and an understanding of yourself as a reader.  As a reading specialist, I am often asked by other Moms and teachers alike, "How can I find good fit books for my child/student?"  So, in the hopes of helping others help their own children find their personal book bacon, here are some suggestions:

First and foremost, go to the library and talk to the Librarian in the children's book section.  She (or He) is your most valuable asset and has a treasure trove of suggestions for you.  However, if you are not lucky enough to have a local library or dedicated children's Librarian, you can try these electronic resources:

Scholastic Book Wizard:
The intended audience for this website is Teachers, but I find it to be user-friendly for parents as well.
Why I like it:  You can search not only by age and interest, but also by whatever leveling system your school district uses.  If you are not sure of your child's reading level, ask your child's teacher.  He/She should know.  Use the drop-down bar to select the applicable Reading Level System (my district uses Guided Reading), type in a beloved book or author in the search box.  Once you have found a favorite known book, use the "Book Alike" button on the right to find similar books that are appropriate and (hopefully) interesting for your child.  You will most likely be overwhelmed by the amount of results generated, and you can narrow them down by using age and genre filters if necessary.  You can purchase them directly from the website if you wish, or you can use the generated list to select books from your library or ebook provider.

Story Snoops:
I have recently discovered this website via Twitter, and I love it as well.   Story Snoops' goal is to help Moms (and Dads) match books to kids.  Perfect, right?
Why I like it:  It is very parent-friendly, and not only can you search by age, genre, and interest, you can search by keyword and topic as well.  I also like it because it is specifically geared to Tweens and Teens, which is my home audience, but this may be a drawback for those with younger readers.  It also has very detailed reviews that are informative when choosing books.  The FAQ button is very helpful if you are getting started with Story Snoops, and I LOVE their blog!

If you are interested in social networking for your book recommendations for yourself, I would suggest joining either:



Both websites require registration (which is free), and a bit of a set-up on your part as you collect books on your respective virtual "shelves." 
Why I like them:  Both websites offer the benefit of community.  I can connect with friends that I know personally as well as other like-minded book friends online to get recommendations and reviews.  Just to be clear, both websites require users to be age 13 and up, so I would not recommend this necessarily for kids to use, but I have been lucky as a Mom and teacher to find friends who like Children's Books as much as I do.  Sign up and find a personal network of book friends for yourself, too.  Find your own favorite flavor!

And now, the Bacon Boys' reviews:

Hey this is C.J.  Unicorns barf up rainbows and this is book report time. When we left off I started reading the graphic novel Bone by Jeff Smith.  So far Phoney Bone, Smiley Bone, and the old strong dude (I forget his name) are having a bet to see who can run the bar (like a Pub or restaurant) the best. If Phoney wins he gets all the money and if the really strong dude wins Phoney and Smiley have to do dishes the rest of their lives. MUA HA HA HA HA!!!! Well that's it.  Hasta lavista! 

Hi this is P.J. I am bored and this is my blog. Today I am still reading the book H.I.V.E Overlord Protocol by Mark Walden and it is very good. I love how when the Contesta reveals that she is working for Cypher.  It came as a total surprise and I definitely did not see it coming.  Otto is still out in a deserted jungle waiting to get back to H.I.V.E. and I can not wait to read more. So peace.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Want My Kindle Back, Kindle Back!

Today, the boys take the lead:

Sup, this is C.J.  Dogs are awesome and this is book report time. When we left off, I finished The Sea of Monsters. Now I am reading the book Bone by Jeff Smith. It is a graphic novel about a guy who is made of bones but not like a skeleton! His name is Bone. Bone and his friends go on lots of adventures, from cow races to giant evil rats. So far I am 1/4 through it. I like it because it is in midieval times and it's written like a comic. GOODBYE!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi this is P.J.  I like chicken nuggets, and this is my post! As you know, if you read yesterday's post,  I am reading the H.I.V.E series  by Mark Walden and I am on book 2 which is called Overlord Protocol.  I like this book because it is Otto's first time out of H.I.V.E, and it makes the setting a lot of different places. I am just over the halfway mark in the book.  I am loving it, and I need to read more of it to understand why Cypher killed Wing (spoiler report!)  I would highly recommend this series to anyone who is interested in mystery/adventure books. Thanks for reading! 

