There’s more blogging happening these days over at Reading Rockets. The chronicling of a family trip to the homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder has grown beyond a special series and taken on a life of its own! The new Book Life blog will focus on all kinds reading and learning adventures. I’m looking forward to hosting many special guests and learning what the book life is like for authors, parents, and teachers working to launch young readers.

Favorite characters come to life during Halloween! Dressing up your pumpkin can be as much fun as getting your own costume together.















Other great books and pumpkins for Halloween reading fun:

Create Dr. Seuss’s Horton the Elephant or Mo Willems’ Gerald of Elephant and Piggie fame with a pumpkin with a long stem.  Paint the pumpkin and stem gray, add paper ears and add eyes and other features with a black marker once the paint is dry.

A white pumpkin and black marker can make an easy Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Or give Greg 3-D features by attaching bent black chenille stems to make his hair, nose and mouth.

Two small white pumpkins, a black marker, glue and pile of blue fluff or feathers and you’ve got Thing 2 and Thing 1 ready for Halloween fun!



On April 12, beloved author Beverly Cleary turns 100. Much about Beverly Cleary has been written and shared as this milestone approaches, including some thoughts from me:

-for The Reading Connection, Kids at Heart: Celebrating Beverly Cleary at 100

-for Reading Rockets, Bringing Ramona to Life

But I’ve been celebrating Mrs. Cleary’s birthday for the past ten years. In 2006, I helped HarperCollins Children’s Books launch National Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day on April 12 in celebration of her 90th birthday. (If you look carefully, you can see that I’ve updated the original poster for this display!)

bcbdayDEAR was dear to Mrs. Cleary since young readers often shared their interest and enthusiasm for this special reading activity when they wrote her letters. This helped inspire Mrs. Cleary to give the same experience to Ramona Quimby, who gets to enjoy DEAR time with the rest of her class in Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Like the kids who wrote to Mrs. Cleary, most people know DEAR as sustained silent reading for pleasure during school time. National DEAR Day was originally designed to encourage families to make reading an important daily activity in their lives. Now that the DEAR program is ten years old, it’s grown into a national month-long celebration of reading to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. DEAR, of course, can happen any time, but April 12 is the perfect opportunity to set aside all distractions, read together as a family, and pledge to make it a daily occurrence.

HarperCollins Children’s Books offers some DEAR resources to help you spread the love of reading in your home, school, or community. But I’ll also share some DEAR Family Reading Tips from National Drop Everything and Read Day from years past:

DEAR Family Reading Tips

Designate a special time for family reading. Whether it is the morning news, books at bedtime or stories after supper, a reading routine becomes something everyone can look forward to.

Encourage your child’s reading. Praise the efforts of your soon-to-be or beginning reader. Make sure that the busy schedules of older readers include time for reading for pleasure.

Allow kids to choose books they are interested in reading or having read aloud. Be aware of your child’s interests and abilities and make a variety of reading materials easily accessible.

Register for a library card. If you already have one, use it frequently! Take advantage of library programs or library book clubs.

More DEAR Family Reading Tips

Develop a reading-rich environment at home. Furnish your house with books, newspapers, and magazines. Make sure there are also comfortable places to read with good lighting.

Everyday opportunities for reading abound. From the cereal box at breakfast, to the weather report in the newspaper, to the road signs on the way to school, to the note in the lunchbox, to the recipe for dinner—words are everywhere! Take the time to point them out or ask your child to read them to you.

Ask questions when you are sharing books together. Engage your children in discussions about the books you read and help them relate to the characters or situations.  Share your own feelings and invite kids to do the same.

Remember, kids want to do what the grownups do. So if parents just drop everything and read, the kids will want to be a part of it!

2013-08-20 14.06.01



Happy Birthday dear Beverly Cleary!

I’m ready to read and celebrate!


The celebration of Read Across America on Dr. Seuss’s birthday is just a week away, and all over the country—and across the Internet—folks are being reminded, “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild to pick up a book and read with a child.” Every year millions and millions of readers are inspired to don the hat of Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat and share books with kids in schools, hospitals, homes, homeless shelters, libraries, museums and more.