Mom's note:  The scene at the breakfast table at our house this morning: as lovingly prepared frozen waffles transformed into clammy hardened yellow frisbee discs, P.J. read.  And read.  And read.

This was the scene throughout the day.  Because he is reading on MY Kindle, I was not able to do any of my own reading.  What a conundrum.  I am Thrilled that he is so engaged, but it's MY Kindle.  To prevent the interruption of his momentum, and to avoid the risk of becoming a whiny ninny, I decided to take a trip back to the library to get the next two H.I.V.E. books in traditional paper form.  I WANT MY KINDLE BACK!!!

Isn't this a great problem to have?  It's finally happening... and I love it.  I really do.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Healthy Addiction

Late last night, I awoke to the howling and yips of our puppy, Piper.  She was conversing with our friendly neighborhood Coyote, who roams through our neighborhood periodically in search of cute furry creature snacks (one of which our little Corgi could become if she was not safely snuggled inside).
I've witnessed these late-night exchanges between our pup and Wile E. before, as my family blissfully snoozes, unaware of the moonlit party outside our walls.  They don't believe, as I do, that it is an actual coyote.  They've even begun to tease me about it, conducting imaginary coyote "hunts" with BB guns in the tiny patch of woods out back.  Last night, though, I had a witness (in the form of P.J.) to our nocturnal friend, and while I was excited to Finally have a partner on my Coyote-Quest, I must admit he was freaked out a little bit. 
After scaring the silver beast away- my method is jumping up and down while clapping my hands and yelling, "Go away, Coyote!" followed by flashing the outside lights on and off- it occurred to me that my son was up awfully late.  He said that he was up reading.
<Gasp!>  I engaged in some more jumping up and down and clapping (happy this time), and told him to get right back upstairs.  READING!  After midnight!  And I know that this is the second night in a row.  We have started a pattern, and I finally think that something has changed.  He has caught the bug, found the key, turned the corner, (insert other cliches here), and is reading for pleasure.  For FUN!  Late at night!

Motivating kids to read for pleasure is tricky business.  Many parents, teachers, school systems, and even librarians use extrinsic (outside/external) methods to motivate kids to read.  Reading incentive programs abound, clocking pages, books read, or time spent reading to add up to a "reward" like a toy, extra video game time, or ice cream/pizza party.  The intent is pure: entice kids to read more, because we know that reading is good for them.  The problem with this method is that once you take away the reward from the outside, there is no guarantee that children will continue of their own accord.  This is why I purposefully set out this summer #bookaday challenge with no promises of special treats or points or prizes.  My agenda is purely intrinsic.  Yes, it is more work on my part as the parent/coach, but I know that the long term benefits of instilling that internal motivation and reward for reading is the key.  This becomes more critical as they enter these teen years, as Mom becomes less and less cool (already happening), and their World expands and separates from Home.

They have to want it for themselves.

I am so happy to see that (at least for one of the Boys) it has happened so early this summer.  How did we get there?  Series books.  P.J. started reading the H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden on Friday.  He finished book #1 Saturday night and downloaded #2 immediately afterward (on MY Kindle, which he is "borrowing").  He and C.J. are not strangers to series books, and I will list some of their faves below.  From my experience as a reading specialist and as a Mom to Boys, I know that series books are great ammunition for reluctant readers.
One Sunday night a month at 8pm on Twitter, I follow #titletalk, a chat that is dedicated to discussing favorite books for kids. I tweet primarily for literacy and educational purposes and I am thrilled to have this expanding Professional Learning Network.  Anyway, I tend to be more of a stalker on the chat, because it is bursting with enthusiasm from teachers and librarians, and I am not deft enough with the hashtag to keep up (just imagine your favorite Roadrunner cartoon and me a-la-Wile E. with a big virtual Acme box that explodes when I try to tweet something).  Just by hanging out, though, I am energized by the discussion and it just so happened that last night the discussion revolved around Series Books for kids.  What a happy coincidence! 
This tweet from @yabookbridges (who is also a Mom and a teacher) struck me:

Series are the gateway drug to reading for reluctant readers, IMO.
There has been much brain research on reading, as it relates to reading instruction, reading disabilities, but also how it effects the affect, or feeling/emotional center of the brain.  This really is the key to motivating kids intrinsically.  I found a blog entry in the NY Times that touches on this connection.  In it, the author, Annie Murphy Paul states, "The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated."*  Reading must elicit that same pleasure response in the brain, and series books are a great "gateway" to this new (healthy) addiction for our reluctant ones.  The key is finding a series that your child will crave, and luckily there are MANY!  

Enjoy Hunting for good series books with your kids, and get them HOOKED!  Meep Meep! (That's a Roadrunner reference, by the way... sorry about that.)

The Boys reviews!
Hey this is C.J.and it is raining chickens outside and this is my blog.
Today I decided to take a break from Mockingjay and read a little bit of a book I have been reading along with the hunger games series. the book is called ThE sEa Of MoNsTeRs!!!! by Rick Riordan. So far Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson got back to camp Half-Blood.  Once they got back they put a special golden fleece on the poisoned tree that protected the camp. Once that happened Thailia, daughter of Zeus popped out of the tree. (She sacrificed herself and made herself a tree to save Grover and Annabeth).  That's where the book ended. I enjoy books like The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson because they have lots of battles throughout the series. 
C.J.'s Fave Series Books:
Percy Jackson (The Lightning Thief) series by Rick Riordan
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Origami Yoda (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) series by Tom Angleberger
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Magic Tree House books (when I was little, like I read them 5 years ago) by Mary Pope Osborne
Phineas L. MacGuire series by Francis O'Roark Dowell
Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie by David Lubar
Swindle (Griffin Bing series) by Gordon Korman
Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine

Hi this is P.J., and as my mom said I have been reading the book series H.I.V.E.   I have to say I am impressed at how well the author mapped out the series of events so it would always keep you on your toes.  In other book series, the author tried to keep things a mystery and have it stay so intense that you are dying to read the next page to find it out. Rick Riordan did this but I feel that Mark Walden (H.I.V.E. author) took it to a whole other level. Now don't get me wrong, I love Rick Riordan's books (they are among my favorite books of all time) but I just feel that Mark Walden took it to a different level.

P.J.'s Fave Series Books:
H.I.V.E by Mark Walden
Percy Jackson (The Lightning Thief) series by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
The Kane Chronicles (The Red Pyramid) by Rick Riordan
The Shadow Children series (Among the Hidden ) by Margret Peterson Haddix
The Spiderwick Chronicles (The Field Guide) by Holly Black and Toni DiTerlizzi
The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Swindle (Griffin Bing series) by Gordon Korman
and of course, Captian Underpants by Dav Pilkey (when I was 8)

*Paul, Annie Murphy. "OPINION; Your Brain on Fiction." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 25 June 2012. <>.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Abandon ship?

It is time to abandon ship, Pirates!  Sometimes you just gotta know when it's time to pack it in.  Heave ho!  Time to roll!

No, I'm not referring to the end of our summer reading, nor am I announcing the end of this blog.  (Whew, right?)  However, it is the end of our week-long vacation by the lake, and we are packing up, getting ready to head back home. We spent the early part of our day sweeping up sand and packing our bags to prepare for our journey back home tomorrow morning.