It was March 2, 1998, when the National Education Association (NEA) first called for every child in every community across the country to celebrate reading on Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Kids reading across our great nation in a Dr. Seuss birthday celebration needed an anthem worthy of the lively rhymes and rollicking rhythms of the beloved author. Something Seussational like:


You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild,

To pick up a book and read with a child.


You’ve probably seen this quote attributed to Dr. Seuss. On Pinterest. Or Facebook. Or on a t-shirt.










Dr. Seuss never said, never wrote those words.


The lines comes not from Dr. Seuss, but from a talented NEA staff member who swiftly composed this poetic piece during a meeting:


You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild,

To pick up a book and read with a child.

You’re never too busy, too cool, or too hot,

To pick up a book and share what you’ve got.

In schools and communities,

Let’s gather around,

Let’s pick up a book,

Let’s pass it around.

There are kids all around you,

Kids who will need

Someone to hug,

Someone to read.

Come join us March 2nd

Your own special way

And make this America’s

Read to Kids Day.


The poem is published in full on the NEA website, but the first two lines have been appropriated by—for the most part—well-intentioned folks who want to use a Dr. Seuss image and clever quote to spread the word about the joys of reading. This accidental plagiarism is somewhat similar to that of author John Green’s much-circulated quote that was actually written by a 13-year-old reader. Except that since Dr. Seuss is no longer with us, he can’t say to the Internet, “Hey, I didn’t write that. Anita Merina did. So you should credit her, not me.”


But now you know. So you can get it right.











And when you’re getting wacky and wild sharing books with kids next week, you might also point out to them that its always a good idea to question what you read.


Using the Force over at The Reading Connection blog this week to generate some ideas for book-inspired play and remembering how Star Wars fired my imagination as a child.

c3po with Belle of the Book










If you’re looking for even more Star Wars reading fun, I recommend checking out these fantastic–and very imaginative–retellings by Alexandra Bracken, Adam Giowitz and Tom Angleberger:

disney star wars books









Read more, play more, you must!


On this day in which we give thanks for the people who make our lives so very special, I am also thankful for the amazing authors whose words have made a deep and lasting impression.

I am thankful for Hard Times by Charles Dickens, particularly the character Rachael, for whom I am named.

I am thankful for The Big Tidy Up by Norah Smaridge, illustrated by Les Gray, and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. These books launched me into reading and I am forever grateful for the clever rhyme and cunning pictures in these titles that captivated my imagination and tickled my tongue.

I am thankful for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which added hilarity to long family car trips during the holidays. And taught me a beauty tip I still use—Vaseline eyelids!

I am thankful for Black is brown is tan by Arnold Adoff, which opened my eyes to poetry.

I am thankful for With Love From Karen by Marie Killilea. This book about the joys and challenges of raising a child with cerebral palsy in the 1950s is a great read and was a great comfort as I learned to navigate middle school.

I am thankful for The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger and for all of her other mousy brown haired heroines. Very reassuring to read that brunettes have fun too!

I am thankful for The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which showed me that it is perfectly reasonable to look at the world in many different ways.

I am thankful for The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, which I have read a half dozen times, and within its multi-layered complexity, find a new and remarkable meaning each time.

I am thankful for Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton, which started my own kids reading.

I am thankful for A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke, which my husband read aloud to our whole family.

Books give us so much to be grateful for—from special time with family to new experiences to joy, comfort and a lifetime of pleasure. I am truly thankful for books.

Kojo Show


It was delightful to chat with Kojo Nnamdi and his callers about summer reading and have the chance to introduce listeners to Reading Rockets and Start with a Book.

Listen here for the lively discussion of best books, strategies for engaging young readers and being a “present” parent. And be sure to check out the list of recommended summer reading. There’s still time to enjoy lots of good books this summer!