Along those lines of departure and thoughts of farewell, however, I have discovered that the Boys were also having some abandonment issues this week.  Our trip has been jam-packed, but I've always gently urged them to use their down time to read.  Checking in on them, I found that they had not progressed in their books as much as I would have thought, and so we had a parley (heart to heart).  P.J. finally admitted that, although he was trying hard to read and enjoy his chosen book, it was not keeping his interest.  He was shocked when I suggested that he abandon it.  He said that he was afraid to tell me how he was feeling and thought I'd be mad and make him finish it.  I told him that it is much better to abandon a book that doesn't float your boat than sink with it (and lose motivation to read.)  So throw it overboard!  Avast Ye!  Shocking, right?
Not really.  Thinking about my own reading, I find myself picking and choosing and even abandoning books that don't interest me.  Why plunder through when all it stirs up is muck and bad energy?  Reading should be enjoyable.  So - if what you are reading stinks, then Stop It.  Find something else.  It's OK.  And, as a added bonus, this line of thinking is supported by much smarter people than me.  Reading researchers Fountas & Pinnell, CAFE' authors Boushey & Moser, The Book Whisperer Donalyn Miller, (and more), emphasize that when students are discovering books that are a "good fit" for them, they need to know that abandoning books is a part of that process.  However, as teachers, many times we forget or do not emphasize that important reading skill.  Somehow, during his education, P.J. learned that he HAD to finish, for better or worse, when he started reading a book.  This revelation prompted an "unlearning" lesson today:
With a smiles on our faces, P.J. and I started searching for Something Else.  And he tried Something New.  And read for an hour and a half straight.  Whoo hoo!  Here's to jumping ship!  (Now, the caveat: jump around until you find a book that helps you finish your journey, because it is not ok to sail around endlessly in circles.  Eventually you must reach a destination- and treasure.)

Here are this week's reviews, mateys!

This is P.J. I fully agree with what my mom said that it is ok to abandon a book if you are not enjoying it like I abandoned the book Dead end in Norvelt because it just got boring for me and my mom introduced me to the book H.I.V.E. (Higher Institute of Villainous Education).  So far I really like it. I believe that I was not reading the other book a lot because I was not enjoying it even though I thought I was. I realized today that I should read other books if I am not reading them a lot because that means my subconscious is saying I don't like the book. This book is different, because I now know I like realistic fiction, history, and fantasy (not faerie tales) and sci-fi, and I will use this knowledge to pick books in the future.

Hey wazzup wazzup! Its C.J. here and today I read some more of Mockingjay! So far Katniss, Prim, and everybody else from district 13 is hiding underground from bombings from the capitol. When I left off everybody was running down to hide underground to protect themselves. Then Katniss gets to her room with her mother. When Prim (Katniss's sister) isn't there they realize she went to get her cat. Katniss quickly ran to the doors to block them from closing. Fortunately Prim got back safely. Now I have to go play some minecraft (and yes it does help with math and science :). SEE YA!

So, off we go into the sunset.  Ahoy, mateys!  Until next time...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Ahhh.... Vacation.
 Meandering down a path to the lake, I listen to the frogs croak their greetings to me as I take the canoe out for an early morning exploration.  The owners of the cabin that we are renting said that a BIG beaver lives down a ways, and I am eager for a peek.  My Blue Heron buddy takes off, his wings the only sound besides the lapping of my paddles as I head out into the watery expanse.  These quiet moments~ time off with family and friends to relax.  That's what it's all ab....

Battle cry of the boys begins as they race down the dock, jumping, CANNONBALL!

Amusement park!  Luckily (for Mom) with Dad!
Spinning rides, cotton candy, roller coaster, loop-dee-loop, upside-down, ice cream, log flume, hot dogs with mustard, haunted house, kettle corn, hot-black sticky pavement, a gargantuan stuffed fuchsia lemur with creepy eyes (I WON it!!), drink some water, head home,

Delightful Dinner...
Glass of wine (for Mom, not Boys)...
Fall asleep.



Those lazy days of summer are hastening forward with lightning speed, and our intended plan, our compact for reading is proving to be tricky to achieve this week.  We must be even more persistent and intentional with our reading goal especially with all of this fun and merriment in store. 
With that in mind, I've crafted a three-fold plan adaptation: 1) Will travel?  Have books.  Books must go where we go.  In the car, to the park, to the lake, wherever!  2)  Down time is reading time.  When noses and shoulders turn pink, head inside with a book and cool down.  3)  Rainy days are reading days.  Yes, we can head out and catch the latest summer blockbuster, too, but we will also grab the opportunity to catch up on our reading when it is thundering outside.
We will persist.  Carry on, summer readers!

Here are our latest lakefront Boy Book Reviews:

Hey. This is C.J. I am on vacation with my awesome family! Yesterday I went to Kings Dominion Amusement park in Virginia with my Dad and our good friends. Unfortunately our friends had to leave today to go home. ):   Today I was reading Mockingjay.  I ditched this book for a little bit and now I decided to continue reading it.  I was at the part where Katniss was making the video to air in all the districts except the capitol.  Katniss gunned down a bunch of bombers with her bow, making them explode!  You might be asking yourself, "How am I getting time to read?"  Well.  Whenever I'm not outside at the lake, I am inside reading a book. Well, maybe not alllll the the time. (I'll mostly be watching TV.) (:

Hello again! This is P.J. and I read the book Dead End in Norvelt. This book is still good so far and is continuously surprising me with its twists and turns. This book is unpredictable you never know what is going to happen next. So far I am through Chapter 4 and I am looking forward to reading more. This week as you may know I am on vacation, this can be a hard time to find a nice place to read for a while, but I recommend reading in whatever spare time you have. Yesterday I was going to go to Kings Dominion amusement park (it was really fun) but my Dad had to get everything ready so I decided to read, and I read about 30 pages of my book. But remember it can be hard to find a good place to read, but just look for spare time on vacation and sit down and read.

For the Moms out there:  Forget the 50 Shades.  Yes, you heard me.  And, for what it's worth, I disliked the entire Twilight series as well.  But, if you want some of my personal Mom-worthy beach/lake/vacation reading recommendations (YA, books, mind you), read on:
  • If you liked the Hunger Games series, try Divergent and Insurgent (in that order) by Veronica Roth.  I loved both of these dystopian books, and I am biting my nails waiting for #3 in the series.
  • If you liked The Help and enjoy historical fiction, try What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell.
  • And finally, if you enjoyed the Hangover (yes, the movie) and movies like The Hangover, try From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer.
Happy Vacation Reading!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fabulous, Fun Friday!

Happy Friday!
Happy Friday!
Woot!  Woot!

We made it through a whole WEEK of reading!!  Well, it was 5 days in a row, but we still feel like celebrating.  :)

Therefore, we hereby decree the official indoctrination of the inception of the commencement of our very first ever FUN FRIDAY!  You never know what may happen on a Friday~ we may decide to spin around in the desk chair until we are dizzy, sing and dance for you, and then write our whole blog in Pig Latin.  That's how we roll...  You never know what Fun Friday will bring! <Insert pre-teen eye-roll here.>

Today, in the spirit of all things fun in the world of boys, books, and reading, I thought I'd share some funny blogs for the amusement of the Moms and Dads out there.  The first is from Pragmatic Mom, and it's titled, "Hilarious Children's Authors with Impossible Names to Pronounce."  Krosoczka, Scieszka, and Czekaj, Oh My!  Next is a link from StorySnoops that lists a bunch of books about Zombies.  I think Zombies are all kinds-o-fun, and so do the Boys.  If you enjoy Pinterest (as I do), you can also check out this awesome board of Gross Out Books for kids and pin some that you think yours would enjoy.  Because, quite frankly, gross is way fun.

And finally... <drum roll> we got some Hummus for your mini-toast!  (Ok, so it's from TV, noneducational, and absolutely unrelated to books, but the Boys think it's hilarious.)  Sit back and get ready to party (with your hummus), as you enjoy the Boys' reviews:

Upsay, isthay isway c.Jay andway isthay isway myay unfay idayfray ookbay eportray. Oobay!

Today I read Notes From the Midnight Driver.  So far I am at page 97 and Alex visited Sol at the hospital. Alex found out that Sol might not live if he gets pneumonia again, which is most likely going to happen. I am enjoying the book so far and recommend it to people.
Mom's note:  C.J. typed that with lightning speed so that he could get back to building his LEGO Lord of the Rings set.  LEGOs are super-fun.

Ihay isthay isway p.Jay odaytay iway eadray ethay ookbay eadday endway inway orveltnay.  Translation: Hi this is P.J. Today I read the book Dead End in Norvelt. This book is great so far, although I am only through 2 chapters (they're really long). There is nothing I don't like about this book so far, that is right, so far there is nothing I don't like. The things I do like are that it is during the World War 2 era, but the thing I like most about this story is the main character.  This character is very interesting and already after 2 chapters I have a sense of the trouble he is going to get into. I can't wait to read more of this book and I'm sure I can finish it by Monday.