Activate imaginations and all your kids’ senses when you head outside with books. The sense of wonder that nature provides is exactly the curiosity you want your child to bring to a book. Even if you are limited to exploring your backyard or the local park, there are lots of simple ways to spend enjoyable times reading and learning together in the great outdoors.

Go on a booknic

This summer, make room in the picnic basket for books! Choose a theme around family food and reading preferences and pack accordingly. Try:

  • Honey grahams with Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood
  • Bread and jam with Bread and Jam for Frances
  • Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert with a taste of fruits and vegetables from around the world

Flashlight reading

For younger kids with earlier bedtimes, the excitement of getting to go outside at night will make a bedtime story and snack most memorable. Get your flashlight, blankets or a sleeping bag story and enjoy a story about stars under the stars. Try:

Her Seven Brothers by Paul Goble

Stars by Mary Lyn Raystars

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffershowmanystars

Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey

The Love of Two Stars by Janie Jaehyun Park

Once Upon a Starry Night by Jacqueline Mitton

How Many Stars in the Sky? by Lenny Hort

Pi Day isn’t just for math lovers. Circle around to readers and get everyone in on the fun!

Pi Day, which is named after Pi, the mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, or 3.14, is a great day to bring reading and math together. The month/day format that connects Pi to the calendar is extra special in 2015 because it equals the first 5 significant digits of Pi: 3.1415. And if you want to time your celebration just right, wait until 9:26:53 is on the clock. You’ll get even more digits of Pi!

To make the day an even bigger celebration, honor Albert Einstein along with π. March 14 is his birthday! It’s also the perfect excuse to serve up a delicious birthday pie.

So celebrate! It is easy as Pi to share Pi related books, read up on Einstein or trade trivia or interesting Pi facts with the titles and links below!

Bring tons of math fun to readers ages 7 and up with Why Pi? by Johnny Ball

Cindy Neuschwander and illustrator Wayne Geehanan take readers 8 and up on an epic math adventure with Sir Cumference, Lady Di of Ameter, and Radius in Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi


Jennifer Berne and illustrator Vladimir Radunsky beautifully explain the work of Albert Einstein to a young audience in On a Beam of Light. Ages 6 and up.

   Albert Einstein (Giants of Science) by Kathleen Krull is a lively, accessible biography for readers 9 and up.

Pi and Einstein resources:


This month, support a love of reading by showing your own enthusiasm for books! Read to kids, read in front of kids and expose them to all kinds of exciting and fascinating aspects of the written word. To make reading something kids look forward to every day this month, take advantage of the special dates and activities on the February calendar.

Celebrate Black History Month

Share the stories of African Americans throughout history and honor their contributions to our culture and country during Black History Month.

aaauthorsBelle of the Book with Sherri Smith, Walter Dean Myers and E.B. Lewis

Join the National African American Read-In

Throughout the month of February the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English invites schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, communities and readers from all walks of life to make promoting literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities and celebrate and share the works of African American writers.

Brush up on Dental Heath during National Children’s Dental Health Month

Learning about good oral health is fun for kids when they sink their teeth into a good book.

Fill your Valentine’s Day with books

Valentine’s Day can be more than candy, hearts, and flowers. Extend the love to poetry and books and encourage kids to share their favorite poems, titles or authors on February 14.

Hail to the books on Presidents’ Day

Use books to celebrate and honor the lives of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and to reflect on the contributions of all the men who have served our country as President. To distinguish the first and sixteenth presidents, plan read alouds on their actual birthdays: George Washington was born on February 22 and Abraham Lincoln on February 12.

Get ready for March (reading) Madness!

Theodor Geisel, known and beloved as Dr. Seuss, wrote and illustrated more than 40 books and gave us some of the most memorable characters in children’s literature including the Cat in the Hat. His March 2nd birthday is the date of the nation’s largest celebration of reading.  NEA’s Read Across America events and activities—with red and white hatted readers—bring reading excitement on Dr. Seuss’s birthday and provides resources to keep kids reading 365 days a year.

Belle of the Book with the Cat in the Hat and
NEA’s Read Across America’s own Anita Merina