Dear readers, we hope that you have enjoyed the first week of our Mom and Boys #Bookaday blog adventure.  We will be taking a break from blogging over the weekend (but we will continue to read and talk at home amongst ourselves).  We'll be back on Monday.  Have a great weekend, and HAPPY Fun Friday!!

Books reviewed/mentioned today:
Sonnenblick, Jordan. Notes from the Midnight Driver. New York: Scholastic, 2006. Print.
Gantos, Jack. Dead End in Norvelt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. Print. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Book Pushing Ninja and the Biblionasium

My new moniker, the Book Pusher, must be one that has passed down through our ancestry, because today we visited the Mother of the Book Pusher- Gram.  She has much more Middle School reading expertise, as she has been in the business for almost 35 years.  Like the seasoned professional book pushing ninja that she is, she worked book recommendations into our lunch conversation and had the Boys choosing books from her library before they even realized what had hit them.  <POW!> And they BOTH were excited!  One (who will not be named) was even so excited about his selection that he started reading it in the car on the way back home (and is on page 74- I peeked).

Here's C.J.'s review:
Today I read Notes From the Midnight Driver.  I'm reading it because my grandma gave it to me. Also because its from my favorite author (Jordan Sonnenblick).
Notes from the Midnight Driver is about a high school student named Alexander who is mad about his parents getting divorced so he gets drunk and wants to give his dad a piece of his mind. But since he's drunk he can't make it past his block and smashes into a lawn gnome on his neighbor`s lawn. As a punishment he has to visit the old folks home and spend 5 hours a day with a guy named Sol (who is really good at poker).  So far I am half-way through the book and I am really enjoying it.

Mom's note:  Now, I'm not really thrilled about this whole drunk-driving thing, but Gram assures me that it is a really great book.  I'm going to trust her, since she is older and wiser than I.

Today we also went to the orthodontist.

Here is the review from the brace-face:
Hi this is P.J. The book I read was Eyewitness books Vietnam War. I chose this book because I have wanted to know about the only war America has lost in history. After reading this book I now know why America went into the war and how they lost it. The reason they lost it was because America relied mostly on air support and when the Vietnam soldiers sneak attacked American bases, you can't call in air support on your own base. (can you?) I would give this book a 9 out of 10 because it was a very good book and had a good sense of information.  P.S. Today I went to see my grandma and she has a very good relation with books.  She is a Reading teacher and today she recommended the book Dead End in Norvelt, which I will be posting about tomorrow and I can't wait to read it!

In the continued spirit of my new found resolution to listen, I also discovered a great website that has been described as a "GoodReads for kids."  It is called Biblionasium:  Where Kids Flex their Reading Muscles

As a parent, I have hesitated to release my kids into the world of social networking.  The Boys have not asked for facebook accounts, and that is just fine with me.  However, I do see the value of using social media for an educational purpose like this.  Biblionasium was created with the intent of providing a safe environment for parents and teachers to share and recommend books that are appropriate for the kids in their lives.  For a more detailed description of the platform, the benefits of using it, and the built in safety measures, click here.
If you are interested in my two cents, I personally like it because I know that I am the only adult who can interact with my Boys.  I set up the account, and therefore I control it.  I can set reading goals for them with rewards (if I choose), but they were so excited about having a place to catalog and review books online, I don't feel the need to set up artificial prizes for them.  They set up their cool Avatars and added the books that they read, but together we can search and recommend books for each other from tens of thousands of titles that are in the system.  It is a virtual book pusher.  Stealthy.  Ninja-like.  I like it!

Books reviewed/mentioned today:
Sonnenblick, Jordan. Notes from the Midnight Driver. New York: Scholastic, 2006. Print.
Murray, Stuart. Vietnam War. New York: DK Pub., 2005. Print.
Gantos, Jack. Dead End in Norvelt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. Print.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Book Pusher

Today the Mom was a book pusher.
After a morning jaunt with the kiddos to the doctor for some steroids to battle the evil Poison Ivy, the boys are now a bit less itchy.  Along with their prescribed medications, I also gave them a dose of reading recommendations.   In one case, it was a bit of an overdose, and I am feeling like the Worst. Mom. Ever.

Some of my friends have asked me for advice and reading recommendations for their own kids.  I've read quite a few children's books, and if you'd like to see my personal book lists, please friend me on goodreads.  But I'm not a children's book expert, and my reviews are written from an adult educator's perspective.  Therefore, I'm including some website links from authors and publishers for Moms (and Dads) to use as resources to find books for their own kids.  The first link, in fact, was discovered by the Dad that lives at our house via Patch: ReadKiddoRead Annual Summer Reading List 2012 .  You can also check out another "great reads" recommendation article penned by Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer (another fantastic professional development resource for Teacher/Parents out there), and (I believe) the originator of the term "book pusher."

I am an enthusiastic reader of Children's Literature.  Often, I prefer reading it over adult fiction.  As I have said, I read from the perspective of an adult, and today I pushed the wrong book for my youngest.   My intentions were good: I shared my enthusiasm for one of my favorite authors, and I hoped that it would be received as such.  I'm afraid, however, that I forgot about the intended audience in my fury.  I gave him Love that Dog by Sharon Creech today.  It's perfect: short, written from a boy's perspective, and the format is unlike most books- written as poem entries in a writing journal.  I especially like the beginning, because the main character Jack's voice hooks you in.

I don't want to
because boys
don't write poetry.

Girls do."
"SEPTEMBER 13." Love That Dog. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. 1. Print.

Perfect for C.J., right?  Wrong.  <spoiler alert>  I had forgotten that the entire premise of the book is based upon Jack's struggle to express his sadness over the death of his beloved dog, Sky.  Sad.  Very sad. <end spoiler>

Bad choice.

He read it, and he wrote his response in the form of a letter to me (posted with his permission):

Because of the intensity of his reaction, my belief in Creech's writing talent has been confirmed- only well written books draw this type of emotion- but I am humbled by my poor judgement in this recommendation.

P.J. was not very enthralled with his book today, either.  See his review below:

Hi this P.J., and the book I read was Eyewitness books, Arms and Armor.   I read this book because I wanted to learn more about ancient weapons and why the people who invented them did it. This was an OK book.  It had information on the topic, but I just found it to be a bit boring. I found it boring because it was just too full of information for my liking and it just rushed too fast and skipped around in the time periods. This book I would give a 6.5 out of 10.  I recommend this book for ages 10- infinity.

So, after a big apology from me and a long conversation with my youngest (with the promise to back off my enthusiasm a bit), I think we have come to an understanding.  I need to stop pushing and start listening.  After we hugged it out, C.J. showed me the new LEGO Lord of the Rings building sets that have piqued his interest.
Hmmm... J.R.R Tolkien, perhaps???

Books reviewed today:
Creech, Sharon. Love That Dog. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.
Byam, Michèle. Arms & Armor. New York, NY: DK Pub., 2004. Print.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 1: War and Punishment

Despite feeling somewhat like a drill sargent at the moment, I must admit that our first day went much more smoothly than I originally anticipated.  It took a few friendly reminders and gentle urging, but my sons successfully achieved their Day 1 goal.  Please enjoy their inaugural reviews below.  They crafted and typed these reviews themselves, with minor editing and spell-checking guidance on my part.   

P.J.'s review of DK Eyewitness Books: World War II by Simon Adams (ISBN-13: 978-0756630089)

Hi my name is P.J.  I am going into 8th grade and I will admit I am not much of a reader, but I decided to take this challenge because I would like to read a little bit more. My interests include history and realistic fiction and I think the book I read was a great choice for me.

The book I read is Eyewitness Books, World War II. This book was very informational and informant.  I found my self thinking that what I was reading was interesting. It guided you through the book with a general overview of what was happening, and then went into detail of the certain things like the part about spies, it showed you what certain spy weapons they used like the "Propelling Pencil Pistol," and
'Hidden knife." In all of the information found in this book I now know what the main war was about and not just the small version.  I recommend this book for people that like nonfiction history and are ages 13- infinity.

Mom's note:  On the way to the library yesterday, once the boys removed their ear buds and headphones, we brainstormed a bit about their individual interests and the kinds of books that may be a good fit for them.  P.J.'s experience was very decisive and purposeful.  He went straight for the non-fiction section and picked seven books about war.  At the time, little voice in the back of my head whispered to me that this might be a symptom of video game withdrawal, but I have pushed away any thoughts of censorship.  I know that choice is critical when motivating children to read.  So off to war we go.  We can expand our horizons and explore other genres in the future- one battle at a time.
C.J.'s review of Punished! by David Lubar (ISBN-13: 978-1-58196-042-5)

Sup, my name is C.J and I was forced to do this reading thing.  I am going to 6th grade.  My interests are martial arts and video games.

The book I read was Punished, the exact way I feel right now. The book Punished is about a kid who gets punished and can only speak puns "quote PUNished" and the only way he can fix it is finding things like palindromes and oxymorons to lift his curse. I would recommend this book to language arts addicts, unlike myself.

Mom's note:  When we went to the library yesterday, C.J. really struggled to find books that he might enjoy, and I grabbed it as a goof- an attempt at some humor as he was moping around.  Surprisingly, it was the first one he chose to read, and he read it cover to cover today (while chuckling).  So, take his review with a grain of salt... or library dust, if you will...

I hope you enjoyed today's post.  Please feel free to comment and add words of encouragement.  My boys would love to hear your thoughts about their reviews.  :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Inception: Battle Plan #Bookaday

I am a teacher by profession.  A reading specialist, to be more specific.  When I meet people for the first time, I tell them that I have the best job in the whole school.  I read with students all day.  My students arrive in my groups at a variety of levels, from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade, and we read, write about our reading, and talk about all-things literary.  We work very hard, and I nurture their growth every day.

At parent teacher conference time in conversations with parents, I recommend that my students read daily.  I send books home with them and give them free access to my classroom library.  I urge them to read over the summer.  And yet, when I come home, I enter into x-box, and Roblox, and Star Wars the Last Republic online, and Youtube, and Regular Show.  Keeping up with laundry, housework, homework, dinner, and dishes while carving out time for a conversation with my husband, I know I am guilty of creating this monster and allowing the digital, electronic behemoth to suck time and motivation from my sons.  I often feel like the ultimate hypocrite.  But I also know that I have the power to destroy the beast (or at least harness its evil powers and manipulate its forces towards the greater good).

Please don't misunderstand, my sons do read.  I began on the right path, reading to them from birth and putting books into their hands before they could sit up on their own.  They read at school, and even at home occasionally, but it is just not enough.  Summer could easily become a wasteland of Minecraft and Tobuscus videos.

With that in mind, I devised a battle plan. 

<Insert virtual Trumpet Fanfare here> We will participate in #Bookaday which was devised by Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer (see this link for my classroom connection of this absolutely fantastic resource for teachers). 

While #Bookaday is intended for teachers to read over the summer, I have invited (challenged, commanded, whatever) my two sons to participate with me.  In order to keep it motivating and not as overwhelming for them, we developed some ground rules for the summer and our participation in the challenge.  One of my sons has "bought in" to this contest more than the other, but I told them that I will allow some flexibility as long as they follow these two guidelines:

1.  We will read every day.
2.  We will write every day about what we have read.

The boys (C.J. and P.J.) added these mutual agreements:
3. We can read anything that we choose to read.
4. We can read at any time of the day, and Mom will not give us a schedule.

Great start, and P.J. added these two for his own personal goal:
5.  Books must have a minimum of 50 pages.
6.  I (P.J.) will read 40 minutes every day.

C.J. had some further additions:
7. I (C.J) will read a minimum of 1 page a day.
8. Summer is not about learning anything.

To which I added:
9.  We will read for at least 15 minutes each day.
10. Your reading response can be anything you want to share.  Whether you write, create something, or discuss your reading- the format is up to you.  But the response is not optional.

So, begrudgingly for one, we headed to the library this morning to check out our first book stacks of the week.
 On the way to the library...

 Seriously, Mom?

 You can see that we have some work to do...